In northern France, gourmets consider butter the noble fat, and truly, Dover sole fried in butter a la meuniere, makes for a delightful eating experience.
While for the northerner butter represents the epitome of fats, in southern France, Provence, and Languedoc, olive oil is king.
Butter is used in regions with abundant pastureland and a cool climate. Cows thrive in cool climes and need a lot of grass. Bit not every type of grass. In Normandy and to some extent also Brittany, the soil composition fosters the growth of a number of grass species. Each of them provides a different taste and thus the milk has a pleasant flavour, which is reflected in the taste of the butter. In the winter, cows are fed silage and hay, their milk becomes yellow and the butter reflects this colour and an “old” taste; the result of hey and silage.
The origins of butter can be traced back 4500 years. A limestone tablet dating from then illustrates the steps in making butter. It was used in religious ceremonies, and to cure skin infections also for poultices. Many people consume margarine and other fats for fear of increasing the LDL cholesterol.
In reality, a tablespoon of butter contains 33 mg. cholesterol and 102 calories, whereas a can of tuna (85 grams) contain 48 mg. Butter has calcium, vitamin D, A, b6 and B12, magnesium, riboflavin, zinc, and conjugated linoleic acid, a cancer-fighting substance.
is relatively simple to produce and production technology has changed little since antiquity.
The cream is separated from the milk, and then churned by agitating it until mass thickens. Salt may be added as a preservative. Then it is washed and formed. It takes approximately 12 litres of milk to produce 500 grams of butter.
oxidizes and turns rancid; therefore it is packed in foil and refrigerated. In hot countries clarified butter, which has a higher smoke point and can be stored at room temperature, is available. When frying using clarified butter is recommended. If you prefer using whole butter blend it with oil in the pan to prevent burning.
During the clarification process, 25 per cent is lost (water, milk solids).
Unsalted butter has a shorter shelf life than salted, but tastes better.
Normandy in France is famous for its superior quality of butter. In Canada, the Lactantia company from Quebec markets a fine product, and the state of Wisconsin in the USA (Land-o-lakes brand) is known for flavourful products.
Some restaurants serve whipped butter and/or flavoured butter, others prefer butter chips which is more hygienic, but also more expensive.
In truly fine restaurants butter is used for frying, in others it may be mixed with margarine to cut cost, or with oil to increase its low smoke point.
Margarine is hydrogenated vegetable oil, which remains solid at room temperature. Hydrogenation (blowing air through oil) changes the chemical compositions, and contrary to widespread belief, renders margarine unhealthy.
Butter used in moderate quantities is beneficial, provided you exercise and otherwise enjoy a varied diet with sufficient quantities of vegetables, fruits, grains, and small quantities of meat or fish. And, of course, never consume a meal without a glass or two of wine. It is good for you.