Butter is a dairy product made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. It is generally used as a spread and a condiment, as well as in cooking, such as baking, sauce making, and pan frying. Butter consists of butterfat, milk proteins and water.
Most frequently made from cows’ milk, butter can also be manufactured from the milk of other mammals, including sheep, goats, buffalo, and yaks. Salt, flavorings and preservatives are sometimes added to butter. Rendering butter produces clarified butter or ghee, which is almost entirely butterfat.
It generally has a pale yellow color, but varies from deep yellow to nearly white. Its unmodified color is dependent on the animals’ feed and is commonly manipulated with food colorings in the commercial manufacturing process, most commonly annatto or carotene.
In general use, the term “butter” refers to the spread dairy product when unqualified by other descriptors. The word commonly is used to describe puréed vegetable or nut products such as peanut butter and almond butter. It is often applied to spread fruit products such as apple butter. Fats such as cocoa butter and shea butter that remain solid at room temperature are also known as “butters”. In addition to the act of applying butter being called “to butter”, non-dairy items that have a dairy butter consistency may use “butter’ to call that consistency to mind, including food items such as maple butter and witch’s butter and nonfood items such as baby bottom butter, hyena butter, and rock butter.
Butter is saturated fat made from cream that must be at least 80 percent butterfat by USDA standards. It is high in flavor and has a melt-in-your-mouth texture. Butter is sold in solid sticks and whipped in tubs. For baking, use only the sticks; whipped butter will give a different texture because of the air beaten into it.
Whipped butter has had air beaten into it, thereby increasing volume and creating a softer, more spreadable consistency when cold. It comes in salted and unsalted forms.
Light or reduced-calorie butter has about half the fat of regular butter, possible through the addition of water, skim milk and gelatin. It shouldn’t be substituted for regular butter or margarine in frying and baking.
Storing butter: Because butter absorbs flavors like a sponge, it should be wrapped airtight for storage. Refrigerate regular butter for up to 1 month, unsalted butter for up to 2 weeks. Both can be frozen for up to 6 months.
Good-to-know butter equivalents are:
2 cups = 4 sticks = 1 pound
1 cup = 2 sticks = 1/2 pound
1/2 cup = 1 stick = 1/4 pound
1/4 cup = 1/2 stick = 4 tablespoons
Recipes using: Butter