Margarine, you see, isn’t even butter at all. Margarine is made from vegetable oil and water and given a butter flavoring. It is considered a “spread” and not really butter at all. For those with a sensitivity to dairy, it serves as a great substitute, but for the rest of us, there is no substitute for butter.
Butter is made from the butterfat of milk and comes in different grades. In the US, butter is graded based on aroma, flavor and texture and put on a scale of 1-100. AA Grade Butter is the absolute highest and has to score a 93+ to get the distinguished label.
High grade butters are made from fresh sweet cream, are smooth in texture and easy to spread.
Butters also vary in how much fat content they have, which will largely be dictated by the cows diet and result in how yellow the butter and water volume.
The next thing to consider it salt. Good butter will have a small amount of salt to bring out the flavors. If you have one you know and like, you can use salted butter, but if you aren’t sure and want to control the saltiness, then get unsalted and add your own fine sea salt.
A good butter will have excellent taste, smooth texture, be yellow in color and not reduce in volume when melted.
Also make sure you know how to soften butter fast!
Compound butter is merely a blend of butter and supplementary ingredients. These can be herbs, spices, fruits, vegetables, oils and anything else you can blend.
Primarily, they are used to enhance flavor in various dishes just like a sauce or sprinkle of salt, but they can also be visually appealing and works towards the overall beauty of the dish. Think of a perfectly round pat of butter dotted with parsley and garlic on a sizzling steak.
Compound butters can be made at home or store bought. They are easy to make, but be mindful to make them in advance. Flavors marry well with butter so to have one robust in flavor, it needs to sit for a few hours to really meld.
Butter Storage & Freezing Tips
- Butter, compound or not, can be stored in the fridge. If it is commercially purchased, it will last for months if not opened, however homemade butter lasts about a week since it doesn’t contain preservatives or additives. I generally go by the “sell by” date on the container of cream I used.
- When storing, wrap butter well and keep it away from other items in the fridge. This is why many refrigerators offer a butter storage area, so they butter can kept seperate.
- Why? Well, butter is like a sponge that absorbs flavors and scents, which is great as long as they are the right flavors and scents. I honestly don’t know why this happens scientifically, but I do know if you place butter next to an unwrapped chicken, your butter will taste and smell like chicken.
- Keep it wrapped tightly or in a crock and refrigerated to prevent smells and flavors and also to prevent it from going rancid.
- Butters, store bought or homemade, can be frozen for 3-6 months if wrapped and packaged properly.