Butter, if you switch out one key vowel, becomes “better.” Which really sums it up—what isn’t improved with just a little bit (or sometimes a lot) of butter? You might see some unfamiliar types of butter show up in recipes, in food magazines, or even in your fridge. (Wait, how’d it get there?)
Sweet cream butter
You probably aren’t used to the adjectives, but you already know a lot about this butter. That’s because… it’s just butter. “Sweet cream butter” is the proper trading name for the average cow’s milk sticks (or stubbies, if you’re on the West Coast) you usually see in the fridge door.
Man, Europe just has so much culture. Bacterial culture, specifically. Butter in Europe is often churned with a few live bacteria (like how yogurt is made) before it gets churned. The flavor is a little bit nuttier and sweeter, but chacun a son gout. That’s French for “eat whatever you want.”
Sheep and goat milk butter
We think of butter as something that can only come from cow’s milk, but that just doesn’t moo-ve us. (Sorry.) Plenty of cultures make butter, and plenty of cultures don’t have the arable land (or the desire) to keep cows. Sheep and goat milk butter are great for the lactose intolerant, but just like sheep and goat milk cheeses, they’re more than just smart substitutions. Their unique flavor makes them perfect for Mediterranean recipes that call for butter in addition to traditional olive oil.
Buffalo milk butter
We wanted to make a special callout here: imagine the creamiest, smoothest mozzarella di bufula or burrata plate you’ve ever had. What if you could have a butter that’s just like that? Presto: buffalo milk butter. Perfect for any Northern Italian recipe you’ve got in mind.
We mentioned butter’s nutty flavor already, so this might get confusing. Brown butter is first and foremost, a kind of cooked butter. When you gently heat butter for a while, first it foams, then it starts to caramelize and brown into something incredible. That’s brown butter, aka beurre noisette, which translates directly to “hazelnut butter.” There are no nuts involved, though! Just a deep, nutty, rich flavor that’s famously good on sage pasta dishes, but it is also a secret weapon in cookies, cakes, and other sweets.
Remember that “heating” process from brown butter? If instead of letting the milk solids foam and brown, you skim them off during cooking, congrats: you’ve clarified butter. Clarified butter has no shortage of interesting culinary uses: it has much less lactose and casein in it, so people with lactose intolerances can often eat it. It has a much higher smoke point, so you can high-heat saute in clarified butter, for a little extra luxury in your cooking. Maybe most interestingly (to us, at least), because there isn’t much perishable material left after you’ve clarified butter, it’s actually very long-lived in the fridge. So make some today, and try it next week.
Ghee’s kind of the best of both worlds. It’s made like clarified butter, but after you drain the solids, you slowly brown the clarified butter that’s left behind. It has all the virtues of clarified butter, which is why you’ll often see it on the shelves of your local Indian grocer. It’s a key pantry ingredient in a lot of South Asian dishes, from dals to curries to even some sweets. We think it tastes good in every recipe that starts with a hot pan of melted butter.
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