Wednesday, February 24, 2010

eyes say yes

Goat butter

Goat butter, on the left there, makes the best damn garlic bread I've had.

Butter's always been an interesting thing to think about.  You probably know you can make your own butter at home -- there have been enough Sunday supplement articles on it at this point.  Put cream in mixer or blend with immersion blender, mix and mix and mix, and boom, it's butter.  Culture it overnight -- adding a little buttermilk to the cream -- for better flavor.  It's a good thing to do, but the truth is that you're severely limited in the quality of your final product, because chances are you don't have access to really good cream -- you have, instead, ultrapasteurized cream from God knows where.  You're not likely to save money, either, given the cost of cream.  There are times when it makes a LOT of sense to make your own butter, though, even given those limitations -- you'll see what I mean when I get my hands on some tapioca maltodextrin.

Do you see how the cow's butter on the right is so yellow compared to the whiteness of the goat butter?  That's from beta carotene, same as in carrots.  With cow's butter, the more green stuff they eat -- the more they graze on grass instead of feed -- the yellower the butter, so this butter (Kate's Homemade, out of Maine) is yellower than your typical national brand to begin with.  Back in your grandmother's day, she used to mix powdered food dye into the oleomargarine ration to make it yellow instead of Crisco-white, before people got used to the Crayola jaundice of Country Crock, I Can't Believe It's Not Butter, etc.  (World War II and the postwar strength of industrial lobbyists are responsible for the popularity of margarine; prior to that, margarine had at various times been subject to "margarine tax," and even to a requirement to dye it pink in order to make it less appealing, measures enacted at the behest of dairy lobbyists.  It remains illegal to sell margarine in retail packages over a pound, a butter-protection law no one got round to getting rid of.)  I don't know if goat butter is always so white, or what -- this is my first experience with it.

Butter's actually very low in lactose (milk sugar), which is a good test for whether you're lactose-intolerant or have an allergy to or intolerance of milk proteins

Unlike other fats, butter's an emulsion of 80-90% fat with water and dairy proteins.  Large-scale manufactured butter like your major supermarket brands -- Land O'Lakes and what have you -- is standardized at about 80% fat.  That's true in both the US and Europe now, though European brands imported to the US, as well as most butters labeled "European-style" tend to be a couple points higher in fat.  It would be possible to manufacture butter with even less fat, but 80% is the legal minimum.  You'd be surprised how noticeable the difference is between an 80% fat and 82% fat butter -- the mouthfeel is definitely affected.  But because commercially sold butter must have at least 16% water -- a requirement intended to limit additives and filler -- the variety of butter available is fairly constrained, and you shouldn't pay through the nose for butter.  You hit the quality ceiling pretty quickly, unless you have access to a local dairy for which making butter is more than an afterthought.

But this goat butter, this is something I've always wanted to try.  The goatiness is noticeable, but not overwhelming -- it's subtler than in fresh goat's milk cheeses, for instance, but because butter flavors are themselves so subtle, it's still definitely there.  It's also a creamier butter, just about spreadable straight out of the fridge.  

The garlic bread is amazing.  I mean, that was lunch -- garlic bread, just chopped garlic cooked briefly in goat butter, spread in a baguette, and popped in the oven for a few minutes.  The question is, what else should I do to explore this butter?  The five things that come immediately to mind, examples of butter-forward cooking:

1: Toffees or caramels.  But I mean, I still have a tub of goat's milk caramel in the fridge.

2: Buffalo wing sauce.  In fact, I should probably freeze a portion of this butter for afterlent, because I have a Hot Wings post planned for sometime after the Pizza Post, and now it seems like it would be incomplete without an investigation of the effect of goat butter on Buffalo wings.

3: Brown butter.  One of the secret heroes of the kitchen, brown butter is just butter heated until the dairy solids brown.  Think of the difference between regular butter and brown butter as the difference between a slice of bread and a slice of toast. Not just because it's a handy example, but because it's the same freaking difference -- Maillard reactions between amino acids and sugars occur at high temperatures and create new flavor compounds.

4: Butter-mounted sauces.  You can whisk cold butter into a sauce to help thicken it, which I do with a lot of sauces for fish.  And it is Lent, after all.  The most basic example of this is beurre blanc -- reduce a little vinegar or white wine, remove it from the heat, whisk cold butter into it until you have a thick rich sauce.  Commander's Palace does this with Crystal hot sauce.

5: Tomato sauce.  If you read other blogs, you probably caught on at some point that tomato puree + butter makes a much better pasta sauce than you'd expect -- this is one of those things that rippled through the hallways like no-knead bread and toffee bacon.

See, this is why I bought two packages of butter.


  1. I only just learned about all that old margarine legislation when I stumbled across this ad the other day. There's something about the phrase "where state laws permit" that makes the whole experience so much more transgressive.

  2. maybe a buttercream frosting? goat butter + goat milk + powdered sugar. on a near-savory spice cake?