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Butter is one of the most highly concentrated forms of fluid milk. One of the earliest foods, there are innumerable references to butter- both of making and consumption, from early times.

One of the first ways of manufacturing butter came from the Arabs who used bags made from goatskin for churning milk. The skin was sewed up tightly with a single opening, from where the milk was poured in. The bag was then hung from poles and swung around till the butter was formed. Today's commercial butter making process, however, has come out of the knowledge and experience gained over the centuries in such matters as convenience, hygiene, bacterial acidifying and heat treatment.


[edit] How Butter is made

Essentially, butter is made, by churning the milk until the fats present in the milk separate from the liquid and the butter is in a semi-solid state. Milk and cream contain butterfat in the form of microscopic particles. These particles are surrounded by membranes that are made of phospholipids and proteins. These membranes stop the fat in milk from pooling together. So when the cream is churned, the membranes are damaged, and that allows the milk fats to join each other, thus forming butter.

[edit] The process

The cream is first separated from the milk. It is crucial that the pH level of the cream is more than 6.6 i.e it is sweet and it should not have any flavour. This cream is then pasteurized at high temperatures to destroy harmful enzymes and bacteria. Sometimes, specific cultures are added to milk sugars to convert them into lactic acid and to get a desired flavour. This process is called Ripening. The temperature is then lowered to crystallize the butter fat globules. This process normally takes about 15 hours, in a tank and the cream is then pumped to a churning vat keeping in mind the required temperature.

The cream is then churned to make butter molecules and the by-product is known as buttermilk. The butter granules are then drained properly to ensure they do not go bad.

Salt is added which acts as a natural preservative and also to add flavour. It is cooled, thickened and then packaged.

[edit] Butter composition

The most common form of butter is made from cows milk, but it can also be made from the milk of sheep, goat, buffalo and yak. All of them taste different based on the kind of milk and the feed of the animal. It is said that there are more than 100 compounds that contribute to butter’s unique flavor. When prepared keeping in mind strict manufacturing practices from milk or milk products, butter has no less than 80 per cent milk fat.

Commercial butter contains 80 to 82 % fat, which is of animal origin, 14 to 16 % moisture and 0 to 4 per cent salt. The butterfat is composed of 62% saturated fatty acids and has 0.25% lecithin and cholesterol (2.2 mg/g of butter).

Studies have shown that the quality of butter depends on its body, texture, flavour and appearance. Different kinds of butter own their individual characteristic and taste to its own particular saturated fatty acid known as butyric acid. The colour and flavour may also vary according to the type of cattle, season of the year, method of manufacture and amount of salt added. The colour of butter further differs due to the presence of carotenoids, which make up 11 to 50 per cent of the total vitamin A of milk. Sometimes a colourant is added to enhance the yellow colour but these come under the permitted colour range and are not known to have any after effects.

[edit] Different types of Butter

There are different kinds of butter and some of them are good for health and others not so much.

  • Salted Butter- This is the most common style of butter found. It has about 3 % salt added after the buttermilk has been drained off.
  • Cultured butter (salt and without salt) - This is an unsalted butter made from cream to which bacterial culture has been added. It has a slight acidic flavour.
  • Flavoured butter- this is the normal butter to which herbs and other spices have been added such as garlic, oregano etc.
  • Farm butter or raw butter, which is made from, unpasteurized milk. It does have a better taste, but because of any preservatives, one cannot store it for long.
  • Ghee- Ghee is an Indian word for clarified butter. It is almost pure milk-fat (at least 99.7 per cent) and used mainly in cooking. This is because it will reach much higher temperatures before it begins to smoke
  • Dairy Blends or Spread able butters that are a mix of butter and up to 50 per cent of edible vegetable oils. It makes it easy to spread to it can also be made by the manipulation of finished butter.

[edit] Butter vs. Margarine

Butter, as an animal fat, has both saturated fats and cholesterol. Saturated fats have the tendency to raise the LDL cholesterol, which is the bad cholesterol but they also have a number of good qualities. Margarine, on the other hand, was first manufactured via the process of hydrogenation. Hydrogenation is the process of transforming liquid oil into a solid fat at room temperature. This produces trans fats that are bad for the heart and so initially was extremely harmful. But even though, today margarines are being produced through non-hydrogenation techniques, it is better to opt for butter, as it is a natural product rather than a processed food.

[edit] Butter and health

It is true that any food consumed in excess, can cause problems, especially, if they contain certain types of saturated fats and cholesterol. But according to enough research done by experts, butter is one of the few fats with some nutritional value and easily fits in as part of a healthy diet

Butter is basically a healthy source of dietary fat. The human body requires some amount of saturated fats, which provide us with the required essential fatty acids required for longevity, hormone balance, sharper vision, glowing skin and energy. Butter can be one of those sources of good fats.

But butter does have a small amount of naturally occurring trans fat and that is why moderation is advised. Butter also has 30% monounsaturated fat, which is the same found in Olive oil.

But having raw, organic butter is of course, the best option

[edit] Nutritional Information on Butter

  • Butter has an absorbable form of Vitamin A necessary for thyroid and adrenal health.
  • Butter has lauric acid, important in treating fungal infections
  • Butter contains lecithin, a substance that assists in the proper assimilation and metabolism of cholesterol and other fat constituents.
  • Butter is known to have anti-oxidants that protect against free radical damage.
  • It has anti-oxidants that protect against weakening arteries.
  • Butter is a good source of the vital mineral selenium.
  • The saturated fats in butter have strong anti-tumor and anti-cancer properties.
  • Natural butter contains conjugated linoleic acid or CLA, which is a compound substance and essential fatty acid necessary for optimal health, is a potent anti-cancer agent, muscle builder, and immunity booster
  • Vitamin D found in butter is essential to absorption of calcium.
  • The Wulzen or "anti-stiffness" factor is a nutrient unique to natural butter. It prevents a hardening of the arteries and calcification of the pineal gland.
  • Cholesterol found in butterfat is essential to children's brain and nervous system development.
  • Butterfat contains glycospingolipids, a special category of fatty acids that protect against gastro-intestinal infection, especially in the very young and the elderly.

[edit] Did You Know

  • Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.
  • If you buy a tub of margarine and leave it in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will note a couple of things: no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it
  • Is a source of quick energy, and is not stored in our bodies’ adipose tissue.
  • Butter protects against tooth decay.

[edit] Home recipes

Making butter is a fairly simple process. Take a jar and fill it half with milk. Then either by hand or with a whisk, beat the milk till the cream becomes slightly yellow in colour and then little bits of butter appear along with a thin liquid called the buttermilk. Carefully drain this liquid away. This is important as the presence of buttermilk in the final butter can cause it go rancid.

Then add clean and cold water to the butter in the blender and whisk it gently. Ensure that the butter does not melt and remove the water again.

Using your hands and the back of a spoon, try and press all the water out of the butter now. Next comes the salting stage. Homemade butter can be stored for at least three months in a freezer. Ensure that just a tiny amount of salt is added as the freezing process enhances the saltiness or flavour You can also add crushed garlic or dried herbs to make flavoured butter if you wish at this stage.

Then shape it in your desired shape and refrigerate in a grease paper.

It's not necessary that you completely eliminate all fats from your meals. Rather, choose the healthier types of fats and enjoy them in moderation.

[edit] References

  • Health Topics: Cholesterol
  • Heart
  • Milk Ingredients