CulinaryDelights' Weblog

A Blog Devoted to All Things Culinary

The History of Butter

Posted by culinarydelightsgb on April 23, 2008

The word butter comes from the Greek word “bou-tyron”, which seems to mean “cowcheese.” It is also thought to be borrowed from the language of the Scythians, a northern tribe of horsemen. According to ancient histories, the Scythians considered butter so important that they employed blind slaves to produce it because they wouldn’t be distracted while churning the cream needed to make it.

Some historians believe that by the time the Scythians were traveling across the plains of Central Asia hundreds of years before Christ, butter had already been in existence for millennia. Abraham, went visited by the three angels and told he would have a son named Isaac, served them butter and cakes and meat [Genesis 18 v 1-8]. It was used to flavor the breads of the Pharaohs in Ancient Egypt. It was also used to treat wounds and burns by the Romans. The first documented mention of butter making occurred around 1,500 – 2,000 BC in the sacred writings of Asiatic India dwellers. Back then, butter was not only used as food, but also as an illumination oil, for medicinal purposes, and as a coating for the skin to protect tribe members from the bitter winter cold.

In India, clarified butter is called ghee. According to Hindu mythology, and mythologies the world over, butter symbolizes semen; and churning represents both the sexual act and the formation of a child in the womb. To make ghee, butter is melted and simmered long enough to extract all the water, leaving the anhydrous butter fat. During the process, it takes on a buttery taste. By removing the albuminous (simple heat-coagulable water-soluble proteins which occur in milk and other animal substances) curd and water that favor the growth of organisms that promote spoilage, ghee does not become rancid as easily or readily as butter. It can also be stored unrefrigerated for several months.

Butter is made by churning cream until it reaches a semi-solid state. By U.S. law, butter must be at least 80 percent milk fat. It may be artificially colored with annato and carotene; it may also be salted. Unsalted butter contains absolutely no salt. Salt acts as a preservative and, because unsalted butter contains none, it is more perishable than salted butter and should be stored in the freezer section. To store butter, wrap airtight and refrigerate for up to 1 month (regular butter) or up to 2 weeks (unsalted). It can also be frozen for up to 6 months.

I am currently searching for relevant pictures to include with this post. Please bear with me.

References:

http://webexhibits.org/butter/

The Butter Board –

http://www.naturalandtasty.co.uk/history_butter.htm

Food For Life Global –

http://www.ffl.org/ffl_pf_real_milk.php

Epicurious.com –

http://www.epicurious.com/tools/fooddictionary/search?query=butter

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4 Responses to “The History of Butter”

  1. Wow, who knew? What a great post – I really enjoyed learning more about butter! Thanks for the research!

    Welcome to The Foodie Blogroll!

  2. Gayle said

    As you can imagine, given my foodbuzz id, I really enjoyed this blog! I think the most amazing butter I have eaten was from the Munich Viktualienmarkt. It was goat butter (which already has a very high cream content). So fresh, clean and silky! I was in buttered heaven! Thanks for the post!

  3. sandrar said

    Hi! I was surfing and found your blog post… nice! I love your blog. 🙂 Cheers! Sandra. R.

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