Butter. Why not? They say that it, like salt makes food taste better and to be honest, I used to be strictly a Parkay kind of person, with butter being the treat you got when eating out only with the family in tow, butter was a luxury and now I am just not sacrificing that taste.

A while back, all dolled up in PPE, looking so medically stylish, driving down country with my friend Barbara M., our conversation turned to butter, I thought it was kinda of weird, but she was saying that while melting butter for popcorn for a binge movie night, she found that it separated and there was this layer of water on top of her melted gold. She was highly disappointed, saying that she had always used “Cabot’s” butter and quite frankly it never should have done that considering being it’s quite pricey at that, but she never denied it’s taste. HMM-MM! I tried to characterize that as she continued to say “it shouldn’t of, or isn’t wrong, I mean real butter is cream, right?.” By then I was inclined to agree and my Scrappy Chef radar engaged and I was bringing it home with a new working subject.

Mama always reminisces with great stories from decades ago, especially what she remembers from when she was a little girl. That week, sitting in my chair, eating an omelet that I had just made for us to share, I asked her to tell me if she remembered the Grams making butter.

I imagine there wasn’t a Kitchen Maid standing mixer in the corner of the kitchen, or a hand held one in the appliance graveyard and surely no Hannaford or Wally World to just stroll into and head to the dairy department and pick up a pound. Delighted, she says, “so back in 1940, I was, let me just say under 10.” (She looked up from feeding the dogs and gave me that look.) “Pepere had five Hereford black cows in the backyard while Memere stood by her own beige Jersey beauty that no one could touch, that was her cow!

“I used to go milk the cows in the morning with Memere, then she’d put it through a “separator” as to strain it, where it became a heavy cream and skim type of milk. Then steadily churning the cream until it solidifies into something amazing, she then placed that into little wooden molds that had a little flower pattern indented at the bottom and placed them all in the cellar to cool.” When butter was needed, Memere went downstairs and picked up a mold and flipped it over on a plate and there was this beautiful mound of light yellow, fresh butter with the little flower sculptured on top decorating it. Now, I know a lot of you can relate to this, but in actuality, I see this little browned haired girl, be-bopping hand in hand with the elder grandma who always wore a distinctive flowery long apron, the tan hoses drooping down her legs wearing the sturdy all purpose shoes and headed to the barn out back, passing by the chickens unrestricted, running all over the place (LOL, free range chicken back then), to where the cows where.

So what’s the story on butter? A wondrous and humble history. Aside from being a staple of many diets around the world, butter has been around for thousands of years from Europe, South America and Asia. Through time and across the globe, it has had a sacred quality symbolizing a powerful life, giving, good, being happy, healthy and pure…It has sustained lives, cultures and civilizations for millennia.

It is essentially produced today as it was in King Tut’s time, though now made with cow milk from cows instead of camels or water buffalo. In production talk, it takes 21 pounds of fresh whole cows milk to make 1 pound of butter. Its fat content is said to be between 80 and 86%, the rest, water and milk solids, sorry folks!

That means butter isn’t pure fat, it’s an emulsion. Warm it can be re-chilled, but if it gets too warm, that’s when it breaks and separates. Butter has a luscious mouthfeel that imparts a rich and creamy taste to any food presented. Think of fresh hot, out of the oven bread with butter, creamy buttery mashed potatoes, butter slobbering-ly melting on top of a stack of pancakes, butter cookies…It effortlessly carries other flavors and acts as the perfect medium for rendering flavors like garlic, herbs, citrus or nuttiness to savory and sweet dishes.

Butter has had a negative and undeserving reputation because of substitutes and man-made trans fats that pose threats to our health. In 1869, a French chemist won an award for a new spread he made of rendered beef fat flavored with milk which became Oleo/Margarine, we never shook that, but it wasn’t butter. Nowadays researchers have discovered that the man-made trans fats are significantly worse for our heart health because our body cannot process hydrogenated fats.

Fat is an important part of a healthy diet. Fat doesn’t makes us fat, other than being utterly satisfying, it makes us less likely to overeat or snack between meals. Diets changed dramatically over time in history. We were told being on a low fat diet was the key to healthy living, by doing that we unwillingly increased hidden sugars and carbs, increasing our caloric intake. A low fat diet is not necessarily good for us, in fact it may leave you hungry, depressed and prone to illness. We substitute fake and man-made fats for butter and that has not made us healthier, in fact, it has robbed you of an ambrosia of cookery flavors. Polyunsaturated fats are not so good for us. Oxidized fats makes us sick and damage our cells and DNA, suppresses our immune system and affect balance of good fatty acids in our bodies.

It turns out too, that salted butter has higher water content than unsalted butter, but unsalted butter has shorter shelf life. Being at least 80% fat or cream, water will separate from the butter fat especially if cooked at high heat. So butter is unique in the world of fats, good butter is satisfying and can help you maintain a healthy weight. Butter supplies our bodies with vitamins and minerals, boosts our immune system, helps hormone productions, supports our bones, organs and brain as well as the building blocks our body and cells need. So, pass the butter.

Quick tips for using butter: *Use a butter keeper-keep it airtight and covered since it easily picks up odors from foods it is stored with. *Butter will scorch at high-heat. *Use a vegetable peeler when dotting pies and casseroles with a cold or frozen stick of butter, less waste and less messy. *To soften butter quickly, slice or cut into cubes. *Wait for butter to stop foaming before sauteing. *Slip butter under the skin of chicken or turkey breast, this will baste the meat and keep it juicy while adding flavor. *Add your butter into your mashed potatoes before the milk. The fat will coat the starch molecules and you’ll have smoother and creamier potatoes. *Add butter bits to uncooked eggs for omelets, whisking in cold diced butter before cooking and adding a couple Tbsp. of water is the secret to a soft, creamy omelet or scrambled eggs. The butter melts and disperses, coating the proteins from linking together. No rubbery, dense eggs.

The Recipes:

Pan-Seared Cod with Herb Butter Sauce

Just a few pantry ingredients, dressing up cod or haddock fillets for a delicious meal.

Using the same skillet makes for easy clean up and also builds layers of flavors, seared to a lip-smacking perfection with a buttery garlic sauce.

Ingredients: yields 2 servings 20 minutes prep.

2 or 3 (4-5 oz.) Cod or Haddock fillet (Place in a dish, to cover in milk)

S&P

4 tbsp. butter

3 tbsp. chopped garlic

2 tbsp. sliced shallots, green onions or onions

2 tsp. basil

2 tsp. parsley

2 tbsp. white wine

optional: 4 spears of asparagus, sliced lengthwise

Directions:

1. Heat the butter on moderate heat in non-stick pan or cast skillet. Once butter is melted, add onions and garlic, lightly cook until fragrant, about 3-4 minutes, keeping heat on low not to burn your butter.

2. Add herbs and wine, stir and bring to slow simmer.

3. Remove fish from milk and pat dry, season with S&P.

4. Increase heat to Med-High, place fillets into pan, add asparagus spears. Cook fish for 3-4 minutes, spooning butter sauce over the top, bathing each fillet, while getting that sear. After 3 minutes, flip fish over and cook for another three minutes. (Internal temp. 145*)

5. Remove pan from heat, plate fish and spears, top with sauce. Serve with a bed of rice, or baked potato.

**Tip: Placing your or any fish in milk prior to cooking will lighten the flavor.

Squeeze fresh lemon for brightness.

 

Pearl onions that are the bomb and can be made ahead. Great side dish for Thanksgiving, Easter, Father’s Day, whatever occasion that screams something new!

Buttery Whiskey-Glazed Pearl Onions

Ingredients: Makes 10 Servings Prep: 30 minutes

2 pkg (14.4 oz. Each) pearl onions ¼ c. maple syrup

1/3 cup cider vinegar ½ tsp. thyme

¼ cup butter, cubed ½ tsp. salt

¼ cup whiskey ¼ tsp. Pepper

1 1/3 cups water

Directions:

1. Place all ingredients in large skillet, bring to boil. Reduce heat to med-low; cook, covered, until onions are tender 7-8 minutes.

2. Increase heat to med-high; cook uncovered, until liquid is almost all evaporated and onions are glazed, 10-12 minutes,. Stir occasionally. Remove from heat and serve in a bowl immediately.

**Tip: Frozen onions are the easiest to work with and you don’t have to thaw them.

As this cooks down, the onions become mellow in flavor and coat with a balanced and buttery sauce.

The human nature of resilience, spirited purpose and generosity of the Rangeley community is truly amazing. My hat goes off to all our own kind of frontline people here, stocking the grocery shelves, educating the school kids and continuing their breakfast and lunch program, feeding the young and older, seniors, disabled and residents of Rangeley. I have no words that can describe the disembodied spirit of Joanne Dickson of the Wellness Center for her immense undertaking all of what she is spearheading in the community, and the volunteers, restaurant people, public service who everyday show the true character of unity and integrity during the covid-19 pandemic. You have all been wearing your angel wings and we are all ever so grateful for you. Thank You Zach, our next door neighbor, for dragging out your chainsaw, and your little helpers for cleaning up the tree we lost in the last wind storm. The ear to ear smile on your face is priceless and tells us you’re having too much fun. This epic pandemic has brought out the best in all our neighbors across our little town. Look around people, we are not alone and we are fortunate, as we follow the state’s guidelines, we have been successful not to present the CDC with any cases from here. Hug yourselves rangeleyians. Happy Fooding, Happy Buttering.

Drop me a line @ [email protected], you see how inspiration comes about, your comments and suggestions and love is greatly welcomed. And the last words… ~Julia Child~Life itself is the proper binge.~


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