Saturday, December 26, 2015

In Defense of Salted (and Even Whipped) Butter

A chowhound poster found some lovely-looking Welsh butter at Trader Joe's, but demurred because it is (gasp) salted.

Here's Bbmorecupcake's photo:

I posted, in reply, the following defense of salted - and even (double gasp) whipped - butter:
I think the "never use salted" credo is an overblown relic of the 1980s, when salted product was often older or crappier quality (i.e. the salt hid sins). People said it made it hard to adjust salt in recipes, but unless you're using gobs and gobs of butter, the salt content of your TB of butter couldn't make that big a difference....and/or could be compensated for, albeit not to 100% precision.

Thing is, pro chefs often DO need that level of precision, so they're compelled to eschew salted butter. And back in the late 1980s, home cooks were starting to fancy themselves mini-pro chefs...but that's a whole other story (of frustration and of unhealthful home cooking habits).

For cooking, salted butter is a micro-variable easily compensated for.

For buttering, like, toast, salted is way better than applying unsalted, then raining down a minuscule shower of salt (good luck getting it even!).

And salted lasts WAY longer in the fridge.

If you trust the quality of the producer (i.e. they haven't subsumed that extra storage time before you bought it), IMO salted is a no-brainer.

In fact, I double sin. I use Kriemhild butter, which is salted AND whipped. The whipping means I can't use it for recipes (I keep solid butter as well), but I know the producer isn't using the whipping process to mask crap, and the whipping means I can use less, total, while spreading more evenly on toast, etc.. And it tastes way, way better than circa 1980 whipped butters, which really were crap.

Crap salted butter and crap whipped butter from bad producers are, obviously, no-gos. But this is another era, when we have Kriemhild and other wonderful products (like this Welsh stuff appears to be) to enjoy. Holding onto an anti-salted, anti-whipped bias in this very different era of product availability would be a shame.

The following reply was posted:
With unsalted butter, you can control the amount of salt in a dish. With salted butter, not so much. I use it when the recipe specifically calls for it, unsalted otherwise.

You can also control the amount of salt by reducing some added salt to compensate for the salted butter.

If you believe you must work to extreme precision as a home chef, that would perplex me. Why would you want to replicate the exact flavor/seasoning profile each time you home cook a dish? Such tight regimentation is the burden of restaurant professionals, accommodating customers who demand extreme consistency. Home chefs are free to vary approach, avoiding boredom both in prep and in ingestion. There's no conceivable mandate to work within extremely tight tolerances as a home chef.


Adam said...

This speaks to the "perfect recipe" concept. I find that when I cook from cookbooks that feature the "test kitchen" concept they want me to work towards a "perfect recipe." Clearly, since everyone's tastes vary, there is no such thing. I also find that such recipes often have dozens of ingredients when far fewer ones will do. Your thoughts?
Best for the New Year.

Jim Leff said...

Short answer: I'm with John Thorne. I think recipes are for reading and studying, not following or replicating. Direction-following is for robots and other dehumanized servants. Humans are made to think, judge and create as individuals. So I don't even buy the first assumption behind that assertion.

No two people EVER made the exact same muffin! Can't happen, won't happen, and only people working in places like chain restaurant test kitchens consider that a problem rather than a saving grace.

Your profile asks:

You're walking through the desert. You see a tortoise on the ground. The tortoise is on it's back and it can't get up. Do you help the tortoise?

No. Because a tortoise doesn't belong in a desert, so righting it would just prolong the inevitable, to the tortoise's great suffering. If I see a tortoise like that near a pond, I'd only right it if I had some basic knowledge of tortoise behavior, because I wouldn't want unintended consequences to make things worse. But to answer the gist of your question, yes. Help everything every time IF you feel sufficiently cognizant of consequences (i.e. "Do No Harm").

The non-interference clause (e.g. scientists at McMurdo STation in Antartica will never help a lost seal) makes sense for Star Trek, but we're not aliens in this world. My giving a shit is not an opinion from outside Gaia, it's part of it. I'm family here.

Nell said...

Another advantage of salted butter is that it keeps adequately well in a butter bell (so that it stays at a spreadable softness). Unsalted butter develops mold too quickly in a bell during warm weather, even with frequent water changes.

GOI Farm said...

While hiking in the Sonoran desert, I have encountered the native tortoise there. As far as I know, it is entirely terrestrial.

By the way, I just finished re-reading "Timonty, or Notes of an Abject Reptile" by Verlyn Klinkenborg, a tale told from the point of view of a tortoise. Lovely book, with no mention of the tortoise ever being on its back...

Jim Leff said...

Sounds great. I'm sick of books about human beings!

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