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Dog80
05-19-2009, 07:23 AM
When I was living in the UK I remember it was very hard to find unsalted butter. In Greece it is the opposite, most butter is not salted.

But why put salt in butter in the first place?

Jormungandr
05-19-2009, 07:24 AM
As a flavor enhancer and preservative.

DSYoungEsq
05-19-2009, 07:32 AM
Salt keeps butter from spoiling.

Same reason you salt cheese.

And sardines.

And sauerkraut.

Etc.

Oswald Bastable
05-19-2009, 09:50 AM
Salt keeps butter from spoiling.

The British taste for salted butter is likely a consequence of early industrialisation, where it became necessary to preserve butter in order for it not to spoil as it was transported from the cow to the cities.

There's this cite (http://books.google.com/books?id=zrzt7S8YesIC&pg=PA19&lpg=PA19&dq=british+salted+butter+history&source=bl&ots=LmWzWimLb5&sig=XSoT7Sj0eI81QqhLATQ2bLYZ0xg&hl=en&ei=vrYSSsiVI9O7jAfss7yqBA&sa=X&oi=book_result&ct=result&resnum=10#PPA19,M1) from A History of British Livestock Husbandry, 1700-1900 By Robert Trow-Smith on Google Books.

There's also the need to transport butter and dairy products to those parts of the Empire where there was demand but where the climate was not agreeable for dairy farming (such as the West Indies).

I've also got a faint memory that during WW2 a great deal of butter was imported from Australia and New Zealand and this was obviously salted for preservation, and that is partly why slated butter continues to be popular even today. Considering Britain's ability to support a large dairy industry, it's also interesting to note that the best selling brand even to this day (Anchor) is indeed still imported from NZ.

Myself, I prefer unsalted, but I'm in the minority.

OB

chowder
05-19-2009, 10:02 AM
Hot buttered toast with lashings of salted butter.

Alright, admit it, you fancy some now don't you?

SmackFu
05-19-2009, 10:12 AM
It tastes better with salt.

Dog80
05-19-2009, 10:18 AM
Hot buttered toast with lashings of salted butter.

Alright, admit it, you fancy some now don't you?

Yes, but what if you want to put the butter on something sweet? If butter is unsalted you can always add salt later.

Oswald Bastable
05-19-2009, 10:24 AM
Yes, but what if you want to put the butter on something sweet?

Actually, yes. Salted butter melted on top on a toasted teacake, or on a hot cross bun or a fruit scone is rather nice. A little salt often adds a nice contract to sweet foods and brings out the sweetness even more.

In baking, however, unsalted butter is often better and is readily available in the UK nowadays.

OB

WhyNot
05-19-2009, 10:45 AM
Yes, but what if you want to put the butter on something sweet? If butter is unsalted you can always add salt later.

Yes, but salt is present in 99.9% of sweet recipes, too. The only exceptions I can think of are meringues and whipped cream, which don't call for butter anyhow. It drives me mad when cooks (yes, even my beloved Alton Brown) insist on quick-to-go-rancid unsalted butter in a recipe and then add 1/2 tsp salt as the next step. Me, I keep salted butter only, since a pound can last me weeks, and just reduce the added salt by a bit. Always get raves, so I'm not changing without some strong evidence that I'm Doing It All Wrong.

Candyman74
05-19-2009, 10:50 AM
When I was living in the UK I remember it was very hard to find unsalted butter.

You'll find unsalted butter in every supermarket on the shelf right next to the salted butter!

Really Not All That Bright
05-19-2009, 11:13 AM
The British taste for salted butter is likely a consequence of early industrialisation, where it became necessary to preserve butter in order for it not to spoil as it was transported from the cow to the cities.

I was under the impression that salted butter was the norm in America pre-industrialization; in the Laura Ingalls Wilder book Farmer Boy, the Wilder family always salted butter before packing it into tubs for transport to New York City.

Anne Neville
05-19-2009, 11:22 AM
It drives me mad when cooks (yes, even my beloved Alton Brown) insist on quick-to-go-rancid unsalted butter in a recipe

We keep unsalted butter in the freezer, which solves the quick-to-go-rancid issue. We very rarely use butter, so we'd have to find some sort of long-term storage solution even if it were salted butter.

I've heard that you get finer control over the amount of salt in the recipe by using unsalted butter plus salt than you would by using salted butter. I generally stay away from recipes that require that kind of precision in any ingredient, but that's the justification I've heard.

pulykamell
05-19-2009, 11:37 AM
It drives me mad when cooks (yes, even my beloved Alton Brown) insist on quick-to-go-rancid unsalted butter in a recipe and then add 1/2 tsp salt as the next step.

Have you had trouble with your unsalted butter going rancid? I exclusively use unsalted butter (it's more flexible for my recipes) and I've had sticks sit in the fridge for months without a problem.

WhyNot
05-19-2009, 11:46 AM
Have you had trouble with your unsalted butter going rancid? I exclusively use unsalted butter (it's more flexible for my recipes) and I've had sticks sit in the fridge for months without a problem.
Yeah, just once. Once was all it took before I took a logical look at it and never bought it again. Haven't had that problem with salted.

gotpasswords
05-19-2009, 12:02 PM
It's also been rumored that some salted butters may be made with not-exactly-fresh cream as the salt can hide some degree of staleness.

There's nothing to hide behind in unsalted butter, so they have to use cream that's as fresh as possible. I have no idea if this is true, but I use unsalted for cooking and baking.

Myglaren
05-19-2009, 02:02 PM
I've recently developed a taste for French salted butter, Brittany and Normandy variants.

The salt is in large, visible crystals in the butter, not homogenised into it.

The first trial with toast and Spanish marmalade was startling and very pleasurable, a burst of salt in the sweetness.

It has become a bit hard to find lately but is well worth the effort, nothing quite like it.
We don't refrigerate it once it is in use but do use 2-3 1/2lb packs a week.

pulykamell
05-19-2009, 02:15 PM
I've recently developed a taste for French salted butter, Brittany and Normandy variants.

The salt is in large, visible crystals in the butter, not homogenised into it.


This is one of the other reasons I like unsalted butter (especially the slightly soured European kinds). Toast spread with unsalted butter and sprinkled with large grains of kosher salt or the fine crystalline puffs of sea salt always tasted so much better to me than salted butter. There's just this nice clean contrast between the sweetness and salt, as you described it, that salted butter doesn't have.

Shot From Guns
05-19-2009, 03:07 PM
Salted butter: Tastes better to most people when you're using it as a condiment, but amount of salt can vary by producer.

Unsalted butter: Doesn't taste as good on its own, but excellent for use in cooking (esp. baking), when you want to have precise control over the amount of salt you're including.

miamouse
05-19-2009, 03:47 PM
you guys are crazy. cold unsalted butter on fresh from the oven bread is heavenly.

gigi
05-19-2009, 05:54 PM
Yes, but salt is present in 99.9% of sweet recipes, too. The only exceptions I can think of are meringues and whipped cream, which don't call for butter anyhow. It drives me mad when cooks (yes, even my beloved Alton Brown) insist on quick-to-go-rancid unsalted butter in a recipe and then add 1/2 tsp salt as the next step. Me, I keep salted butter only, since a pound can last me weeks, and just reduce the added salt by a bit. Always get raves, so I'm not changing without some strong evidence that I'm Doing It All Wrong.

I always use Land O'Lakes salted butter and then whatever salt the recipe calls for. My baked goods are pretty good so I don't plan to change either.

Guinastasia
05-19-2009, 06:17 PM
I use salted butter and I never even bother using salt in recipes -- why DO almost all recipes call for that 1/2 tsp of salt? Is it just out of habit?

Ximenean
05-19-2009, 07:27 PM
You'll find unsalted butter in every supermarket on the shelf right next to the salted butter!
I don't know what part of Britain you live in, but here the supermarkets only stock salted butter, boiled brains, turnips, pickled goat's kidneys, and rows and rows of canned tomatoes (to be served cold, naturally). Suggested accompaniment: warm beer.

WhyNot
05-19-2009, 07:50 PM
you guys are crazy. cold unsalted butter on fresh from the oven bread is heavenly.
Well, a rubber tire on fresh from the oven bread would be heavenly!
I use salted butter and I never even bother using salt in recipes -- why DO almost all recipes call for that 1/2 tsp of salt? Is it just out of habit?
No, it's not out of habit. Besides making things taste better by increasing electrical conductivity on your taste buds (no, really! (http://patentstorm.us/patents/6048569/description.html)) salt is needed, even if only in small amount, for many chemical reactions that occur during cooking, from raising the boiling point of water to retarding yeast activity in baking bread. Them sodium and chloride ions really get around!

Guinastasia
05-19-2009, 08:21 PM
Ah! I told my mother there was a reason!!! (She keeps insisting on leaving salt out, claiming you don't need it!)

pulykamell
05-19-2009, 08:31 PM
Well, a rubber tire on fresh from the oven bread would be heavenly!

No, it's not out of habit. Besides making things taste better by increasing electrical conductivity on your taste buds (no, really! (http://patentstorm.us/patents/6048569/description.html)) salt is needed, even if only in small amount, for many chemical reactions that occur during cooking, from raising the boiling point of water to retarding yeast activity in baking bread. Them sodium and chloride ions really get around!

I agree, except for the raising the boiling point of water. You need a lot of salt to raise the boiling point of water any useful amount. When a recipe calls for salt (say, salting your water before boiling your pasta), it's as a seasoning, not to raise the boiling point.

Markxxx
05-19-2009, 09:31 PM
Why salted butter? Why salt on green beens? 'Cause without it, the taste is lost
:D

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