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Numbers behind...butter

Numbers behind...butter

An essential ingredient in so many dishes, the simple goodness of butter conceals a host of hidden truths. Let’s find out more by taking a look at its numbers.

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3000 B.C. is supposed to be the time when butter made its first appearance. In fact, there is a Sumerian bas relief, now preserved in a museum in Bagdad, which dates back to that period and shows cows being milked for making butter. Then, one thousand years later, the Ari people used to make clarified butter: they cooked butter using the bain-marie method to eliminate its water and casein content. This was the earliest version of what we know as ghee today.

21 million tons of butter are produced in the world every year. It is obtained from about 663 million tons of milk, of which 424 tons are destined for dairy products.

59% of the world’s butter production is consumed on the Asian market which has continued to show an upward trend since 2010, with a 19% increase in growth forecasted for 2020. The second most important market for butter is the European Community with 19%, while North America consumes about 10% of the total.

7.3 billion dollars was the total value of butter sales in 2017 (the latest available figure). With regard to export data, New Zealand heads the charts with 18.4%. This country is closely followed by the Netherlands (15.7%), Ireland (13.7%), Germany (9.2%) and Belgium (8.5%). The first 15 exporting countries turn over 93.9% of the world’s butter production. Those whose exports have grown most are Ukraine (520%), followed by the UK (124%) and Poland (81%).

23 kilos is the minimum quantity of milk required to produce one kilo of butter. The quantity varies according to the type of milk and production method. Two methods are most widely used: churning and centrifugation. In the former, the milk is left to rest for 8-12 hours, until the fat separates and can then be processed. In the second method, the process is mechanical and separation takes place by using a centrifuge. Once the fatty content has been obtained, it is first pasteurized at 90-100 °C, before being filtered and left to cool for 2-4 hours. The resulting cream is then placed in special mechanical churners, to produce what we know as butter, which is finally washed in cold water and blended.

82% is the minimum quantity of fat in traditional butter, which can be as high as 85-86% based on product quality. On the market, there are some types of butter whose fat content is relatively low, with a percentage that drops to 60-62, and even 40% in some cases.

5 main types of butter can be identified. Traditional and salted butter, one without and the other with added salt. Then we have anhydrous butter with a maximum water content of 0.1% and 99.8% of fat. Clarified butter or ghee, on the other hand, has a fat content of 99.6%. Finally, there is butteroil, which is very similar to anhydrous butter with a fat content of 99.6%.

150 grams of butter are required to make hollandaise sauce, one of the nicest sauces for serving with eggs, fish, and poultry. You will also need three eggs at room temperature, 20 grams of lemon juice, two spoonfuls of water, salt and pepper. Put the yolks into a small saucepan together with the water and salt and whisk them over a bain-marie for about ten minutes. In another pan, gently melt the butter and add it gradually to the sauce, beating it all the time with a whisk. As soon as the sauce thickens, add lemon, pepper, and salt to taste. Serve straight away.

Have you ever tried to make homemade butter? Take a look at our recipe and follow our tips!

Are you a butter pastries master? Here you can find the science of perfect butter pastries.

And if you're looking for vegan substitutes of butter, have a look at our suggestions


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