Herbs in Butter

| April/May 1993

To me, butter is a real treat. That doesn’t mean that I routinely slather gobs of it on everything I eat, but when I want to put the finishing touches on a special dinner, I’ll go for butter every time. And not just plain butter: I blend into it my favorite combinations of herbs and other flavors.

Herb butters are simple and quick to make, and the flavor combinations and serving ideas are virtually unlimited. Just imagine Sunday morning sourdough pancakes with a pat of butter infused with raspberries and lemon verbena leaves, or garlic French bread with fresh chives and society garlic flowers blended into the garlic butter, or fresh grilled salmon dressed with a zippy butter containing black kalamata olives, dijon mustard, and herbs.

Butter Recipes:

Kalamata Olive Herb Butter
Raspberry-Lemon Verbena Butter
Dill-Burnet Butter
Society Garlic Butter 

Making Better Butter

Start with the freshest butter you can find. I use unsalted butter because I like to control the amount of salt (if any) in the finished product, and because its flavor is more delicate than that of the heavily salted varieties that are commonly available. Because butter is more perishable when unsalted, I recommend that you keep it frozen until you’re ready to use it.

Any herbs or fruits to be used in the butter should be fresh but without excess moisture, which will hasten spoil­age. If you are picking fresh herbs for use in butter, wash them in the garden, “on the hoof”, the day before you cut them.

Choose herbs that complement each other as well as the dish you have in mind. I find that herbs with strong, earthy flavors (as those in the Kalamata Olive Herb Butter on page 48) blend well, as do those with more delicate flavors (see, for example, the Dill-Burnet Butter on page 48). Any herb blend you find pleasing is a good candidate for an herb butter. When I was a child, my mom dressed chickens with “poultry seasoning” that came out of a can and smelled divine. Now that I’ve grown up and can read the label, I achieve that flavor in a basting blend with half a pound of butter, one or two pressed garlic cloves, a little salt and freshly ground pepper, and a teaspoon each of fresh chopped rosemary, lemon thyme, oregano, and sage.

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