There are several different ways to produce butter. Yesterday, I could have named two. Today, after reading up on the subject, I can name a few more. My appreciation of Harold McGee grows by the day.
These are types of butter production, rather than a complete list of butter products. That’s why I haven’t listed Brown butter, or clarified butter. I’ll get to these types of butter at a later time.
Raw Cream Butter – Alas, it is unlikely that you will ever have this kind of butter, especially here in the United States. The reason? It’s made from unpasteurized milk. Well, that and it has a shelf life of only ten days. This type of butter is said to taste more of cream and less of the salty fat that we’re used to here in the States.
Sweet Cream Butter – Often called “unsalted butter” here in the States, it’s the kind I buy most often (There was has been as much as three pounds in my refrigerator at one time). Good butter is typically white with a slight yellow palor, as well has having a higher fat content. Without the salt added, there’s a purer taste of butter.
Salted Sweet Cream Butter – This is also typically what is found in the grocer’s dairy section. This is Sweet Cream butter made from pasteurized cream with salt added. The salt was initially added because it helped fight off bacteria when folks would leave the butter out. But now that we typically keep our butter cold (at least here in America), it’s there because we believe it should be there. When I realized that salted butter is to be avoided when baking at home, and that salted butter scorches in the frying pan more readily than unsalted butter, I found myself purchasing less and less of the stuff.
Cultured Cream Butter – This is butter that has had a fermenting agent added, most likely lactic acid. The fermentation adds a more discernable (some would say ‘tangy’) butter flavor. This is very much a European style of butter that is now gaining popularity over here.
European-Style Butter – A butter that has a lower moisture percentage and higher butterfat content than the typical sweet-cream butter (which is about 20% water, if I recall correctly). Due to the lower moisture content, it makes this the butter of choice for pastries and sauces. Plugra is the brand most often recognized as “European-Style”.
Whipped Butter – Butter made to be spread. It is aerated with nitrogen gas, giving the butter a more malleable and smoother texture. This type of butter should be avoided for almost all functions except for topping foods and spreading on toast and muffins.
Beurre Cuisinier, Beurre Pâtissier, Beurre Concentré – These are specialty butters with even less moisture and/or more butterfat. These are also typically unavailable for the common consumer, and are most often found in bakeries and patisseries.