Monday, February 24, 2020

Making butter yellow

Winter butter was pale, but was enhanced with carrot juice, marigold, annato, turmeric and even egg yolks for selling in the cities.  "No one in the country will eat colored butter in winter except as the milk colors it."  The taste and color naturally improved when the cows ate grass instead of their winter diet of hay. More on grass butter HERE

“new milch cows make yellow butter.”  [Houghton, 1727]

Marigold flowers  1816
"As winter-made butter is mostly pale or white, and, at the same time, of a poorer quality than that made during the summer months, the idea of excellence has been associated with the yellow colour. Hence, various articles have been employed in order to impart this colour; those most generally used, and certainly the most wholesome, are the juice of the carrot, and of the flowers of the marigold, carefully expressed and strained through a linen cloth. A small quantity of this juice (and the requisite proportion is soon ascertained by experience) is diluted with a little cream, and this mixture is added to the rest of the cream, when put into the churn. So small a quantity of the colouring matter unites with the butter, that it never imparts to it any particular taste."  [Twamley]

Egg yolk   1848
"Putting in the yolk of eggs, near the end of churning, will make the butter yellow."  [Ells]  

Carrot Butter  1854
"A correspondent of the Dollar Newspaper gives a mode of coloring butter yellow, consisting substantially of the application of a liquid at churning, made by grating yellow carrots, and after soaking in half their bulk of milk or water over night, straining through a cloth. This, we are assured, will make it as yellow as October butter, and with an agreeable flavor. Customers who buy butter of the manufacturer who furnishes the communication, much prefer this to any other. Some of our readers may think this method worthy of trial; others will prefer a modification, which we have often tried with great success. This modification differs in one particular only, yet has several advantages. The point of difference is in the time of applying the carrots; – that is, instead of doing it at the commencement of the churning, by introducing them into the churn, we apply them about two or three days sooner by introducing them into the cow. This modification has several advantages, namely, saving the labor of grating the carrots; furnishing animal instead of vegetable butter; and nourishing the cow into the bargain."  [Anglo-American]

Annatto, turmeric, saffron, marigold or carrot juice  1859
"The practice of coloring butter is founded on the fact that we are accustomed to form our judgment at once of the qualities of the article from the whiteness or the yellowness of its color. Whiter butter is less attractive generally than yellow summer or grass-made butter. The color has come to be important to the seller, and artificial means are found to regulate it.

The coloring is made as follows: About a pound of butter is melted, so that the heavier parts sink to the bottom, when the light, clear fat on the top is poured into another dish. In this fat thus poured off is put a piece of annatto about the size of a walnut, wrapped up in a linen cloth, and it is then again put over the fire. The coloring matter of the annatto strains through the linen cloth, and turns the butter brown red, when it is allowed to cool off. When the butter is to be colored, some of this brown red is melted, salted, and mixed very carefully into the butter after washing. The quantity of coloring matter used depends on the color which the maker wants to impart to his butter, and a little practice soon enables him to take the right quantity. Others pour the coloring matter directly upon the butter to attain the same end.

In coloring artificially it is important to get a uniformity of color, which is the result of very thorough working. Colored butter must not be marbled.

The cream is sometimes colored before churning. The annatto is put into a clean beech-wood lye, and as much of this colored and strained lye is taken as is necessary to produce the desired color in the butter. It is then churned as usual.

Turmeric is sometimes used instead of annatto for coloring butter. It has no advantage, however, over annatto.

In many sections the butter is colored with an extract of saffron in water, or of marigold, or with the juice of carrots, which is applied to the cream before churning.

The coloring adds nothing to the quality or the taste. It is done for the sake of the looks; but it gives the butter a deceptive appearance."  [Flint]

Annato   1869
"Butter Colored to Order—Are the butter-eaters of New York aware that butter, so far as color is concerned, is made to order as much as their boots, hats, and coats? … Our present notice of the fact arises from hearing a woman bitterly denouncing the grocer who sent her "white butter." After she had selected some "nice yellow" butter, at two cents higher price per pound, and retired, the grocer asked us to test the samples.

We found the rejected white butter as sweet and fresh as could be desired, and worth twenty per cent, more than the other, according to our taste. The other, however, was pretty to look at. It was of a deep yellow hue, but we at once declared that it was made so by annatto. "Yes," said the grocer, "you are right. That butter was made to order for me for just such customers as that woman, who do not know good butter by the taste—they judge only by looks. It actually cost me two cents a pound less than the other. You saw how I sold it."

… no one in the country will eat colored butter in winter except as the milk colors it. There is but very little in the country at this season that answers the orders from the city, except such as has been fixed up to suit your market."

Now, "butter-eaters, you hear how yellow butter is made "fresh from the cow" in winter, and how much you pay for the privilege of eating "annatto and other dyestuffs."  [Facts]

The Anglo-American Magazine.  Toronto: April, 1854
Ells, Benjamin Franklin.  The Western Miscellany.  Dayton:  July 1848
Facts for Farmers: Also for the Family Circle. NY: 1869  ed by Solon Robinson
Flint, Charles Louis. Milch Cows and Dairy Farming.  NY: 1859
Houghton, John.  Husbandry and Trade Improv'd.  Revised… by Richard Bradley. London: 1727
Twamley, Josiah.  Essays on the Management of the Dairy.  London: 1816

Mound of Butter by Antoine Vollon (French, c1875) in the National Gallery of Art.

Past posts on butter HERE

©2020 Patricia Bixler Reber
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1 comment:

  1. I'm from Australia, and have always wondered why butter in the USA is very pale in colour. Here our butter is yellow, naturally, with no additives. Same when I make butter at home from fresh cream. So I'm realising from your most interesting post, that this is because the majority of our dairy cattle are still pasture fed.