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How to Make Herbed Butter

herbed butter

Before we get into the “how,” let’s talk about “why” you should make herbed butter. Herbs grow, a lot. It seems a shame not to enjoy their zingy, full flavors while they’re at their prime these hot months, and not to utilize all those fresh leaves. Yes, you can dry them out and use them all year, but this usually weakens or alters their flavor. Chopping it up and storing it in fat — butter — instead preserves the flavor, and stretches it, as it’ll permeate the whole glob. Sure, you can make tub after tub of pesto with your herbs, but maybe your freezer is full of those already. You could make a tincture, or try your hand at homemade perfume. But if you like to make bread, or serve it at dinner, then it’s fun to have a host of flavored butters on hand.

To start off, you should also be growing your own herbs now, so that you’ll be stuck with this predicament of having too much. Fresh herbs snipped right off the stem before using are much better-tasting, and it’s more cost-efficient than buying packs of pre-cut herbs that will go bad in your fridge within days, if it isn’t already. You don’t even need to have a backyard, or a planter. Poke holes in the bottom of a plum tomato can, or an empty mayonnaise jar. Set it on a windowsill that gets good sun.

english thyme English thyme

lavenderlavender

Now for the “how” part, which is actually stupidly easy. Pick much any herb you really like, or the most prolific ones you’ve got. I chose to make two butters: with English thyme and lavender. You can always mix and match and come up with blends. Spend an agonizing few minutes getting all the tiny leaves off the stems of your thyme (and by the way, if you’re cooking with me, never ask me to separate the thyme — been there too many times). Relax and enjoy separating bigger leaves and spindles like those of the lovely lavender plant off the stem. Finely chop your herbs next, and try placing both hands on the top of your knife and guiding it up and down with the hand that’s on the handle like a seesaw. A fan-like pattern should appear on your cutting board. (Lifting the knife off the cutting board and hacking straight down seems to make these denser herbs fly across the counter.) Go back and forth until you’ve got nicely chopped, very fine bits. Do we say “minced” for herbs? I would use the word only it seems like “mince” usually involves moisture. I’m not sure.

chopped thyme

While you’re doing this, let your butter sit out. Actually, let it sit at room temperature for a good fifteen minutes, if you’re using a one-pound block of butter. Use the best butter in your estimation; this could be organic, or from your favorite dairy farm. Here, I’ve used a block of Plugra European-style butter, because it’s so creamy (I don’t have any connection with Plugra, just saying). Also, I liked not having to unwrap four individual sticks. Be sure not to skip the sitting-out step and do something crazy like put the butter in the microwave, because any melting will break the emulsion and change the butter’s texture forever. Just wait it out, and don’t wait too too long, especially if you’re doing this in a hottter-than-room-temperature kitchen, which you probably are. The butter should be somewhat firm when you start to blend in the herbs, and definitely still opaque.

making herbed butter

For roughly one quarter of a pound of butter, the size of one stick, I used roughly two tablespoons of finely chopped herbs. But you can adjust the amount of herbs as to your own liking. Plop the butter in a bowl and sprinkle the chopped herbs right on. Now start cutting up the butter and letting the herbs fall into the crevices. I like to use an (appropriately named) butter knife for this because it doesn’t encourage as much smearing as a spatula, and hence possible melting. I also don’t prefer a fork or pastry cutter because it really doesn’t need to be cut up that finely, and they’re a pain to clean. It should take all of a minute to somewhat “evenly” distribute the herbs around the entire quarter-pound. It doesn’t have to be that even, and of course, it never will be perfectly so.

making herbed butter

making herbed butter

Store it in an airtight container and enjoy as long as you want. You can be reminded of your garden in full summer bloom all year ’round now. And, you’ve also found a much better vessel for your butter — in a tightly sealed, airtight container in the fridge! Each time you open it, it should smell like newly clipped herbs. Not like all the other stuff that’s hanging out in the refrigerator. Who knows why butter is always wrapped in paper, which lets it absorb the smells and flavors of your leftover lasagna, or half-empty can of clam juice? I suppose that’s another way of “flavoring” butter altogether.

herbed butters Hint: drop a glob of this in the center of a hot bowl of soup.

Comments

Comment from Pam
Time July 8, 2010 at 7:16 pm

Hi Cathy! Been following your blogs for about a month now. As an Asian fusion gourmet, you’ve become my new favourite blogger cook.

Love the way you set up this post. I’ve always enjoyed mincing my herbs this way, and my Chinese cleaver has always worked better than Nigella’s mezzaluna for me. :)

Comment from Joshyq
Time July 8, 2010 at 9:20 pm

Pineapple Sage Butter For Life!
But seriously, herb butter is incredible and makes any old plain loaf of bread the best thing you have ever put in your mouth. Adding garlic is also a great addition to the herb butter. I usually just throw in a mixture of all the different herbs that need to be picking, but hmm, I should probably try using one at a time and seeing what happens.

Comment from Gabriela
Time July 8, 2010 at 9:58 pm

I just had one of those, “why have I not done this yet?” moments! I always have herbs leftover andopt out of drying them because I don’t feel they retain their flavor…it seems like herbed butter would also be a good way to grease the pan for scrammbled eggs.

Comment from Lukas
Time July 8, 2010 at 10:27 pm

Before they disappeared from my CSA basket for the year, I made compound butter from garlic scapes, and it was extremely delicious, especially when I fried eggs in it the next morning.

Comment from Leesie
Time July 9, 2010 at 12:51 am

The idea of adding lavender to the butter sounds heavenly – what do you put it on/in? I was a relatively long time reader of NEOINY and love(d) it. I’m also enjoying the new blog and the concept behind it, Cathy. The whole communal lunch thing really speaks to me being from an Italian family. Brava! ;-)

Comment from Sanura
Time July 9, 2010 at 1:14 am

This article is truly appreciated. My potted herbs are overflowing, especially the sage, mint, lemon balm and basil. And, you’re right, how many pestos can I make. A question: A knife is recommended to stir in the herbs, but do you think dumping the whole herbs and butter in a food processor would quicken the process?

Comment from SallyK
Time July 9, 2010 at 2:23 am

My herbs are ready to pick and will be going into butters this weekend! I have an Ulu knife that I find is great for mincing herbs – the rocking motion and concave cutting board keep the pieces from flying all over the place.

Comment from Chelsey
Time July 11, 2010 at 4:29 am

Made some of this tonight. I was licking that spoon – it’s yummy stuff!

Comment from The Urban Potager
Time July 13, 2010 at 6:21 am

This is definately something I am going to do this Summer (I live in Asutralia, it is still Winter at the moment). My herbs grow out of control during the Summer months and I have to chop them back quite a lot, I just end up throwing it all in the compost bin, now I can salvage some and make herb butter and freeze to use during the Winter months when the herbs die back! Great blog!
The Urban Potager.

Comment from mbt shoes
Time August 2, 2010 at 10:12 pm

nice share, good

article, very usefull for me…thank you

Comment from Mike
Time January 4, 2012 at 9:06 pm

One tip I read a while back for making herb butter is to NOT finely dice the herb before adding to the butter. Get the herb off the stem and ready to go, the butter somewhat soft. Then simply chip the herb into the butter. As you chop herbs you create cuts that can quickly oxidize and turn brown on more delicate herbs like tarragon, but if you chop them in the butter the fat will seal off the cut ends so the herb stays green.

Comment from Blendtec Recipes
Time December 29, 2012 at 10:51 pm

This is the sort of information I_ve long
been in search of. Thank you for posting this information.

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