Irish butter (was: vegetable terms)

David Bowie db.list at PMPKN.NET
Sat May 15 05:41:41 UTC 2010

victor steinbok wrote:


> "Irish butter" is expected to be actual Irish butter, just as much as
> French/Normandy butter is expected to be from France/Normandy. A
> number of brands are now labeled simply "European butter" which simply
> signifies higher butter-fat contents than American butter (about 5-10%
> total weight, I believe) and the difference is usually touted by
> bakers and foodies who prefer European butter in pastries and sauces.
> Places with highly developed dairy culture--Eastern Europe, the
> Netherlands--have dairy labels that depend on place of origin, the
> feed of the cows, the season and the time of day the milk/cream was
> collected. This is not the kind of distinction that works well with US
> standardization, but you can still get some of this stuff in specialty
> stores. "Irish Butter" is really more of a marketing gimmick than
> anything else.

Generally, yes, the stuff labelled "European butter" in the United
States has a higher butterfat content. However, some of it also uses
(lightly) cultured cream rather than very fresh cream, which
(according to Harold McGee, at least—i've never really noticed a
meaningful enough difference to tell) is fairly common in Europe.
Because of the chemistry of butter-making, cultured cream gives a
slightly higher butterfat content as well as an allegedly stronger

The USDA doesn't allow butter to be labelled and sold as "butter"
unless it has at least an 80% butterfat content, and most butters in
the United States have a butterfat content of 80.0–80.5%. Tests i've
seen of butters labelled "European butter" but made in the United
States generally have a butterfat content of 82–84%.

Historically, butter was widely made from cream collected over time,
so some of it would have soured slightly. For much butter-making now—
and nearly universally in the United States—the cream is collected
from several sources quickly and kept under deep refrigeration until
churning, which doesn't allow for any souring.

Very truly yours,
David Bowie

p.s. Yes, i read things like Cook's Illustrated and On Food and
Cooking cover to cover for fun. I am aware that this marks me as even
more of a nerd than i might otherwise be.

The American Dialect Society -

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