Here we are at the onset of summer. The season of warmth, abundance and discovery.
My husband and I marvel at the rate of growth and the pace of change as we walk our little garden together in the morning.
Sometimes we have to crouch down low, turn ourselves upside down on the ground or slide branches sideways to get a full view of the beauty around us. Each day holds a new wonder and we do whatever we can to put ourselves in the middle of it.
Whether you’re making your own discoveries in sunlit windows, on balconies, in yards or at your favorite farmers’ market, now is the ideal time to take advantage of nature’s bounty.
A few weeks ago, I shared my unexpected but happy little problem of fast growing herbs and these fragrant green bouquets I started making for neighbors to keep up with growth.
Well today, I’m sharing another way to use up these garden fresh beauties in the form of delicious and versatile compound butters — have you made them before? Truly one of the simplest and most satisfying condiments you will ever hand assemble.
Compound butter is simply butter that has additional ingredients mixed in to enhance flavor (and texture) — but the amazing thing is that the combinations are truly endless. So you can let your imagination run in all directions — savory, spicy, sour and/or sweet — depending on taste preference and what you intend to use the butter for. I came across a rosemary, shallot and red wine version a year or two ago that had my toes curling… I mean, could you imagine a more delicious bring-along for a summer picnic?
And aren’t they cute? We just love the shape and artisanal quality of them. (I think they would make a beautiful hostess gift bundled in simple parchment and hand tied on either end – you could add a tag identifying the type of butter and attach an herb or two to the outside. So fun).
While olive oil is the fat that is used most commonly in our home, there are some foods for which, in my view, there is simply no substitute for butter:
Am I right?
These recipes are entirely adaptable and not just in terms of herbs but other taste enhancers including the pungent allium family (onion, garlic, chive, leek, shallot) — the citrus family (lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit zest) and the full gamut of spices. So you can play around with different combinations and experiment with your favorites.
The artisan butters also freeze well so you can preserve them longer and minimize spoilage. Perfect for picnics, potlucks, garden parties and hostess gifts.
Our favorite? We sincerely liked all of these combinations (and enjoyed taste testing them on various foods) but if I had to pick one, it might be the dark horse ~ basil, black pepper and garlic.
I hope you have fun with these – we certainly did. Be sure to read the Notes in the recipe card below for more information and best results.
- Lemon, Rosemary-Oregano & Sea Salt Butter
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 1 + ½ Tbsp finely chopped rosemary
- ½ Tbsp finely chopped oregano
- ½ tsp lemon zest or to taste
- ¾ tsp sea salt of choice
- Cilantro, Lime & Chile Salt Butter
- ½ cup unsalted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped cilantro
- ½ tsp lime zest or to taste
- For the Chile Salt: ¾ tsp coarse salt of choice, pinch of chile of choice* I used ancho
- Basil, Black Pepper & Garlic Butter
- ½ cup salted butter, softened to room temperature
- 2 Tbsp finely chopped basil
- 3 garlic cloves, minced
- 1 tsp coarse black pepper
- The instruction method is the same for each recipe.
- In a suitably sized bowl, place butter and add all ingredients mixing well to incorporate.
- At this stage it is sometimes helpful, if the butter is too soft, to return the mixed compound to the fridge to harden somewhat before trying to roll it (see Notes section below).
- Once the butter has achieved the right temperature, transfer contents onto a piece of parchment paper (about 10" x 10") and roughly shape into a log form (don't worry about the shape too much - it might just look like an awkward heap but it should roll out well regardless provided the butter is room temperature). There are a number of web based videos (youtube, etc) that illustrate how to roll compound butter if you would like a visual queue - some like rolling in plastic wrap, I prefer parchment.
- Beginning at one end, roll the paper around the butter until you reach the other end - roll the wrapped butter back and forth to smooth and shape and then seal the ends by twisting - once you twist you will see how compact and shaped it becomes - magic!
- Chill the butter in the refrigerator until firm, at least one hour.
- These compound butters will keep in the refrigerator for about 2 weeks and in the freezer for a couple of months.
The Temperature of the Butter You want the butter to be soft enough to mix with the ingredients but not too soft that it's impossible to roll. The ideal is room temperature. If your butter is too soft to hold any shape at all, place it back in the fridge until it achieves room temperature.
Amount of Butter I used ½ cup increments of butter in these recipes as my base but you could easily double, triple or quadruple the batch (just remember to increase other ingredients accordingly).
The Chile there are many different kinds of chile you can use for the chile-salt; it really just depends on the type of flavor impact you are looking for. Ground chile peppers such as cayenne and habanero are amongst the hottest varieties so you will want to use these chile powders carefully and in small pinches (1/8 tsp) particularly if you are new to them. Ancho chile is beautifully complex and warm (but not as hot as cayenne/habanero). Paprika and chipotle (smoke-dried jalapeno) are other favorites. The more generic ‘chili powder’ that you find in the grocery store is really a mixture of milder chile peppers with the addition of herbs/spices such as onion/garlic powder and salt and may be more suitable for youngsters and those who don't tolerate or enjoy heat.
The Raw Additions If raw garlic is not your thing, you can sauté or roast the garlic instead (same goes with onion, etc).
Herb Health - A promising study published in the Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry last year showed that both rosemary and oregano contain compounds that may assist in inhibiting type 2 Diabetes - research is ongoing.