BUTTER is a purely carbonaceous or heat-giving food, being the fatty part of the milk, which rises in cream. It is mentioned in the very earliest history, and the craving for it seems to be universal. Abroad it is eaten without salt; but to keep it well, salt is a necessity, and its absence soon allows the development of a rank and unpleasant odor. In other words, butter without it becomes rancid; and if any particle of whey is allowed to remain in it, the same effect takes place.
Perfect butter is golden in color, waxy in consistency, and with a sweetness of odor quite indescribable, yet unmistakable to the trained judge of butter. It possesses the property of absorption of odors in a curious degree; and if shut in a tight closet or a refrigerator with fish, meat, or vegetables of rank or even pronounced smell, exchanges its own delicate aroma for theirs, and reaches us bereft once for all of what is the real charm of perfect butter. For this reason absolute cleanliness and daintiness of vessels containing milk or cream, or used in any way in the manufacture of butter, is one of the first laws of the dairy.
Ghee, the East-Indian form of butter, is simply fresh butter clarified by melting, and is used as a dressing for the meal of rice. Butter, though counted as a pure fat, is in reality made up of at least six fatty principles, there being sixty-eight per cent of margarine and thirty per cent of oleine, the remainder being volatile compounds of fatty acids. In the best specimens of butter there is a slight amount of caseine, not over five per cent at most, though in poor there is much more. It is the only fat which may be constantly eaten without harm to the stomach, though if not perfectly good it becomes an irritant.
The Drippings of roasted meat, more especially of beef, rank next in value; and Lard comes last on the list, its excessive use being a serious evil. Eaten constantly, as in pastry or the New-England doughnut, it is not only indigestible, but becomes the source of forms of scrofulous disease. It is often a convenient substitute for butter, but if it must be used, would better be in connection with the harmless fat.