For many years I lamented the fact that Americans were quickly losing any ability to provide for themselves, and the majority has, but there is a small but growing movement afoot to return to the ways of our past in order to provide for our families under the worst circumstances. For people such as myself who have always preserved food this is nothing new as the series of posts I’m working on will show.
One important ingredient in cooking is butter or other fat. If shortages become the order of the day as they did during the American Civil War and the two World Wars, having a supply of basics as well as what some would consider perishables will mean the difference between being slightly inconvenienced and doing without.
Salt helps to preserve butter and it will keep for extended periods without refrigeration. I keep it in the butter dish on the counter year round so when I want toast it’s not a hard little square impossible to spread. There are people who have “discovered” the ability to can butter for long term storage, but doing this is not a new concept. It was firmly documented by the late Victorian era and certainly healthier than some of the preservation methods used at that time.
Canning Butter. Rather than applying special antiseptics, as salicylic and boracic acid, etc., for preservation of butter, it may be preserved by being hermetically sealed—a method which has long been practiced, especially in case of butter intended for exportation to the tropics. Only butter of the very best quality can be used for this purpose, as only such will pay for the additional expense incurred by this method, and only such butter can stand the influence of the long transportation. Both sour-and sweet-cream butter are used for canning.
How often was this advice followed? More than four million pounds of canned butter was exported from Denmark alone during the year 1892-93. That’s a lot of butter my friend. – Grotenfelt, Gosta. The Principles of Modern Dairy Practice from a Bacteriological Point of View. 1902. NY.
Canning butter was done on a commercial and an individual basis. The U.S. Bureau of Animal Industry published requests for information useful to butter exporters in improving methods of canning butter for shipment to warmer climates in order to be competitive with other countries whose methods were quite successful. Such requests were published in 1892 and continued through 1900. – Science. Vol. 12. Dec. 14, 1900. Secretary of Agriculture. Annual Reports of the Department of Agriculture. July 1899.
Mrs. J. J. McGraw of Yazoo, MS was noted for her success in canning butter which could, “be kept fresh for any length of time…[and] is reported to have made a success of it. On all the sandwiches served at a recent luncheon there was spread a good layer of this two-year-old butter and it was pronounced excellent”. I’m sure the reader noted this was successful in the hot and humid climate of Mississippi. – Pennsylvania Bureau of Foods. Monthly Bulletin. Jan. 1915.
There are differing opinions on the safety of home canned butter and the reader assumes all responsibility in trying the various methods discussed here and on the internet.
Slowly melt the butter in a large pan until it comes to a simmer (slow boil). Stir the bottom of the pot often so it doesn’t scorch. Reduce the heat and continue to simmer for 5 to 10 minutes.
Put the flat lids in a small quantity of water in a pan which should be kept hot but not boiling.
Fill your hot jars while the butter is at a simmering temperature. Leave 1 inch of head space. Wipe the top of the jar and make sure there is no butter to interfere with the seal. Put on a flat and screw the ring down tightly. You’ll hear gentle “pings” as the jars seal and as they cool enough to handle give them a gentle shake now and then to keep the solids from all settling in the bottom of the jar. When warm to the touch but not hot put the jars into the refrigerator and shake every 5 minutes until cold. Store your butter in a cool dry location.
Method 2: My method of preference is to slowly melt the butter on the stove or in the microwave, put the hot butter into jars (I prefer half pints), and then either pressure can at 5 to 10 min. at 5 lbs. pressure, or use a water bath long enough to completely heat the jars through and through. Give the jars a gentle shake now and again as they cool and store the butter in a cool dry place. It wouldn’t hurt to add a little extra salt to help preserve the butter over long periods of time.
For anyone who trusts the safety of commercially canned products more than what they make themselves there are multiple sources for buying canned butter. Expect to pay more and incur a shipping charge.
For those who neither want to can their own or purchase expensive canned butter for cooking, there are healthy ways to bake successfully without fat, just use the quantity (or slightly more) of canned pumpkin or canned applesauce instead of butter, lard, shortening, or oil. Canned pumpkin and applesauce keep practically indefinitely until they’re opened and are a healthy satisfying alternative. If you have it (which you probably wouldn’t in drastic times), mayonnaise works well in place of fats in baked goods. I’ve made quick rolls for years using Self-rising flour, mayonnaise, and milk or buttermilk.
See: Rogers, Lore Alford. Studies Upon the Keeping Quality of Butter. 1904. Washington.