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Is butter with brown spots okay to use?

I'm not sure if this means the butter has gone bad or it's just separating. It's not particularly old. I'm planning on making caramels with it, but obviously if it's going to mess up the texture or make me sick I'll go out and buy more.

asked by esti_brennan over 5 years ago
17 answers 12394 views
Cbfb27ea 071f 4941 9183 30dce4007b50  merrill
Merrill Stubbs

Merrill is a co-founder of Food52.

added over 5 years ago

That sounds odd -- I'd probably buy fresh butter.

F8c5465c 5952 47d4 9558 8116c099e439  dscn2212
boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added over 5 years ago

I've handled uncountable pounds of butter, and have never seen any kind of spots on any of it. I agree with Merrill. Toss it out and buy fresh.

3be46d65 f924 4a20 b978 7da927d6e3b7  open uri20130203 7046 1u7cxkg 0
added over 5 years ago

I just recently opened some butter with brown spots, I threw it out.I didn't know if it was good either.

F8c5465c 5952 47d4 9558 8116c099e439  dscn2212
boulangere

Cynthia is a trusted source on Bread/Baking.

added over 5 years ago

Yikes! What with worrying about what's in our air, water, produce, and meat, do we have to start inspecting our butter too?!

Ee2d2848 cc50 45f4 b8d4 311f58cd24bb  stringio
added over 4 years ago

It's January 12, 2011 - opened a box of butter this AM - and two of the sticks had same light brown spots... WTH? Back to "Whole Paycheck" it goes!

E6f5e079 1551 4472 bc70 dcc35a71edc2  110
added over 4 years ago

WTH? indeed! Are the spots just on the surface, or are they inside also? I did a quick web search and came up empty, except for this page from Farmers Journal, April 1910.

http://books.google.com...

It won't really help, but it might provide a nice diversion while you're putting your spotted butter in the trash bin.

C0d1f1de 4134 43ba 9510 1d7a8caa31f3  scan0004
added over 4 years ago

It's time to start taking all these spotty butters back to the store, and ask for an explanation. Also, contact your board of health, contact your extension service. I had never heard of this, yet it looks like it's becoming common. Time for answers.

E6f5e079 1551 4472 bc70 dcc35a71edc2  110
added over 4 years ago

Well, I like to use Irish butter. The Irish can't afford to put spots on their butter. That's pretty political, yes?

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added over 4 years ago

I experienced this same situation with two different types of butter in the last 6 months. One type had brown spots when I opened it and another developed it shortly thereafter. They also had a cheesy smell. I took susan g's advice and contacted my extension service (Oregon) and the person I corresponded with contacted a college specializing in dairy and here is the response they gave:

It is possible to have molds growing on butter. I would recommend against eating moldy butter. The cheesy smell seems to indicate that there was yeast growing as well.

Which, I guess they're the experts, but I love to hear more detail. So there's both mold *and* yeast? I wonder if anyone would get more detail by contacting their extension service.

84baef1b 1614 4c3d a895 e859c9d40bd1  chris in oslo
Greenstuff

Chris is a trusted source on General Cooking

added over 4 years ago

I google and google-scholared around and found quite a bit about molds on butter. I'd say that those brown spots are mold, and that everyone was right, you should take it back. Brown molds seem to be more common than green. I also saw quite a bit on bacteria (which can make it smell malty) and rancidity. Nothing about yeast contamination though.

If you try searching yourself, beware! Butter molds and yeast+butter have some more common associations!

A9f88177 5a41 4b63 8669 9e72eb277c1a  waffle3
added over 4 years ago

Never seen it myself but apparently it's been an ongoing concern in the industry for a hundred years or more. I found this clue in a 1915 report:

Wet surfaces, wet wrappings, or high humidity are essential to mold growth in butter. Mold will not grow upon the surface of a piece of butter exposed to humidities of 70 per cent or lower.


23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added almost 4 years ago

I have had these dark spots appear on my unsalted Lucerne butter more than once. It has happened with Butter I bought in Oregon and her in New Mexico. Lucerne every time. At first I tossed it, but now I remove those areas and use it. As long as it tastes proper. I don't buy Lucerne often though, because of that. I did discuss this with a dairy that supplies Lucerne in Yamhill County Oregon. They had no good info for me but were concerned since there milk go into the butter. Even though I take the risk and eat it, I wouldn't recommend it. I am still here, alive and well.

A9f88177 5a41 4b63 8669 9e72eb277c1a  waffle3
added almost 4 years ago



That tactic works just fine until you encounter one of the toxic molds that can penetrate an inch or more into soft and / or moist food.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added almost 4 years ago

I think I will have to simply avoid Lucerne and pay the extra buck a pound if it isn't on sale. ChefOno makes a serious and valid point.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added almost 4 years ago

"Wet surfaces, wet wrappings, or high humidity are essential to mold growth in butter. Mold will not grow upon the surface of a piece of butter exposed to humidities of 70 per cent or lower."

So, where is the moisture coming from? My butter compartment? I have only found this in a fresh stick of butter as I am opening it.

I want my Tillamook Butter back. :-\

A9f88177 5a41 4b63 8669 9e72eb277c1a  waffle3
added almost 4 years ago


My guess is it's a handling issue. Perhaps condensation penetrating the paper wrapper? Trapped moisture and the lack of oxygen would create ideal conditions for mold, same reason tight wrapping is bad for cheese.

23b88974 7a89 4ef5 a567 d442bb75da04  avatar
added almost 4 years ago

Thanks ChefOno