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Edit: I plan to actually do a blind taste test to put this question to bed and satisfy my curiosity. If anybody wants to beat me to it, please feel free.

If you make a salsa (for example) and store it in the fridge the flavors will marry over time.

Is the same true of compound butter? My hypothesis is that a compound butter that includes multiple flavoring agents (perhaps two different herbs) will taste essentially the same right after it has been compounded as it will after an overnight banishment to the refrigerator.

My initial reaction is that the magic that is helping salsa ingredients mingle is water (a solvent extraordinaire & excellently thin transport medium). Will butter insulate this wonderful exchange?

This Alton Brown recipe (http://www.foodnetwork.com/recipes/alton-brown/compound-butter-recipe/index.html) suggests chilling for two hours before serving. He's one smart cookie, so I tend to follow his lead, but is it worth waiting?

Image credit goes to thehungrymouse.com

Image from another recipe here: http://www.thehungrymouse.com/2009/03/27/fresh-herb-compound-butter/

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This will also depend on whether the compounds are fat soluble. Some flavors will likely work much better than others due to their solubility in fat. –  Brendan Mar 21 '13 at 16:02

3 Answers 3

up vote 2 down vote accepted

If you leave the butter uncovered in the fridge, it will eventually pick up the tastes from everything else in the fridge. This really is why there is a special compartment for it. The compound butter has to do less work to infuse.

Our chef school teacher said they made their compound butter ~2-days ahead of the event so the flavours would infuse properly. The piece of butter I tried had no strawberries in it, but it sure smelled and carried the taste of strawberry.

I've even done the lazy-man's compound butter by rolling the butter stick in Thyme and stick it in the fridge.

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Thanks. The bit about tasting a piece that did not have whole flavorant in it is just the kind of information I am looking for. –  Preston Fitzgerald Mar 15 '13 at 21:06

Yes it is worth waiting. It's not just water that is a good medium for flavors, but fats as well and butter is just a big chunk of fat. A good example is herb flavored oil, the same process that distributes the flavor of the herb in the oil works in butter as well, and it takes time to work. So some will make your compound better. Many chefs advocate making compound butters and then freezing them, using them when needed, they say the butters just improve over time. Within limits of course.

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never heard about freezing the butter. this is curious to me. i would think that the water left in the butter would trap some flavor compounds in its crystalline structure. –  wootscootinboogie Mar 15 '13 at 20:11

Yeah, it would definitely be worth waiting. Various plant compounds have varying ability to dissolve in fats and aqueous solutions, and this process is going to be slowed by putting the butter in the fridge (basic chemistry..virtually everything happens faster when the temperature is higher). However, prolonged high temperatures can also destroy some plant flavor compounds (anecdotally cilantro comes to mind). By allowing the product to rest for sufficient time you're going to get all those slow moving, barely-fat soluble flavor compounds mixed in nicely with the saturated fats in the butter.

I would even bet that sometimes the miscibility of two different types of herbs mean that the compounds would dissolve into each other as well, making for a delicious foodstuff.

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