Samn baladi

Ark of taste
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Samn Baladi, also known as Al-Samn Al-Fallahi or Al-Samn Al-Saidi, is a clarified butter commonly used also in Middle Eastern and North African cuisines in general. When prepared with cow’s milk, Samn has a golden yellow colour, owing to the high content of β-carotene, while in case of buffalo’s milk, it has a white, slightly greenish colour. It is characterized by a pleasant flavour that arises from various compounds, which are formed during the fermentation and heating.

The main object of the primitive dairy industry in the rural districts of Egypt is to separate milk fats for making butter, and to process the remainder into products to be consumed as such or after storage throughout the year. In Lower Egypt, farmers put fresh milk in shallow or deep earthenware pots (matrad or shalia) and leave it to stand in a warm and dark place till the cream rises and the rest of milk coagulates. The cream layer is removed and beaten into butter, which is boiled and therefore converted into samn. The presence of earthenware pots and barany (pot with glazed inner surface for storage of samn in the tomb of king Horaha of the first dynasty – 3,200 B.C.) indicates that the art of samn making was known to the ancient Egyptians.

Samn is traditionally prepared by direct heating of salted sour butter until most of the water evaporates. Care must be taken during this stage to avoid frothing by continuous stirring and slow heating rate. When foams recess, the rate of heating is increased with continuous stirring until the aggregated milk solids-not-fat acquire a creamy colour and temperature reaches 118-120°C. Heating is then discontinued and samn is left to cool at room temperature to allow setting of the aggregated morta and the clear fat is separated by decantation. The slow cooling of samn allows for the formation of fat crystals that characterize samn. The latter should have a sweet flavour and be free from rancidity.

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