Moroccan smen – You might be wondering why a website focusing on Greek herbs and products would publish a recipe that is Moroccan based. Well, this widely used pantry item contains oregano, and Greek oregano makes it even better!
Aged or preserved butter may not be a common item in North American kitchens, but is considered a staple by many cooks in Morocco and some other countries. It’s used in a variety of dishes and can also be eaten as a spread on toast, breads, and crackers. While some might raise their eyebrows at eating aged butter, its actually a common thing in many parts of the world, not just Morocco. Even in Ireland, large quantities of butter have been found buried in bogs – dating back thousands of years.
Preserving butter was important not only for cooking purposes but in order to ensure supply of this high energy source of food. Preserving food with salt has been known to be an excellent method for centuries. High-quality oregano is also scientifically known to assist with the preservation process and combats the growth of bad bacteria while allowing good bacteria to ferment the butter. The Moroccan version of aged or preserved butter results in a blue cheese tasting food. In fact, it is really a type of cheese and is quite easy to make. For the full flavour to form, it requires some aging before it is refrigerated.
In Morocco, the longer Smen has been aged, the more valuable it becomes. There is an old tradition in this north African country that when a daughter is born, a quantity of smen is buried and then dug up on the daughter’s wedding day.
There are a number of different ways to make smen – some include clarifying the butter first, but this is not a necessary step. Our recipe is based upon one provided by Nora Kornheisl that she published on her website, moroccanfoodlovers.com. Unfortunately, her website is no longer available.
Ingredients for Moroccan Smen
1 lb (454 grams) butter
30 grams Kosher salt
1/4 cup dried Greek oregano
1 1/2 cups of water
Allow the butter to soften by bringing to room temperature.
After the butter has softened, place butter in a mixing bowl.
Add water to a pot
Add the salt and the oregano to the water and bring to a boil. Boil for about five minutes then remove from heat and cool for about five minutes. Strain the water but reserve the oregano that has been strained out.
This where things get interesting – it’s hard to imagine water mixing with butter, but salted water can be mixed in. Pour the water into the mixing boil and start whisking the mixture. You’ll find that eventually, you’ll have a batter-like consistency. When you’ve thoroughly mixed the butter with the water, put the mixture into a sealable container and then allow to age at room temperature for 2 to 4 weeks. After the initial aging, continue aging in a refrigerator. Feel free to taste your smen, but remember that the longer you age it, the more full-flavored it will be.