is a preserved Moroccan butter with a pungent, cheesy aroma similar to Parmesan. A small spoonful is usually sufficient for lending a unique flavor to classic Moroccan dishes such as in a tagine or mixed with couscous. Some Moroccans also enjoy it as a spread on bread in place of butter or soft cheese.
Smen is fairly easy to make, but you will need to plan ahead--you will want to allow a full month or longer for the butter to sit undisturbed in order to develop its characteristic flavor. Keep in mind that the more time it sits, the more pungent it will become. In warm climates it will take longer for the smen to mature; whereas the smen is ready to use in colder temperatures in a month's time, it can take up to four months in warmer areas for the smen to reach the same depth of flavor.
This recipe calls for (wild thyme) or oregano which is boiled in water to infuse the water with the herb's flavor. You will need to have a clean glass or ceramic jar on hand for storing the smen.
- 1/2 cup dried za'atar (or dried oregano or thyme)
- 2 cups/1/2 liter water
- 2 tablespoons salt
- 1 pound/500 grams unsalted butter (room temperature)
- In a small saucepan, add the dried herbs to the water and bring to a boil. Cook for 5 minutes. Over a bowl pour the water through a strainer to remove the herbs and leave the water to cool to room temperature. Discard the herbs.
- In a large bowl, knead the salt into the butter with your hands. Add the strained, cooled water and continue kneading the mixture to ensure all of the butter is making contact with the water.
- Strain the water from the butter, squeezing the butter to remove any excess. Place the butter in a clean glass or ceramic jar, pressing and packing it down to ensure there are no air pockets. Cover.
- Leave the jar undisturbed in a cool, dark place (a cupboard is fine) for 30 days, or longer if you prefer more pungency. After opening, store the smen in the refrigerator.
An alternate method of making smen with herbs is to follow the clarified butter method described in the Plain Salted Smen Recipe, except that a few tablespoons of thyme or oregano are tied into a cheesecloth and simmered in the butter as it clarifies. The herbs are discarded and the butter is strained and salted as usual.