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The Hirshon Yemenite Jewish Fermented and Smoked Butter - סאמנה and سمن

The Hirshon Yemenite Jewish Fermented and Smoked Butter – סאמנה and سمن

  • Total Time: 0 hours


Units Scale
  • 3/4 cup best-quality European cultured butter, or if you have access to it, use goat or sheep milk butter
  • 4 tbsp. Stilton cheese (or use Gorgonzola), feel free to use more to your taste, but not less
  • A few strands of saffron (optional)
  • 1 tbsp. wild thyme (preferred) or use regular dried thyme
  • 1 tbsp. wild oregano (preferred) or use regular dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp. dried marjoram
  • 1/2 cup water
  • 1 tablespoon salt
  • 1 bunch dried wild herbs of your choice (TFD prefers dill, sage and oregano)
  • A small amount of smoking wood, to your taste (TFD strongly prefers olive wood)
  • A charcoal grill and a cold smoker (cold smoker preferred)


  1. In a small saucepan, boil water, saffron (if using) oregano, thyme and marjoram with salt until water reduces by half, 20 to 25 minutes.
  2. Strain this “herbal tea” through a fine-mesh sieve directly over the butter. Discard leaves. Blend tea thoroughly into the butter with a wooden spoon. Let cool. Transfer to another strainer. The next day, pat mixture with paper towels to absorb moisture.
  3. Set aside at room temperature in a covered bowl for two days.
  4. ***
  5. If making old-school smen:
  6. Spread mixture on a clean cutting board. Using paper towels, mop up any pockets of moisture. Spoon the mixture into a wide-mouth jar or clay pot.
  7. Seal for at least a month, or as long as you can (up to many years!) at cool room temperature – a basement is perfect. You can even bury it, as the Berber tribesmen do (just remember and mark where you buried it – it may be there for a while!).
  8. ***
  9. If making TFD one-day “smen”
  10. Combine the softened stilton with the butter – use as you see fit, store in the fridge
  11. ***
  12. If making smoked semneh:
  13. When cold smoking, it’s key that the outside temperature is cool enough so your butter will not melt.
  14. Add your olive wood and the bunch of wild dried herbs (wet them thoroughly first so they smoke and don’t burn!) to the cold smoke generator. Crumble the herbs if needed to fit.
  15. Soften the one-day smen or long-aged smen at room temperature. Roll neatly into a cylinder shape, wrapping in cling film to get a nice even surface. Chill till firm.
  16. Remove the cling film, and place the butter on a clean wire rack. Now put the butter into the smoking chamber.
  17. Smoke for 2 hours, longer if you wish. An ideal temperature is 70 degrees Fahrenheit.
  18. Then, remove from the smoking chamber and leave to rest at room temperature, uncovered for a couple of hours. Then cover and refrigerate for at least 24 hours, but preferably longer – 48 hours will be fine. Resting the butter will mellow the smoky flavor, ensuring a more palatable taste.
  19. Now that the flavor of the butter has matured, serve or use in any North African recipe where apropos.
  • Prep Time: 0 hours
  • Cook Time: 0 hours
  • Category: Recipes


  • Calories: 373.2 kcal
  • Sugar: 0.28 g
  • Sodium: 216.68 mg
  • Fat: 39.26 g
  • Saturated Fat: 24.82 g
  • Trans Fat: 1.4 g
  • Carbohydrates: 3.71 g
  • Fiber: 2.04 g
  • Protein: 4.1 g
  • Cholesterol: 103.01 mg