If you have ever visited France, you're probably aware of the love affair that the French have with their butter. It's definitely true love, but when the rest of the world discovered the brilliance of French butter, the global love affair had some unfortunate repercussions. In late 2017, a much-reported butter shortage began to clear the supermarket shelves of this crucial ingredient and residents began to stockpile their reserves!
So what makes French butter so addictive? How is it different from other countries? And, most importantly, where can you buy it? First-things-first, good butter begins with the cows - of course! Essentially, the cows' diet dictates the quality of the milk produced.
This fact goes some way to explaining why the most famous regions for butter in France are Normandy and Brittany, where it rains a lot and the cows have plenty of green grass to eat. We have a word in French – terroir – which literally translates to “the history of the soil.” This one term sums up an idea that is absolutely fundamental to French food and wine. In terms of butter, we believe that you can taste what the cows eat, as it comes through in their milk. In a sense, rich soil equals rich tasting butter. But it’s not just the terroir that makes butter so tasty… French butter also has a higher fat content. This is France, after all!
While most countries use about 80% butterfat in their butter, French law requires at least 82% butterfat. It might not sound like much, but this 2% difference actually has a a huge impact on texture and taste.
Which Butter is Better?
There are two names to remember: Yves Bordier and Beurre d’Echire. Bordier butter is our personal favorite and made by a man that has devoted his life to making butter, so he knows his stuff. Bordier butter hails from Brittany and is rich, creamy and bright yellow, but you can also find some really interesting riffs on the buttery theme, such as piment d’espelette, yuzu and Madagascar vanilla.
Beurre d’Echire is produced in the West of France and is 84% butterfat. It also holds an AOC status (check out our blog on food labels here to find out more) which ensures that the 66 farms which produce it are held to the highest of standards. The taste is a cross between sour cream and sweet cream. One final note: Do yourselves a huge favor and choose beurre demi-sel, which literally translates to “half salt.” Salted butter will change your life! We use it in baking for a delicious sweet/salty result and it's especially tasty just smeared on bread.
Where to buy Bordier butter (currently only available in France):
La Grande Epicerie De Paris 38, rue de Sèvres 75007
Epicerie Breizh Café 111 Rue Vieille du Temple, 75003
Where to buy buerre d’Echire in the US: Fairway Markets Dean & DeLuca
Where to buy buerre d’Echire in the UK: Frenchclick.co.uk