The butter in Paris

Butter with sea saltI finally had a moment to purchase a baguette to go with the fancy handmade butter (made with raw milk and flecks of sea salt) that I had bought at the Fromagerie during the Market Tour Class that I took at Cordon Bleu. The butter did not disappoint. It had such a great creaminess to it and carried a lot of flavour! So it really is true what they say – the butter does taste better in France.

Why is this? I later found out that it’s because European butter has a higher fat content than North American butter (82% vs. 80%).

I used to think that butter was used mostly for texture and a carrier of flavours since the butter I’m used to has a very subtle taste. But the butter that I bought in Paris really tastes like butter – you can taste the buttery flavour. Mind you, the butter I bought at the market happened to be a handmade butter which isn’t typical of the regular butter that you would find at most grocery stores. But having said that, when it comes to spreading bread on a baguette, handmade butter is the way to go! It’s creamy and the flavour is smooth and pronounced (helped out even more by the sea salt). I figure that this specialty butter would be the equivalent of the various types of sea salts and olive oils that people are seeing on the market now. Not to be used in cooking, these ingredients are just meant to be used for a ‘finishing touch’. Otherwise, it really is a waste of money.

Butter aisle at Lafayette Gourmet

Butter aisle in Paris

But the fact that you can get all these different kinds of butters (half salted, soft, cultured, raw milk, with ‘crunchy’ sea salt, etc) in Paris had me floored. Is there such as thing as artisanal butter? I even tried a more standard butter called Echiré to try to make a more fair comparison to the butter I’m used to in Canada. Echiré tastes similar to the butter back in Canada but is a little smoother and the flavour is a little more obvious. Again probably due to the higher fat content (amazing what a difference an extra 2% can make). However, all the varieties with the butters probably also have to do with what the cows eat. Perhaps there’s something in the grass or maybe it’s the salt since France is close to the ocean. I can see why the French aren’t huge fans of margarine. Eating margarine in France must be such a huge insult to butter.

Does all this good food have to do with the fact the French culture resolves so much around food that would encourage the use of different types of butter and different types of salt based on what it’s being used for? Or does it have to do with the way that the produce their milk in Normandy? Or is it a cultural thing? Or the fact that so much of France’s food supply is tightly regulated (something that I really appreciate). Or perhaps butter is to France as olive oil is to Italy and soy sauce is to China. Is it really fair to compare it to what we have in Canada?

Update…

Okay, so I’m not crazy. David Lebovitz has a post on French butter! Sadly, I didn’t have a chance to try the one he recommended – le Beurre Bordier.

I’ll have to add this on my list of things to try the next time I’m in Paris.

****

Being back in Canada for three weeks now I can attest to the fact the butter here does not taste the same. It tastes bland (some people even say plasticky) and it doesn’t taste as creamy.

However, I did manage to find “European style” butter at St Lawrence Market the other day that has a whopping 84% fat (similar to the butter in France). Woo hoo! I can’t wait to try it.

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