As any culinary expert or home cook will attest, not all butter brands are created equal, and this is particularly evident when it comes to French butter.
France holds its butter in such high regard that strict regulations require all butter producers, whether large corporations or small artisanal makers, to adhere to certain guidelines. French butter must contain a minimum of 82 percent fat, and it must be cultured, meaning live cultures are introduced to the cream before churning begins.
This meticulous attention to detail results in French butter being exceptionally rich and flavorful compared to butter from other countries. But the distinction doesn’t end there. The French have a recognition system called Appellation d’origine contrôlée (AOC for short) that is awarded to artisanal producers for their specialty products from specific regions.
This certification of authenticity has its roots dating back to 1411 and serves as a guarantee of the unique qualities of the region’s butter. Butter bearing the AOC insignia is legally protected, providing buyers with assurance of its authenticity and exceptional quality.
Based in Brittany, Le Gall produces a range of butters to suit various needs. Their Grand Cru range is made from raw milk that undergoes only slight heating, preserving the natural properties and bacteria of the cream, resulting in a distinct and pronounced taste that is perfect for table butter. For cooking or baking, their Beurre de Barrate range is recommended. Despite the differences, all Le Gall butter is churned in wooden drums after being matured for 15 hours, ensuring a high-quality product — a practice the company has kept to for a century.
Le Beurre Bordier
Le Beurre Bordier upholds age-old practices in its butter-making process. The company still employs traditional methods, using only one wooden machine to knead the butter for about 30 minutes, followed by hand-pounding. These steps result in a soft and elegant texture. However, the true beauty of Bordier butter reveals itself through the seasons, as the taste of the butter depends on the diet of the cows. During the summer months, when the cows graze on fresh grass and flowers, the butter tends to be yellower and more savory, while winter butter, made from dried grass, tends to be slightly sweeter. Jean-Yves Bordier, the artisan behind the production, believes in using old methods that respect the land, animals, and tradition, saying, “I haven’t invented anything new.”
Echire butter hails from Echiré, a commune in the western part of France, and has been produced since 1894. Only milk sourced from cows grazing within a 60km radius of Echire is accepted, and a whopping 22 liters of milk is required to produce just 1 kilogram of butter. The cream is matured for 18 hours before being churned slowly for 2.5 hours in teak barrels using traditional methods. Renowned for its soft texture and subtle hazelnut undertones, Echire butter is favored by Michelin-starred restaurants and luxury hotels alike.