Last Updated on 6th May 2023 by Sophie Nadeau
Of course, France is world-famous for its rich variety of cheeses and dairy desserts, but something you may also be wondering about is French butter. Well, France is pretty well-known for its creamy, rich and deep-yellow butters. In this guide, we’ll delve into the different types of French butter, where you can purchase speciality butter in France, and of course, how it’s made!
In French, butter is known as ‘le beurre’ (the word is masculine). When you go to buy butter, you’ll find two main varieties; ‘demi-sel’ and ‘doux’ (salted or non-salted). So whether you’re biting into a flaky croissant or buttering a slice of bread with the stuff, here’s what makes French butter so special…
What makes French butter different?
You may find it surprising to believe, but one of the main differences between French butter and butter from, say the USA, is the fat content! Whereas many countries stipulate a minimum fat content of 80%, French butter laws mean that doux beurre in France has to have at least 82% butterfat content.
Demi-sel butter has to have at least 80% butterfat. And while 2% may not seem that much, it truly does make all the difference when it comes to the taste and texture. But it’s not just the fat that makes the difference.
The butter from France tends to contain less water, leading it to have a creamier and heavier texture than many other butters. As well as this, some butters are cultured, which lead the butter to be more nutty and yellow.
In these more complex butters, the cream used to make French butter is left to ferment for up to 1 8 hours before the beurre is churned, leading to a tangier taste. These butters react slightly differently when baked as well.
The last piece of the puzzle is often cited to be what the cows producing the milk to make the butter eat. The cows are allowed to roam around, and munch on grass, which gives the milk, and therefore the butter, a creamier texture.
Where is French butter used?
French butter is used in cooking, baking, and is consumed on tartines (a French breakfast tradition whereby a slice of bread- typically a baguette is spread with jam and butter). Of course, it is also used by French bakeries in many of your favourite baked goods! Butter is often also consumed at French apéros, and is sometimes served together with a radish!
Speciality French Butters
AOP or AOC
Much like other speciality products such as wine or cheese, butter too can be AOP or AOC (Appellation d’Origine Controlee). AOP Butter producers have to follow strict procedures and can only use milk from three specific regions; Isigny, Bresse, or Charentes-Poitou. Charentes-Poitou is particularly beloved by pastry chefs.
Beurre de Baratte
Baratte is the French word for churn, and this special butter is more ‘cultured’ than other butters on the market. Beurre de Baratte is typically matured for longer and contains more whey.
Where can you buy butter in France?
Well, of course, the easiest place to buy butter is when you’re in France itself. While French supermarkets (even the smaller ones) tend to stock a surprisingly large selection of butters, if you’re looking for more speciality and locally produced farm-style butters, you’ll want to head to a cheese shop. There, they’ll have unique flavours such as seaweed or even truffle.
Hands down, my favourite brand of Beurre de Baratte is ‘Le Beurre Bordier,’ which can be purchased at many speciality cheese shops around Paris, as well as in La Grande Épicerie in the 7th arrondissement. La Grande Épicerie also has a variety of flavours, including chilli pepper (particularly recommended) and vanilla.
Where to buy French butter in the UK
If you’re not in France but still want to enjoy French butter (including one of my favourite brands) then the good news is that there are several options! The butter I personally buy when I’m at home in London is at Ocado. I order this one: Reflets de France Guerande Salted Butter 250g, which is actually one I also buy in Paris!
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Sophie Nadeau loves dogs, books, travel, pizza, and history. A fan of all things France related, she runs solosophie.com when she’s not chasing after the next sunset shot or consuming something sweet. She currently splits her time between Paris and London. Subscribe to Sophie’s YouTube Channel.