France in Autumn
France is beautiful at any time of the year, but Autumn has to be my favourite time to visit.
It all started 8 years ago, as I’m standing at my market stall at the farmers markets selling my handmade butter, weekend after weekend. On a regular occasion I would have people come up and say ‘your butter is beautiful…have you tried the butter in Normandy, have you tried the butter from Brittany..’ Over this period of time a desire to visit France’s most recommended butter regions had built up, so we organised a trip to the best butter regions in France to finally taste them on their home soil.
And here is what we did…
Usually one would probably visit France first- being known as the mecca of butter in the world, before embarking on such a challenge of making butter. But in my case, 8 years into butter making, a trip to France seemed to have built up over time as a calling. Our main objective, if I can humbly say, was to validate what we do and how we do it. It was also to build on the best way to communicate the message about food, particularly artisan food, and how the French do this.
I knew that we needed someone on the inside that understood the French culture and customs to take us around and introduce us to the butter makers and dairy people of France, and someone that could open the doors on intricate details that we wanted to find out. And who better than Jean-Marie of Our French Impressions- @ourfrenchimpressions.
We wanted to experience the different flavours and styles, and the provincial way in which butter is made in France. We weren’t interested in big multi-national companies who make for the supermarkets and for export…we were interested in the farmer with 3 cows, a butter churner and wooden pats that sold their butter at the farmers market.
A short trip of about 10 days that took us from Paris, to Normandy, down the coast into Brittany, and onto Vendée, and then back to Paris. Normandy and Brittany are known for having the best dairy in the world.
Passion was the common ingredient of the butter I make, and the butter we tried in France. The passion these artisans have to make the best product that they can, and their willingness to share their experience with me was incredible. There are no secrets in food
Flavour- good things take time
Beautiful food requires time. To produce flavoursome butter, time almost stands still. I believe the French have perfected this to an art form. Just like cheese, culture is added to the cream, the culture needs time to ferment the cream- an aging process allowing for maximum flavour to build up before it is then churned into butter.
Unlike supermarket butter- beurre in French, artisan butter is called beurre de baratte (butter of the churn). Beurre de baratte is usually made from raw milk and has a two week shelf life, and is always wrapped in paper or sold by the gram/kg at the deli counter- motte de beurre. It can be up to three times the price of supermarket beurre (butter), which can have up to a one year shelf life.
Farmers markets or food markets are frequented by locals as the place to go for all the freshest local produce that France has to offer. From the best seafood, to honey, cheeses, fruit & veg, pastries, bread and butter…it is the place to find all your food staples. We ate our way through markets in Paris, Normandy, Brittany and Vendée.
For a more detailed re-count of our butter trip to France visit @ourfrenchimpressions magazine