France: Butter, Le Bordier

Testing French butters: It’s a tough job but someone has to do it.

The nearest best market to Saint Jean de Losne is in Dijon France. Being stuck in Saint Jean during the legal dispute and repairs to Wanderlust gave us plenty of opportunity to visit Dijon’s fabulous market. With the frequent market visits we discovered a few culinary gems that we now covet. One of these discoveries is the butter, in particular Le Beurre Bordier.

French cheese gets the photo spreads but France’s butter deserves plaudits too. The average butter from a typical supermarché in France is better than what you can buy in the States. But what really stands out for us is some of the more difficult to find premium butters.

Like Saveur Magazine I’ve done a survey of France’s butters, purchasing and trying every new one I can find. It was a tough job, but someone has to do it. In the end I have to agree with Saveur’s assessment: There is no better butter in the world than Le Beurre Bordier. There may be even harder to find equals, but there’s nothing that I’ve experienced that is clearly better. David Lebovitz comes to pretty much the same conclusion.

With Wanderlust out of the water we weren’t going anywhere soon.

Le Beurre Bordier’s label states that it is a “Beurre de Baratte”. Regular butter is made on scale in a factory using a continuous flow process with time being of the economical essence. For the slower beurre de baratte the process starts with the cream being “soured”. As flavor develops, the cream thickens while the butter globules begin to form. The buttermilk is then spun off and the butter solids are creamed with a churning machine.

After resting 24 hours the Bordier process continues with kneading. The butter is worked first by a kneader using a teak wood tool, which is also called a kneader. The technique dates from the 19th Century. This open air kneading process allows the butter to take on flavor through oxidation. It also softens the texture.  Only the experience of the kneader can decide when the butter has been kneaded enough; times differ according to the quality of the butter, the temperature, the weather, the feed given to the cattle (silage in winter, grass and fresh flowers in summer), and the seasons. Typically it takes around 25 minutes in the winter compared to only 15 in the summer.  As a final step the butter is formed by hand into the shapes for sale.

The cheese gets the sexy photo spreads.

What’s different about the taste and texture of Bordier?

It’s a cultured butter that comes with a touch of sourness that offsets the fat. Past the fat and the acid there are subtle savory flavors from the milk of cows that reflects the changing feed over the seasons. The flavor of a good butter is like a single sweet note from an oboe; Bordier is the sound of the oboe plus the rest of the symphony. And the tune changes over the year. Bordier says that in the spring the aromas of the butter are floral.  In the summer, they are more like caramel. And in the fall, more like toast.

Texture-wise Bordier is elegant. The butter softens and spreads easily at room temperature. But like other French butters, it melts slowly in the microwave. A patty of American butter will melt in about 30 seconds in the microwave; a similar amount of French butter can take two minutes. I put this down to the differing water content.

With a hole cut in her bottom to get access to the inside of a fuel tank Wanderlust was definitely not going to be cruising soon:  We might as well eat butter.

Overall I have to agree with Saveur when they say, “Once you experience the Bordier jolt, you’re changed. You’re hooked.”

 Bordier butter is addictive. If you’ve tried it, it’s hard to want anything else.

Le Beurre Bordier is available in multiple flavors. Not that I’ve tried them. I’m a butter purest and stick with the simple unsalted variant. I figure if I want salt or flavors, I can add them later. I’m undoubtedly missing some goodness here.

Saveur says that you can now buy Bordier butter in the States. I’ve never seen it for sale, but I will keep my eyes open. With that it’s a good bet that Bordier will be at its best in France; no food item escapes France and retains its pure essence. And for sure Bordier butter in the States will be far more expensive than it is in France.

No doubt there is some fine butter used to make this dish of escargot.

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