A simple and natural ingredient, butter is simply made from the fat of the milk, the cream, which is worked mechanically to improve its taste and facilitate its preservation and use.
It takes a lot of milk to make butter: 22 litres of full-fat milk (or 2 litres of cream) are needed to get one kilo of butter. The excellence of the cream combined with dairy know-how are the keys to a good butter!
Butter production is simple and natural; it has scarcely changed since 4500 BC, the date of the first written traces found of nomadic peoples having domesticated their cattle:
The milk is skimmed : the cream is separated from the milk.
The cream is churned : the cream is mechanically beaten until its small fat globules agglomerate to form small yellow grains, which separate from the buttermilk (a rich whey).
The grains of butter are washed and kneaded : washed in pure water to remove the buttermilk and kneaded to finally obtain astable emulsion (that is 16% water in suspension in 82% fat) and to give the butter a nice smooth and uniform texture.
To preserve it, it should be kept cool, in the dark and away from air and light. In the past, it was also common to salt butter to help preserve it.
Coming from milk, it retains many nutritional benefits. A source of energy, butter has its place in a healthy and balanced diet. It constitutes an important source of vitamin A, which plays an essential role in cell and body function (for example, its role in vision, skin, iron metabolism, the immune system), vitamin D (to fix calcium in the bones) and vitamin E.
The nutritional interest of butter, long denigrated, is increasingly recognised today, in particular for its very varied fatty acid content. Further, in 2010, ANSES (the French Food Agency) increased its recommendations for consumption of saturated fatty acids. Butter is also less fat than oil, which contains 100% fat. With so many advantages, it would be a shame to go without.
According to the regulations, there are several types of butter and certain words are associated with precise characteristics defined by them:
It is made from unpasturised cream. This butter is often rich in taste but it is very fragile and cannot be kept very long, and so it is rarely found (the word ""unpasturisedl"" is mandatory on the label). So most butter found in stores is pasteurised.
Extra-fine butter is made exclusively with pasteurised cream, never having been frozen, coming from milk collected a maximum of 72 hours beforehand, and churned in the 48h following skimming. Extra-fine butter requires fresh raw materials, while for ""fine butter"" it is possible to use 30% frozen cream.
The term « de baratte » (from the churn) is reserved for butters made in a traditional churn using a batch process (the creams are matured for around fifteen hours before being churned). Less than 10% of butter is still made using this very traditional process. Today more than 90% of butters are churned continuously in a butter-making machine: they are called churned butters.
Unsalted butter is just what it says: no salt added. Semi-salted butter contains between 0.8% and 3% salt and salted butter contains more than 3% salt.
To meet consumer demand, butters with less fat exist: reduced-fat butter contains 60 to 62 % fat and light butter contains 39% to 41% fat. From 10% to 39% the products are called spreadable dairy fats. These lower-fat products contain more water, and some additives are used to stabilise the emulsion. They are mainly used as spreads; use in cooking is possible, for some of them, without using too high temperatures.
The term « butter » is reserved for a dairy product characterised by a minimum of 82% fat, a maximum of 16% water, and 2% of non-fat dry matter
Founded in 1889, the butter factory of Surgères is the oldest in the Charentes-Poitou PDO
In cooking as in pastry making, butter has no equal in its ability to enhance flavours, fix aromas, give softness, crunch and melt in the mouth character... And French gastronomy is full of tips for making the best use of butter:
This is a butter with its lactose and proteins removed, and with the particular character that it does not blacken during cooking and so is appropriate for high temperatures.
This is melted butter that is gently heated to brown the proteins and the lactose, which gives it a strong flavour of toasted hazelnuts. This brown butter is the essential ingredient in the famous « financier » tea cakes!
This butter has a higher melting point than normal butter (which melts at 30°C) and excellent malleability which provides perfect lamination (the alternating layers of butter and dough), for croissants in particular
You will find butters in the dairy part of the chilled section. It is one of the flagship sections of your supermarket or hypermarket! Difficult to miss it.
Stores often group butters together with margarines (for which the fat is of vegetable origin) or mixed products (blends of vegetable and milk fats), hence the importance of looking for the word « butter ».
A single location: the chilled section. To help you find your bearings, some advice is given below
These are often moulded or rolled butters, domed or in a wooden basket, unsalted or salted. In this category are found PDO and regional butters and those with a claim of origin. Ideal for tasting by itself on a slice of good bread, to appreciate the flavours specific to their terroir, they are also of course used in cooking.
In this category Elle & Vire is very proud of its Condé-sur-Vire butter which won a gold medal at the 2013 Paris agricultural fair. Its packaging in paper lined with aluminium is tear-proof and a necessary protection against the light to avoid any oxidation of the butter and to preserve its good creamy taste. The Condé-sur-Vire butter won another medal at the agricultural fair in 2014, this time a bronze (only bronze medals were awarded in this category in 2014).
Also of note in this category, Surgères butter, the benchmark PDO butter of Charentes-Poitou.
These are butters in packs, unsalted or salted. For many consumers, the pack of butter is the everyday butter for cooking, pastry making and spreading.
The standard fat content is 82% (80% for salted); however an offer at 60% fat appeared several years ago (but with the name Reduced-fat butter). It combines good value for money with correct performance. For certain uses however (puff pastry or butter cream), it is essential to use a butter with 82% fat.
Elle & Vire is the leader in the light butter sector
There are several offers in this category:
Butters that can be spread right out of the fridge (often packed in plastic tubs) with the soft butter invented by Elle & Vire in 1992. These butters are aimed at consumers who are looking for a perfect and regular spread throughout the year. The soft butter from Elle & Vire is made from a selection of creams and fats that make the butter easily spreadable, even taken directly from the refrigerator and its plastic tub provides a barrier to light providing excellent preservation of the butter and protecting it from oxidation.
Butters pats are also convenience butters, ideal for small households or occasional consumers of butter. These small portions of 10 to 30 g of butter mean the butter is always fresh, and you will often find them on breakfast trays in hotels, on restaurant tables or with seafood platters...
These are butters with a lower fat content, for those seeking lightness. Light butter can be found at 41% fat, or 50% less fat than standard butter, and at 20% fat, or 75% less fat.