Monday, December 19, 2005

French Lait Cru Butter

artisanal butter from France

If you've been reading the pages of "...an endless banquet" regularly you know how we feel about Quebec butter. It's not like it's bad, it's just that there's so much room for improvement, and in a province that's currently producing an impressive assortment of top-notch artisanal cheeses there really is no excuse for the lack of top-notch artisanal butter. Quality butter is one of those things that distinguishes life in Europe from life in North America. As Michelle is fond of saying, "I miss the butter, I miss the eggs, I miss the beer [German and Belgian beer, specifically], and I miss the price of wine." Our experience was that even the run-of-the-mill supermarket butter in France was better than the butter we were getting back home--and then there were all the fresh-churned, artisanally produced lait cru butters. Here, artisanal butter is an extravagance; there it was perfectly reasonable and it made those morning toasts with our soft-boiled eggs and our espressos that much more enthralling.

Well, just the other day, lo and behold, we got our hands on some very fine AOC lait cru butter from Deux-Sèvres in the Poitou-Charentes region of France. I can't say how we came to acquire this butter, but I will say that if you're going to France anytime soon, or if you know someone else who is, it's worth trying to make arrangements to bring some Échiré (or any other artisanal butter, for that matter) back on ice. Poitou-Charentes is an excellent agricultural region and the fact that this is a lait cru means that you can really taste it in the butter. It's only demi-salé because that's all you need for a full-bodied butter when you begin with milk of this quality, and there's nuance to the flavor (grasses, etc.) that you're not going to find just anywhere.

I've been told that there's some kind of a ban on importing butter into Quebec that doesn't apply to importing cheese, but it's not clear to me how you can stop one and not the other. Big Butter has managed to successfully stave off Big Margarine in this province, though, making Quebec the only region of North America where it is illegal to give margarine a butter-like coloring, so I guess anything's possible. But, ideally, we wouldn't need to import artisanal butter. We'd just start producing our own, whether or not Big Butter is watching.

We haven't been having any problems enjoying our breakfasts since we got back from Europe, but, you know what, they just got better.

artisanal butter and marmelade on toast

aj

1 comment:

Dannie said...

I'm just a tiny bit late in replying to this post, but since you feel so strongly about this issue... :-)
Have you ever heard about La Fromagerie L'Ancêtre? They produce organic cheeses and butter that are simply out of this world !
You can buy their products directly from their store in Bécancour (located just next to Autoroute 55, across the bridge from Trois-Rivières), but they seem to be distributed throughout Quebec. Check out their website: www.fromagerieancetre.com.