A highly traditional butter made with raw milk and fleur de sel in western France
Traditional churns; raw milk; wooden moulds; a family run producer in western France. Butter doesn’t come much more authentic than this made by Beillevaire and imported by Le Marché du Quartier to Borough Market. Long story short, says the stall’s owner Amy Harrison, “on baguette with cheese it is almost impossible to stop eating!”
Short story long—and the reason this demi-sel croquant butter is quite so good—despite significant growth over the last decade or so, Beillevaire has continued to ensure their butter is artisanal and made according to “the traditional French method, using raw cow's milk and starting the churning while the milk is still warm from the cow.”
The salt, which teases the tongue and crunches tenderly between the teeth, is fleur de sel: the caviar of salts, formed as a result of cool evening winds blowing gently across the surface of salt ponds, and harvested by hand early in the morning using old fashioned wooden tools. This ancient process leaves the salt crystals intact, ensuring they retain their natural sweetness and moisture—hence the pleasing, tingling crackle, an infinitely superior sensation to that of your average salt crystal, which tends toward sharper, more sodium flavours.
Rich and creamy
Hence the flavour. “It’s beautifully creamy,” says Amy. “The fleur de sel is delicate and balances well with the richness of the butter.” The cows are grass-grazed on six independent farms local to the producer, based near La Rochelle in western France. “It’s collected morning and evening and 100 per cent of the milk production is bought at 10 to 15 per cent higher price per litre than the regional average,” Amy continues. “This allows for better agreements with the farmers regarding the welfare of their animals, the quality of their food, and so on”—agreements which make for better milk, and ultimately better butter.
We follow Amy’s example: fresh baguette from Olivier’s Bakery spread thickly with Beillevaire’s demi-sel croquant butter and topped with a caramelly, nutty alpine cheese from Mons. It is nothing short of heavenly. Butter is so often deemed as playing second fiddle to cheese or even bread, but this butter is more like the percussion section: textured, characterful and holding the symphony together.