A Butter Tasting and My Favorite Butter (there may be more than one 😉)

Aug 17, 2019

The simple process by which solid butterfat is separated from the liquid buttermilk produces the most scrumptious and one of the most important details when it comes to cooking and making delicious, mouth-wateringly good food: Butter.

Butter, as TSLL readers know, is not all the same, and the difference makes a différence!

So I decided to give myself the excruciatingly difficult task of tasting butters for the final post of the 4th annual TSLL French Week. I know, hard work, but somebody has to step up to the plate and take one for the team. 😉

On a serious note, I highly recommend participating in a butter tasting occasion. Whether at home by yourself (in my case with my dogs watching me wondering why I was so studiously studying the butters on the dining room table – don’t worry, they tasted a few too) or with a couple of friends and family, or a group of dinner party guests who love food deeply – how fun would that be!!!

I enjoyed my first butter tasting with Susan Hermann-Loomis this past July as I shared earlier this week while attending her cooking class. And while I was not able to source all of the French butters we tasted in France (all seven shown in the picture from class below were found in the local grocery market) for today’s tasting here in Oregon, I have special ordered the French butter that was my favorite and the majority of those tasting the butters in France – Isigny Ste. Mère. I think it is important to note that Jean-Yves Bordier butter which many place at the top of their list (at least years ago) as the best butter, was not placed at the top of anyone’s at the cooking class. Hermann-Loomis explained that the company has changed hands slightly and the butter is made a bit differently than it used to be. Don’t get me wrong, it was still scrumptious, but not my favorite.

~a butter tasting with Susan Hermann-Loomis in Louviers, France~

Before we get to the seven butters I tasted for my butter tasting, just a bit of history about butter and France. There are laws about butter, even here in the United States, but the French and European butters have a slightly higher standard when it comes to butterfat percentage. By law, Americans do have to contain a minimum of 80 percent butterfat, while the minimum in France is 82 percent (unless it is demi-sel, or salted butter, which can check in at 80 percent and include up to 2 percent salt).

What is butterfat? The more butter fat you have, the less water content you have, and thus more flavor. As Taste Cooking shared, if you have “80 percent milk fat, [it] means it’s about 16 to 18 percent water and 1 to 2 percent milk solids other than fat (sometimes referred to as curd)”. What does that mean when it comes to baking?

Taste Cooking again shares, “Lower moisture [in other words higher butterfat percentage] helps you create cakes that rise higher, cookies that crisp more evenly, and flakier pastries. It’s the difference between cookies that are good and cookies that keep you awake at night wondering when you might have a chance at eating more of them.”

Now because of this legal distinctive difference, as that two percent actually does makes a significant difference, some American butter companies have been making butter with a higher butterfat percentage. Why? Primarily because shoppers and bakers and cooks are more savvy and the market is there for butters containing a higher butterfat percentage. So when you see the phrase “European Style” what they are referring to is the increase in butterfat.

Also, one butter that I was not able to include in my tasting but wanted to is France’s Beurre Echire AOC Butter. It comes highly recommended and I highly recommend giving it a try. With that being said, as you peruse through articles, many from the links I have shared, you will find more than a few additional butters that were not part of my tasting. This is exciting! That means you are even more of a reason to have your very own butter tasting! I chose the butters that were available in my markets so that I could feel confident about what I was shopping.

Now to the butter tasting!

I have included only unsalted butters (however, one was not available in unsalted), and each of the seven has been left out so they are at room temperature. Unsalted is highly recommend when it comes to baking, as you can always add the salt at your discretion as you make your way through your recipe.

All but one of the seven butters were found in my local grocery stores here in Bend. The French butter Isigny Ste. Mère was ordered through Amazon (and shipping was part of the price, otherwise, it’s not a bad price). Most Whole Food stores carry this brand, but after four phone calls to our local WF store here in Bend, they did not have it and could not source it in the store – recommending that I buy it online from a gourmet shop.

I have included the country of orgin for each of the brands, as well as the butterfat count (the minimum) and my tasting notes. The good news is, I would happily cook with all of these butters, but when it comes to spreading them on bread, the ones with the richest depth of flavor will be my go-to.

7. Tillamook (made in Oregon)

  • 82% butterfat
  • Taste: Not as creamy as the rest of the butters tasted, lacking in depth of flavor

6. Plugra (European Style, made in Kansas City)

  • 82% butterfat
  • Taste: lacking a depth of flavor seen in some of the other butters, lighter

5. Sèvre & Belle Laiterie pasteurised unsalted butter (France)

  • 84% butterfat
  • Taste: good to the palette, lacking a depth of flavor similar to Isgny St. Mère, but still good

4. Open Nature Super Premium European Style (California)

  • 84% butterfat
  • Taste: creamy, not as rich in flavor as Isigny Ste. Mère, a slight, subtle sweetness

3. Kerrygold (Ireland)

  • 82% butterfat
  • Taste: creamy, mid-to-full richness with moderate depth of flavor

2. Les Prés Salés (Belgium)

  • minimum 82% butterfat
  • Taste: accidentially picked up the Coarse Sea Salt, but there was not an unsalted available, a dream of creaminess and scrumptious. Perfect for spreading on fresh bread.

1. Isigny Ste. Mère Beurre de Baratte (France)

  • minimum 82% butterfat
  • Taste: richer in depth, creamy, luscious

If you have extraordinary bread and extraordinary butter, it’s hard to beat bread and butter. Jacques Pepin

TASTING NOTE: If you are choosing to spread butter on bread, choose a salted butter with coarse sea salt. The high quality butter with the quality salt spread on a deliciously fresh slice of bread will knock your socks off.

A random point about butter to share. Did you know that Julia Child has a rose named in her honor (in the UK, the same flower is called Absolutely Fabulous after the British television series)? And guess what color it is? You probably guessed yellow, right? Yep, or “butter” color. 😉 Sure enough the rose named Julia Child is a brilliant yellow and why wouldn’t it be? After all, while Julia was forever an advocate of moderation in all food, she never deprived herself of butter.

“With enough butter, anything is good.”

—Julia Child

WHERE TO SHOP:

  • Shop French butters at iGourmet here
  • Ask your local grocer to see if they can order for you to save you the shipping cost
  • Amazon or any online food shop – simply search the brand you are looking for.

TSLL’s 4th Annual French Week posts thus far . . .

SUNDAY August 11th

MONDAY August 12th

TUESDAY August 13th

WEDNESDAY August 14th

THURSDAY August 15th

FRIDAY August 16th

SATURDAY August 17th



20 thoughts on “A Butter Tasting and My Favorite Butter (there may be more than one 😉)

  1. Oh you poor dear, the things you must slog through for us! 😀
    Excuse me, but I must now prep for this evening’s butter-tasting(what a fabulous idea)…

  2. For me it’s Kerrygold all the way. Can’t get it here in Canada though, so we do a cross border butter run from time to time 😆

  3. I have to admit that I purchase many (way beyond several) butter tablets whenever I’m in France. I wrap them up, put them in the zip lock bags I bring from home, and tuck into my suitcase when I travel back. If I’m in an apartment, I freeze the butter before the trip. If not, I keep in my hotel room frig. The butter stays cold in any checked bag and then I have months of my french butter with my bagette when back home. It’s my special treat. USA butter is not the same.

    1. Sharri, this is such a great idea. It crossed my mind, but I did not do it and I am kicking myself. That is on my list of must-dos when I return. Thank you very much for sharing exactly how you do this.

  4. Shannon – Maybe I missed it (and I read the blog post twice) but I couldn’t tell which was your favorite (or favorites?) Am I missing this somewhere? Were they ranked in order with Kerrygold being your fave? Can you clarify for me? LOVE this post!

    1. Just added the ranking. Initially, the list was random based on the order I tasted them. I tried to detail between rich and having full depth of flavor as the ideal. So any better that has those designations were at the top of my list. My favorite was confirmed again – Isigny Ste, Mère. 🙂 Thank you for your comment.

  5. I’m sorry if I missed it in the post, but can you elaborate about the tasting protocol? I saw the picture with the cubes, but I’m curious… is that how you did it or was it spread on anything? Was it at room temp? And anything to cleanse the palette in between?

    I love this idea! So fun!

    1. I actually initially, in both France and for this post, ate a nibble without anything. I then did try it on bread, but that was more for enjoyment ;). Trying it alone allows you to taste just the butter which will help discern the difference between the other butters. And yes, they were all at room temp. If you want to have water nearby you can.

  6. Trader Joe’s Cultured French Butter (made in Normandy) is the best I have tasted, and I have done my own butter tastings. I have not tried Isigny Ste Mere, but now I am excited to do so!

  7. When I took Susan’s class in Asheville our winner was Landa Lakes unsalted. It beat out even some artisan butters from the area.

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