Ewe’s Milk Butter

Beurre de Brebis

[Ewe’s Milk Butter]

Every once in a while, life presents the gourmand with a scintillating novelty that tickles his curiosity with such insistence that he is left with the willpower of a charmed snake. So when I read about ewe’s milk butter in ELLE a couple of weeks ago (you would do well to keep an eye on those Vie Privée/Cuisine pages at the end of the magazine, they’re full of inspired ideas), it was all I could do not to run out and buy some.

But I was still in my pyjamas (I read ELLE at breakfast, there’s nothing like it), so I simply added the item to the shopping list that’s tacked on to the refrigerator door of my brain, waiting for an opportunity to visit the cheese shop mentioned as a source in the article. And sure enough, a few days later, I met with a friend for ice cream in that neighborhood, and after a chocolate-dipped visit to Patrice Chapon, we dropped by Nicole Barthélémy’s fromagerie.

Hers is a dollhouse of a shop in which you can’t fit much more than five or six human beings amidst the towering shelves of cheeses. Its posh location has earned it a following of assorted movie stars, and the prices have been adjusted accordingly, but I was willing to make an investment for the sake of research.

So I got my ewe’s milk butter, dashed home to protect it (and my chocolates) from the unseasonal heat of the day, and conducted a tasting that very evening. The silver wrapper was peeled back to uncover a stark white mound (there is no carotene in either ewe’s or goat’s milk), soft and supple, which we spread on levain bread.

The first taste was disappointing: there was smoothness and freshness, yes, but little savor. A thicker coating on a second bite of bread revealed a subtle flavor of fresh cream, faintly acidulated, but it is the third try, with a light sprinkle of salt, that really brought it out.

It is definitely a mild butter, one that should be enjoyed on neutral-flavored bread and on its own — a bit of salt helps, but the addition of jam or honey would just stifle it. But this one is in fact made by a producer of Roquefort named Papillon, whose cheese, while good, is not the most flavorsome — the artisanal Carles Roquefort offers more complexity — and it would be interesting to compare it with a butter made from smaller batches of milk from a single herd.

So, will I buy it again? Probably not, especially at that eye-popping price (4.80 €! for 125 grams! highway robbery, I tell you!), but I will reconsider if I find a more reasonable provider. And until then, I will continue to feast on Bordier‘s raw, organic, hand-beaten salted butter, which still makes me swoon after all this time.

Post-scriptum: Looking through my notes, I remembered I had tasted ewe’s milk butter once before, at Thierry Marx’s restaurant in Cordeillan-Bages last fall, where we were offered a choice of butters from the butter cart. At the time, I’d already been more impressed by the avant-beurre (halfway between whipped cream and butter, served with a sprinkle of pepper), so much so that I’d up and forgotten about the ewe’s milk butter.

Fromagerie Barthélémy / map it!
51 rue de Grenelle
75007 Paris
01 42 22 82 24

  • Reading magazines at breakfast sounds like a good habit, especially if it leads to finding new sources of things to put on your tartine. This looks like something I need to try. I’d be interested in a source in the U.S. if anyone knows of one.

  • ann

    Sheep butter I’ve never had, but Goat butter is something I have a deep appreciation for. I love to make a mash of potatoes and peas and use the goat butter and goat’s milk to flavor it. The resulting mash is so earthy and stunning. Thanks for putting this on my radar, I’m sure I should be able to find it here in New York.

  • Susan

    Avant-beurre sounds a lot like clotted cream. To which I say, mmmmm clotted cream on scones at Sally Lunn’s in Bath.

    Has anyone had both clotted cream and avant-beurre?

  • Joan

    a breathtakingly beautiful photo! I keep looking at it..the light, oh the light..”a dollhouse of a shop” ~ Clotilde your words are sheer delight.

  • neal

    bread+butter+little salt= delicious

  • est

    too bad it’s not as good as it looks cause the picture is fab and the very idea of brebis butter sounded amazing! I do want to try the bordier butter though

  • I’d like to taste it, because I love the ewe’s milk cheese (like corsican brocciu).

  • I’ve never tasted the ewe’s milk.
    But, I want to taste.
    I gonna look where I can find the ewe’s milk around my place. :)

  • France is the only place I bother to eat butter..usually it’s olive oil. But the varieties are astonishing.
    I’ve always wondered about this Brebis..
    I love the butter tasting picture from Cordeillan-Bages.
    Only the French..
    Thank you Clotilde

  • I don’t know this shop at all. My Paris cheese experience has been pretty much limited to Marie-Anne Cantin’s wonderful shop near the Rue Cler Market.

  • As a fellow foodie, I’m a fan of your work. I hope you’ll have a chance to visit my blog http://www.voiceofreason.net and let me know your thoughts on all things food!

  • izzy’s mama

    Sorry to hear that Le Beurre de Brebis was somewhat of a disppointment. The idea certainly piqued my interest and I will have to find out if my favorite purveyors of Brebis Blanche, my recent cheese obsession, made in upstate New York, also make a similar beurre. Hope to stop by and see you in NYC.

  • Ooooh, countdown clock, that’s awesome…just around the corner!

  • genevieve

    I am so intrigued by the idea of avant-beurre – and it looks gorgeous. Any chance anyone has a recipe for it…?

  • Karen

    I wonder if you could make a book tour event stop in Boulder, CO? Your blog is a pleasure to read! Thank you!

  • ewe’s milk? that is very interesting. i think i shall learn more about it.

  • Stephanie

    What an extraordinary discovery…. I clicked through to Elle magazine to read more and, of course, it was indecipherable to a non-French speaker like me… thanks for the information in English.

  • Ah, the refrigerator door of the brain . . . I’m always tacking stuff up on there but it seems to get knocked off all the time and kicked underneath into the irretrievable depths!

  • Wow, looks great. I’ll have to look around and see if I can dig that up here in Portland (incidentally, how did Powell’s get left off the book tour?)…


  • I tried to cook past wit it and added parmesan it was kind of interesting! different!
    Have a nice book tour,

  • Hi I hope it’s alright if I add your site to my links. I’ve been a fan of your yummy recipes for quite some time now.. keep up the great work! =D

  • Christine

    two words…butter. cart. ?!?!?!

    I didn’t know there was such a thing and now I must experience the butter cart. That may be reason enough to take a trip to Paris!!

    I found this blog while looking for something to do with the black radishes I got in my CSA box. What a great site you have!

  • Althea

    Hello Clotilde,

    Beurre de brebis, where can I buy this in the US?
    If anyone knows?
    Also what about Donkey Milk?
    What a pleasure to read your blog.
    Thank you.

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