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


Get the newsletter

Receive FREE email updates with all the latest recipes, plus exclusive inspiration and Paris tips. You can also choose to be notified when a new post is published.

View the latest edition of the newsletter.