In Paris, butter making is elevated to high art, and no one understands that better than fromager affineur Marie Quatrehomme. World-class chefs like Pierre Herme flock to Quatrehomme Cremerie, in the 7th arrondissement, to buy her butter, and the French government, evidently just as discerning about dairy products as its constituency, bestowed on Quatrehomme the Meilleurs Ouvriers de France award in 2000, making her the first woman ever to receive the honor. I recently spoke with Mme Quatrehomme about her work, her favorite butter, and why selling it is essential to her business.
What kinds of butter do you sell in your shop?
We have three kinds: one mild, one lightly salted, and one impregnated with coarse, crunchy salt.
In what forms do you sell it?
We have butter served from large blocks, which represents to me the traditional form of selling butter in France. This way, people buy the quantity they desire. If you need 60 grams of butter to put into your recipe, there isn't any reason to give you more than you need. There are also the packaged types, made of pasteurized milk or raw milk of the highest-quality appellation, which is grand cru. There is a very classic raw-milk butter from Charentes. This type of butter is excellent tasting but more fragile; it ages faster than butter made of pasteurized milk. Celles sur Belles is an excellent raw-milk butter.
Is that the brand you like to use at home?
Yes. I adore it with a fresh roll or baguette. I put it out to let it sit at room temperature no less than an hour before breakfast. A bit luxe, but in my opinion, it's the best.
How important is butter to your business?
I am incapable of giving you a figure, but I can tell you that raw milk butter has a very important position in our store, and we must sell…oh, maybe two-thirds of raw-milk butter to one-third pasteurized butter. I always say to people, "Take less but take the best." So, take 100 grams, but take one of very good quality and renew it as often as you can.
Do you consider your butter to be of the same quality as your cheese?
It requires the same level of care for its conservation as our cheeses. For me it's absolutely at the same level.