The main element in the manufacture of butter is cream, but to make cream you need milk. The farmers' “white gold” is patiently collected twice a day in order to produce the essential ingredient for making butter.
A day like any other
It's 6:00 a.m. and the stalls come alive. Axel, 24 years old, represents the third generation of this GAEC* farming family from Deux Sèvres. The first to arrive, he spends 2 hours preparing the milking parlour to milk the 77 suckler cows in the herd. Despite some technical improvements, such as automatic cluster removal, most milking is still manual. It’s a mechanical, repetitive task, but one that Axel Cornuault performs with a true love of his job. He couldn’t have imagined himself doing anything else. This farm is his life. And the calm that reigns in the milking parlour is a perfect reflection of his temperament. His movements are calm, measured, focused, and his respect for the animal is profound. He never forgets to follow hygiene regulations, which are essential to prevent health risks: these measures include the disinfection of the udder, placement of the teats, and applying a gel to avoid the penetration of any bacteria at the end of milking.
Cream is born from milk
The milk that is collected is stored in a refrigerated tank and transported every 48 hours to the nearest dairy. There, in a cream separator, a centrifugal process ensures the cream is extracted and then matured, which is a crucial step in developing the butter’s aroma. Once pasteurised, in order to eliminate any pathogenic risk, lactic ferments – which come from the naturally occurring cream – are added to the cream before it is placed in vats at between 10°C and 17°C for a period of between 18–22 hours. This is the window during which it must be used. In the meantime, the cream’s pH level will have decreased from 6.8 to 4.6; an acidification that facilitates the production of butter.
Artisanal or dairy? To each his own butter
The manufacturing principle has remained unchanged for centuries. The cream requires the intervention of a mechanical action to allow reverse phase. The fat molecules contained in the water molecules will burst and amalgamate to form butter. The butter will then have to be churned, either using a wooden churn, an industrial churn, or a buttermaking machine. Once the butter has been formed, a quantity of cold water is added to capture the flavour and firm up the butter. The buttermilk is then extracted before the butter is washed twice with clear water at a temperature of 7°C -8°C. In the last stage, the butter is slowly kneaded until it obtains its familiar consistency. It is during this final stage that the butter is salted (or not) using fine salt or salt crystals. The exact percentage will depend on the desired product: above 3% for salted butter, and between 0.8% and 3% for lightly salted butter. However, it will still take about ten days for the butter to acquire all its aromas and be ready to be spread, used in cooking, or flavoured.