Monday, May 23, 2011

Crème Fraiche

Madame Simone runs a dairy not far from Beaune.  At our Saturday market, she sells her butter, crème fraiche and seasonal items such as cheese spread lightly flavored with garlic.  Her table space is very small; if you shop quickly you might miss it, but she is one of my first stops Saturday mornings.  She always has a line of shoppers (an excellent indication), and watching her deftly ladle the cream into the small white pots is fun to watch.  I used the cream for various dishes, including in a bite-size dessert packed with flavor: warm rhubarb compote, layered with fresh raspberries and crème fraiche, topped with a single strawberry.  Our guests proclaimed these to be the best and most flavorful berries ever, and I will agree~


Returning to Southern California, I realized that traditional dairy is something that is completely missing from our farmers markets.  I remember as a very young child having whole milk delivered to our door (and my sisters sometimes dropping the glass jars).  Alta Dena does indeed still deliver milk, but try to find raw, pasture-grazed cream, milk or butter.  There is no room in our area for pastures, it is all given over to development.  You can find it at select stores, but it comes from Fresno, hours away, with plenty of USDA warning labels, and at a dear price~


France of course has plenty of pastures, outside of the urban areas.  The flavor of the butter changes through the seasons, depending on the cows grazing; France talks of the buttercups of spring making the milk sweet; in any case, it is the greens of the grass translating into the milk of the cow.  

My mother grew up on a farm outside of Calgary, eating the cattle and livestock her father raised, eggs from their coop, the milk, crème and butter from their dairy cow “Milky Way,” and the vegetables from their own kitchen garden.  No one got sick, EVER, and at 75 my Mother has not a single cavity in her teeth or any other disease.  Her Mom is alive and well at 95 and the rest of the clan are 90’s and into their 100’s.   Hmmm…



We had an over-the-top dinner at a three-star Michelin restaurant on this trip; post soon, of course I photographed the butter, which was very yellow, light as air and impossibly delicious on our bread~


Mme. Simone’s is packaged in waxed paper, and costs oh, $2 for a tranche.  The “best” French butter comes from the Normandy town of Isigny-sur-Mer, it even has its own appelation; but I love local butter~


It’s interesting to me that America is so into milk,especially for children, because for the French,  I think it’s about beurre-crème fraiche-fromages.  Less milk.  French recipes call for various kinds of crème, including fleurette, liquide or epais.  The quality of the dairy of course affects the end result; the quiche and the pie crust in Beaune are better than Laguna; Simone’s butter rubs easily over a whole chicken even when slightly cold, whereas Trader Joe’s butter is not at all the same. 


The issue of raw dairy in California or the United States is complex, to say the least.  There are blogs and movies devoted to the subject.  Our commercial dairy cows I fear live a life of confinement, with the cows milked mechanically, and contamination an easy outcome.  No wonder the USDA decided that pastuerization (heat to kill the good and bad bacteria) as well as homogenization (to break down the fat globules) became the norm, and then add in government subsidies etc and you have a real nasty soup.  There are some groups buying “shares” of a local cow and sharing the milk and expenses.  There are some havens such as the coop Rawsome in Venice, Los Angeles.  They were raided by the USDA and others last fall, guns blazing.   Check them out online here, this is totally crazy stuff over raw food. 

I’m tempted to go check out Rawesome in LA.  But in the interim, I show you here the Trader Joe’s butter, which is labeled in accordance to standards, First Quality.  Oxymoron?  OK in some pastry, but not like the real deal.  Clockwise, my own whipped butter, the Organic Pastures 1 lb $12 (!!) tub of butter, with a taste I do not even like, and lastly, my own butter flavored with raspberry~


Some schools show the kids how to make butter from crème; shake it up in a jar.   I bought a $12 (!!) quart of pasture-fed raw crème, which I decided to whip, not shake, in a copper cul de poule~


Luckily I am ambidextrous and can whip cream with both hands; this was a lot of work and in the sink was not too much mess, but in the end the curds separated from the buttermilk and I was left with butter~


Some of which I mixed with strained raspberry sauce to make raspberry butter last weekend.


I am going to call Madame Simone before my next trip to Beaune and ask for a tour.  I hope she will oblige.  I have been casually surveying my friends, do you have friends with milk cows, can you find raw milk?

For my overseas followers, Australia, Russia, Latvia and Germany, and more….please comment on your dairy!!!


  1. What an interesting and yummy post! When I was a kid I would spend the summers on my cousin's farm in North Dakota. They had dairy cows and on the hot summer afternoons we would go into the milk house and dip a cup into the big stainless steel milk cooler and drink the unpastuerized milk. It was ice cold and tasted so good but now I know it was not such a good idea. I survived.

  2. I still remember shaking my baby food jar of cream for FOREVER (at least in my 3rd grade mind) before I saw one sweet pat of butter.

    How I am longing for Madame Simone's finest!

  3. My husband was born and raised on a dairy farm. His father was a very accomplished farmer; but he would advise getting milk pasteurized. In fact, the farm was the center of the community co-op; where the nearby farmers would gather to organize milk cans (numbered as to the farm) to go for processing. There are no vacations for a dairy farmer: the cows need milking twice a day, 365 days per year.

    There are many different levels of flavor and richness in butter and other dairy products; depending upon the breed of cow and how much fat they produce in milk. Jerseys produce most of the richest milk; Holsteins the most (quantity). It depends upon what breed the farmer chooses!

  4. I don't think so Andrea, I will have to check just in case Whole Foods has it. I also have Trader Joes' Yay! Finally coming in practically across the street here in Leawood.

    Oh and we always had Zarda Dairy deliver milk and lots of it when I was a child!

    Last day to enter my Serena and Lily Giveaway!

    Art by Karena

  5. I just love your blog...I know you no longer reside in France but your blog makes me homesick for it!
    Whilst I wait to return oneday, I get my quick fix when I visit's just lovely.
    Shel x

  6. Oh my. This is certainly one of my, many, hot buttons. In Virginia it's against the law to sell raw milk. I grew up on raw milk, fresh butter and eggs, cheese, buttermilk, etc. Now I get milk from a neighboring dairy and churn my own butter. I don't think the issue complex at all; it's just a bunch of silly government employees flexing their muscles and making us dance to their eejit tune. And, ensuring their jobs forbloodyever.
    But don't mind me, I'm rather passionate about personal rights and freedoms. Ah, I remember them well -smile-.

  7. Sandra from Thistle Cove, just what I was thinking!