After years of being maligned and ostracized by doctors, nutritionists and fitness junkies, butter is finally getting an image-reboot. And it has perhaps never looked more appealing than in a recent episode of The Mind of a Chef, in which the French chef Ludo Lefebvre tours the Jean-Yves Bordier Butter factory in Brittany. In this tallowed temple of refined fat, the butter is made almost entirely by hand as workers knead a brittle slab that looks like a hunk of pale yellow clay into countless beautiful little pats that are shaped and stamped with a special image or logo selected by each individual client.
It is a process to behold, and will certainly give you a newfound appreciation for butter. First, the butter is removed from the churn and worked over by a corrugated wooden rolling pin, on a wooden surface. “Like the deck of a boat,” a worker says. The butter is made silky and elastic as it aerates and is then salted, which draws in moisture. From there, it’s hauled over to working stations and then handled with ridged spatulas that give it the butter its distinct outer look.
At the Jean-Yves Bordier Butter factory, there are, according to a worker, twelve to thirteen recipes made every morning. According to the company’s website, recipes include seaweed butter, smoked salt butter, butter with Espelette chilis, lemon-olive oil butter and Madagascar vanilla butter. Who knew there were so many varieties?
It’s work, of course, and hard work at that, to make thousands of butter pats every day. But after having watched this video, I can think of few things more zen than touring a French butter factory in the morning.