Making French Butter and Camembert de Normandie at Isigny Ste-Mere

I never miss an opportunity to “go to the source,” so to speak. And in France, it’s sometimes just a train ride away. Barely an hour by high-speed train from Paris is Normandy, and it’s bucolic countryside, where even the cows have their own appellation; La vache Normande. Not only are the cows beautiful, with their wide black and mahogany speckles, and rings around their eyes, but their milk is especially high in fat and protein, which makes the butter from Normandy, and Normandy cheeses, so spectacular.

Isigny Ste-Mère is a dairy cooperative of local producers founded in 1932. Centuries ago the area was wetlands. But now, the local cows graze on grass that grows in the marshes, which adds a particular richness and minerality to their milk.

Isigny Ste-Mère has two plants; one that produces most of their cheeses, including Camembert de Normande, Camembert d’Isigny, Pont l’Évêque, brie, as well as crème d’Isigny, a ridiculously rich crème fraîche, that’s cultured for 18 hours, and d’Isigny butter. A smaller facility, not far away, produces mimolette cheese and fresh dairy products, such as fromage frais, yogurt, and fromage blanc.

If you don’t live in France, but even if you do, some of the names of French dairy products can be confusing. Like brie, the word camembert was never registered by a specific region. So a cheese can be called “camembert,” and made anywhere. Likewise for brie; Brie de Meaux and Brie de Melun are AOP cheeses, which means they must be made in a certain region and adhere to certain standards.

While Isigny Ste-Mère makes a few types of camemberts, they specialize in the true Camembert de Normande (AOP), a designation which came about in 1983 (previously called AOC), which meant the cheese must be made with raw milk that comes from this region, it must be hand-ladled into the molds, aged at least 21 days, and the finished cheeses need to be a certain size. Camembert d’Isigny is a similar-looking cheese, made from pasteurized milk, so it’s suitable for export, and for people that need to avoid raw milk cheese.

The milk for Camembert de Normandy is collected and warmed just enough so it “takes” the rennet culture that’s added. Once the cheese is curdled by the rennet, which takes about 10 minutes, it’s cut into blocky shapes by hand using a wire cutter.

At that moment, the warm, slippery curds and whey are ladled into the molds. It takes between 2 and 3 liters of fresh milk to make each finished Camembert de Normandie, which will end up weighing 250 grams, or 8.8 ounces.

It takes the crew about five hours to fill all the molds from one batch of milk. When the cheese is firm enough to unmold, they’re stacked on wire racks, which allows them to drain and dry properly. The racks are tilted, from side-by-side, as the cheeses “set,” which allows them to drain more easily, and so they’re not uneven.

They also take care so the cheeses don’t touch each other during the end of this stage. Otherwise, they don’t dry properly and end up with flaws. Both I and my travel companion, Ry Stephen, who is the owner and baker at Supermoon Bakehouse in New York (who uses their butter in his croissants and other pastries), inquired what happens to the duds. So they showed us a few:

But not to worry; they end up in the coopérative shop, adjacent to the factory, where anyone can come in buy a discounted cheese, if they don’t mind a few gaffes.

In the adjacent ripening room were squares of Pont l’Évêque (below), another highly-regarded cheese from Normandy with a bloomy rind. It’s made with the same milk, and by a similar process as Camembert de Normandie, but with a different culture, it’s the square blocks get washed with a salt solution a few days after they are removed from their molds. The different culture gives this pale yellow cheese nutty, apple- and hay-like aromas, whereas Camembert de Normandie is more musky and mushroomy. Both are excellent when paired with another speciality of the region; Normandy sparkling cider. One of the best is cidre Cotentin, which is naturally fermented and also carries the AOP designation.

The salt works to draw out more moisture than happens with Camembert cheeses, and gives the finished Pont l’Evêque a pâte (interior) with a lighter texture, and a decidedly saltier tang.

After four to five days of ripening on the racks, the cheeses develop their signature bloomy rinds. I wanted to touch one, since I’m a tactile kinda guy, but they told me if I did, it would cause the bloom not to grow, so I kept my hands to myself. But all this cheese was certainly making me hungry and it was fun watching the cheese getting ready to pack up and send out.

After 12 days, Camemberts de Normande are ready to be packed in wooden boxes, where they’ll continue to ripen. Wood is essential to use as it allows the cheese to breathe, and lets more of the moisture wick away. Like many cheesemakers, they’ve been able to resist the urge by regulators to ditch the wood, in lieu of plastic.

Then the cheeses are sent to various cheese shops and grocers. But because they haven’t ripened long enough, for at least 60 days, the raw milk cheeses can’t be exported to the United States. Zut.

Back in France…you can see above how the cheeses look after 1, 2, 3 and 4 weeks of affinage (ripening) in the caves. Some prefer their cheese less-ripe, on the left, with a drier pâte, while others (like me) like their camembert when it’s fully ripe and oozing, on the right.

(Contrary to what you might think, a number of French people, and others, like their cheeses less-ripe, and many cut off the strongly-flavored crusts of cheese. A new trend, which I don’t approve of, is people serving cheese cold, right out of the refrigerator, which I’ve been told is because it’s more hygiènique.)

We did a tasting of the various camemberts lined up on a counter, with the master cheesemaker at Isigny Ste-Mère, who obviously enjoyed what he was doing. (And he was a man after my own heart as he definitely served at the right temperature.) We tasted a few standard versions of camembert, made with pasteurized milk, as well as a Camembert d’Isigny, and one affiné (ripened) in calvados-soaked breadcrumbs. Calvados, an apple brandy, is another specialty of the region, which is just as famous as its cheeses. Of course, like the local cider, calvados especially goes well with these cheeses, too.

After we tasted five camemberts (Spoiler: The raw milk Camembert de Normandy won by a long-shot), I saw a familiar sight, and thought it was worth sharing. I didn’t get to taste one of the cheeses destined for Costco, but it’s nice to see a little bit of Normandy making its way to America.


But lest you think Ry and I were lured to Normandy after waking up at 4:30am to catch the first train of the day out of Paris, we came for the butter and cream. And what glorious rich, nutty, thick, gloopy, silky, tangy cream is it! When I asked the young Frenchman who accompanied us, who spends most of his time in the States, what he missed the most about France, without hesitation he said, “The crème fraîche.”

It’s not something you’re supposed to travel overseas with, so I’m pretty sure he gets his fill on his trips back home. One spoonful and you realize that, yes, it’s worth traveling 3000 miles for. It’s so good!

Ridiculously rich, at 40% fat, a spoon will stand up straight in a jar of crème d’Isigny and not move until you manage to slide it out. When you take a lick off the spoon, your mouth is filled with the flavors of ivory butterfat, Normandy grass, nuts, a hint of sea salt, and a bit of barn, all in that one spoonful. In short, it’s heaven in a little pot.

But if you want a bigger pot, they’re available, too. These (below) were 5 kilos, or 11 pounds. Lifting one up, it felt like there was a lot more than 40% butterfat lurking in there.

In another blog post, I’ll go into what goes into the other fresh and cultured French cream products, like fromage blanc and fromage frais.

But unlike cheese, which you need to wake up early in the morning to watch (because they need to get the milk cultured and molded, pronto), the making of butter is a little more leisurely.

Beurre d’Isigny is cultured, meaning lactic starters are added to the cream. Once the culture is added, the rich cream is left to “mature” for 16 to 18 hours, before being churned into butter.

And what butter! That color is natural due to carotenoids, and it’s high in butterfat, 82%, which means it has less water, and is better for baking. (The short answer is that the more water in the butter, the more liquid that will saturate the flour and weigh it down.)

Because so many pastry chefs and bakers rely on butter for their pastries, Isigny Ste-Mère also makes a special beurre de tourage for making puff pastry (which other companies do, too), where the finished butter is slightly warmed, then kneaded, so it’s even more emulsified, and pliable, and doesn’t crack when rolled out. It’s also packed flat, rather than in blocks, so it’s easier to roll out. When I first went into Supermoon Bakehouse and tasted one of Ry’s croissants, it tasted quite different than others I’ve had in the U.S., because he uses beurre d’Isigny for folding into his doughs.

But you don’t have to be a fancy baker to enjoy the benefits of good butter. It comes in regular blocks (above), and in single-serving packets, too.

And, of course, we wouldn’t get any of this if it wasn’t for the cows, who welcomed us at one of the nearby farms.

The farmer we visited has 160 cows, which he milks twice a day, every single day of the year. For those who think the French take too many vacations, most farmers I’ve met in France would beg to differ. It’s a full-time job which you can’t take a break from.

One problem facing the cheese industry in France is that young people in the countryside don’t want to milk cows. They want to move to Paris and do something more exciting. I don’t know about you, but I think I’ve had enough excitement, and maybe it’s time to settle down in the countryside of Normandy. Right?

While I pondered my future, farmer Joël Rocher showed off the various labels they’ve used for their camemberts, which depict his farm on the labels. He also gave us a bonne accueil by offering us a glass of his homemade pommeau, and blend of fresh apple juice and calvados. Ry had never had pommeau, and hadn’t even heard of it, so I have to make sure he gets a copy of my book, Drinking French, which explains the various drinks, liqueurs, apéritifs, and spirits, made and enjoyed in France. Pommeau is one of my very favorites. And now, it’s his, too.

As a parting gift, Joël gave us each a bottle, saying he was getting to the bottom of the barrel and needed to make room for the next batch, which was coming this fall. (So we may need to go back!)

The next day at lunch, camembert made a surprise appearance broiled over some oysters at Chez Roger in Sainte-Mairie-du-Mont, where we dined with butter historian Fabrice Poncet. (Can I have that job?) The food was served family-style, and at the typical, leisurely pace of the French countryside, we drank wine for nearly an hour before eating anything (save for a little pot of house-made rillettes), while I searched my Larousse dictionary for the term “pace yourself.”

The first plate to arrive was hot with oysters dripping in melted camembert before moving on to local lobsters, before the owner took the lamb shoulder off the fireplace that was turning on a spit next to us, and cut it into pieces.

In order to make it through it all, we had the trou Normand, a shot of calvados taken between courses, to make a trou (hole) in your system, so there’s more room to continue eating. Although we were lunching with locals, I was later told by a woman who makes calvados in the region, that you’re supposed to take it standing up, so the calvados goes directly into your system. Seeing as how the French are experts on digestion, I didn’t argue or disagree on the science of that, since I’ll take any chance to have a shot of calvados.

Our last gasp for the day was a tart Tatin, served with a help-yourself pot of – yes – crème d’Isigny. While purists say that tarte Tatin should be enjoyed on its own, it’s hard to argue that a mounded pool of local crème fraîche doesn’t help things.


Notes

I’ll be writing up the second part of this trip, where we saw the making of mimolette cheese and fresh dairy products at Isigny Ste-Mère, and posting it shortly.

We also had dinner at L’Angle Saint-Laurent in Bayeux. If you’re in the region, it’s worth reserving a table there.

Disclosure: Isigny Ste-Mère provided train tickets, our lunch, and overnight accommodations, to visit their production facilities.

 

See how French butter, cheese, and crème fraîche are made in Normandy, France!

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89 comments

  • Sarah Aguilar
    September 15, 2019 4:18pm

    This is my favorite butter but it’s hard to find in the US. Amazon has it for a premium price and Whole Foods sometimes carries the unsalted butter. The Kirkland cheese is intriguing. I may have to join Costco to try it! Reply

    • ronald shapley
      September 15, 2019 7:41pm

      Hello Sarah…… By the grace of God I can get the butter at WholeFoods and Zabar’s in NYC… God blessAmerica !! Reply

    • bob waks
      September 16, 2019 6:03pm

      had it very mild not that interesting on the other hand Trader Joe’s gets a French wooden boxed Camembert around Thanksgiving seasonally that’s got the funk of mushroom & feet that’s fabulous Reply

    • Sam
      September 20, 2019 6:24pm

      It’s nice & creamy. Not super strong or anything. I love it as a nice everyday cheese, but it’s not an OMG special occasion one, but then the price isn’t crazy either which means I can have it on bread for breakfast & not feel guilty. Reply

  • Eileen O
    September 15, 2019 5:17pm

    David, I love your articles of visits to various manufacturers in France and this has been one of my favorite! Reply

    • Judith Lehman
      September 17, 2019 12:43pm

      I’m so glad you live in France and write up such interesting posts about it all. I like to begin my morning here. Reply

  • September 15, 2019 5:20pm

    I just want to say I made the lemon almond snack cake yesterday and it was sublime! Thank you! Reply

  • September 15, 2019 5:29pm

    david, my fave post ever.
    ISM really is a treasure.
    spell it ‘Brie de Melun’.
    i was the first American cheesemonger to import Isigny stuff direct to my Fairway Market counters. real, raw milk cammies and pont l’eveque and creme fraiche.
    got away with it for years, in fact, until i got busted.
    fyi, vermont creamery makes killer butter, creme fraiche, cheeses, etc. Reply

  • JAIME KOOSER
    September 15, 2019 5:30pm

    Wow!!! What a spectacular post!!! every detail – every photo! It’s all so vivid, Merci beaucoup! Reply

  • September 15, 2019 5:30pm

    Thank you for this delectable post :) I can find the beurre d’Isigny (doux and demi-sel) in Canada (Edmonton, Alberta) in one store, but it’s extremely expensive (CA$22). I usually treat myself to one block for my birthday ;)

    I would love it if you could explain why Americans/Canadians were never able to create the equivalent of the French fromage blanc. I miss this dearly and can’t understand why it’s not possible to make it here! Reply

    • September 15, 2019 5:40pm
      David Lebovitz

      It’s because the milk is different in North America than in France, but milk varies by region (in France and in North America). Vermont Creamery makes fromage blanc, as does Cowgirl Creamery in the U.S., but I don’t know about Canada. I suspect it has something to do with demand; it’s not something that’s widely-known in North America and there hasn’t been consumer demand, or a marketing push (like there was with Greek yogurt and skyr), to make it better known. Reply

      • September 15, 2019 7:43pm

        Thanks for the explanation :) Reply

      • Margaret
        September 16, 2019 3:41pm

        Central Market in San Antonio, Texas has Vermont Creamery and used to sell their fromage blanc, but quit stocking it :( They still sell their creme fraiche though. Reply

        • September 16, 2019 3:47pm
          David Lebovitz

          I was talking to a French friend about it once who lives in the States and she agreed that there isn’t really the demand for it. I think people in the U.S. prefer tanginess to creaminess (I find plain yogurt in the U.S. much more tart than in France.) So not sure fromage blanc would find an audience. Reply

      • Marilyn
        September 17, 2019 4:14am

        Bellweather Farms in Petaluma, CA (Sonoma County) also makes Fromage Blanc. It has a very neutral taste and doesn’t seem that rich to me but it’s available in my markets in Healdsburg and Windsor. I can also get French butter (don’t remember the brands) though it just doesn’t taste quite the same as in France.

        Very interesting post, thanks! Reply

      • tuffy
        September 20, 2019 10:52am

        something to remember about most american dairy cows is that they are all highly hybridized Holsteins. Holsteins have MUCH LESS butterfat as compared to French Heritage breeds and even Jersey Cows…that does make a huge difference.

        in addition, generic AMerican cheeses are made from the milk of cows who are never grazed, (unless it’s an artisan cheesemaker); being mostly grassfed and grazed, makes a huge difference in the taste of the cheese.
        also, most cheese in USA is made in a big factory.

        Most cheese in France, at least from my experience working for a cheesemaker in the Alps some years ago, is made mostly by hand and with patience. it makes a difference. Reply

    • Russell Herman
      September 15, 2019 9:59pm

      Liberté in Quebec makes Quark cheese which might be a suitable substitute for fromage blanc. Reply

    • Janice
      September 17, 2019 1:44am

      Hi
      I’m just outside Edmonton and would love to know where you found the butter, please. Reply

  • Kathy Fancher
    September 15, 2019 5:31pm

    I absolutely enjoyed your trip, thank you. Reply

  • September 15, 2019 5:41pm

    What a nice post for dairy geeks – I look forward to the second installment! But I’ve had that Costco Camembert, and alas, it doesn’t taste at all like the Camembert you can get in France. Reply

    • Nywoman
      September 15, 2019 5:55pm

      Because it is Brie Reply

  • September 15, 2019 5:56pm

    Fabulous account. Those oysters drowning in camembert is a sight I won’t soon forget. Reply

  • MgVan
    September 15, 2019 5:57pm

    I get this butter in Vancouver at Benson Bros and use it for the best shortbread ever. BTW did you know that Walt Disney’s family name was originally d’Isigny? The family left Normandy in the 11th century and settled in Ireland where the name evolved into its current form. Reply

    • Jill
      September 15, 2019 8:48pm

      Oh wow!! Great tidbit. Reply

    • Caroline in San Francisco
      September 16, 2019 7:44pm

      That’s good bit of trivia! Thank you, MgVan! Reply

    • tuffy
      September 20, 2019 10:44am

      oh cool!!
      makes total sense! Reply

  • Linda Sue Buehler
    September 15, 2019 6:00pm

    What a treat, David! Thank you! I could eat my monitor. I can hear the cows and smell the cheese and butter. I want everything you shared except the oysters! Reply

  • Karen
    September 15, 2019 6:13pm

    Mon dieu! I fill like I’ve just eaten a 12 course meal! (And I’ve made a reservation at L’Angle Saint Laurent–we just happen to be in Bayeux one night next month–Merci!) Reply

  • gwyn ganjeau
    September 15, 2019 6:42pm

    this. post. rocked. i kept reading, scrolling down, excited there was always another stunning photo and more of this beautiful ode to normandy. and those cows!! could they be more beautiful?! non.

    btw, have you seen the cheese portraits of mike geno? Yes, i said cheese portraits. combine a love of cheese with a beautiful facility for oil paint, and the result is something you can practically smell. after years of drooling over these special pieces, i finally did myself a favor and purchased one — it gives me a little frisson of pleasure every damn day.

    thanks again for this post. can’t wait to read the second installment! Reply

  • sandi
    September 15, 2019 6:44pm

    Oh my, sublime!
    One of my fav postings EVER! Thank you & I await the follow-up! Reply

  • Toby Hyman
    September 15, 2019 7:25pm

    Wow I never knew excited to go over to Costco to indulge in a new treat. Reply

  • Taipan
    September 15, 2019 7:31pm

    I can’t wait to return to Paris next spring! Thanks for an excellent posting which got me drooling! Reply

  • Francine Helene
    September 15, 2019 8:03pm

    Beautiful article. Thank you so much.

    Here in Quebec we have a great cheese shop a the Atwater market, and the owner is very knowledgeable and used to carry an array of French cheeses. Now, however, that Quebec cheeses are winning prizes he has cut back on imports and he displays more Quebec cheese. And though much of the Quebec cheese is very good, I just find that the little taste I’m so used to with Pont l’Évêque and other cheeses is not there. Thanks so much for doing all this. Reply

    • Lauren
      October 2, 2019 2:38am

      You can find good Camembert de Normandie at Fromagerie Hamel, they even have their own private importation of it. They also sell Beurre d’Isigny. I think Quebec is especially good in the soft cheeses. Of course you can’t find the same taste than France – it’s not the same place. I suggest you try Le Pizy from Fromagerie La Suisse Normande and Le 14 Arpents from Fromagerie Médard, they are beautiful local cheeses. Reply

  • Denise
    September 15, 2019 8:30pm

    All of my favorite things together in one glorious post. Mahalo! Reply

  • Sue
    September 15, 2019 8:30pm

    David, the post was one of your best! I’m biased though because I’m a dairy lover and Normandy is one of my favorite spots in France. I’m going to be in Bayeux and Vierville-sur-Mer, in early October.

    Is the Isigny-Ste-Mere dairy open to the public? It would be a great place to visit while I’m there.

    Looking forward to reading about part two of your trip. Reply

    • September 15, 2019 10:02pm
      David Lebovitz

      The production plant isn’t open to the public (it’s not set up for tours or visitors) but I do recommend going to where they make the caramels d’Isigny, called La Galerie du Caramel. They’re set up so you can watch the caramel-making process, and you can buy the terrific caramels there, too. They also have a counter outside where you can buy the ice cream, which is incredible, but incredibly rich. (I recommend splitting one between two people!)

      There’s also the factory store, which we didn’t get to go to as we were pretty busy in the production facility, but that’s open to the public as well. It’s linked in the post. Reply

      • Sue
        September 16, 2019 7:25am

        Thank you David! I’ll make a visit to La Galerie du Caramel. The ice cream sounds wonderful and since I’m a solo traveler, I guess I’ll just have to eat it all myself!! :) Reply

  • TL
    September 15, 2019 8:35pm

    Love your blog, especially love this post. WIth a proofreader it would be absolutment parfait. I’m a professional editor and would happy to do it for free. Reply

    • TL
      September 15, 2019 8:38pm

      Haha, I left out the word “be.” So much for that gig! Reply

      • September 15, 2019 8:50pm
        David Lebovitz

        : )

        I tried working with an editor and proofreader and it became a lot more work. I know things have changed and now blogs are very slick, but since the idea of blogs was originally to be a more casual style (and medium) from sharing recipes and stories, I thought I’d keep it as is, lumps and all. Reply

        • TL
          September 17, 2019 10:33pm

          I hope my post wasn’t obnoxious. Generally I recoil when people post comments about grammar or typos… but this post was so excellent I thought it was a shame to be distracted by such things. Reply

          • rose
            September 23, 2019 8:44pm

            You’ve just got to accept that it’s in the spirit of a blog vs a slick production and with that approach you can enjoy the charm without the grammar meter hitting red : D

  • Keith
    September 15, 2019 8:38pm

    Elizabeth David loved the Calvados, a bit too much it seems.

    I love french cheeses, but it might be too rich with Oysters. How did you find them? Reply

  • Christina
    September 15, 2019 8:59pm

    Thank you for this wonderful article. While staying in Normandy last fall we dove deep into the butter/cream/cheese delights. One most memorable of all was some just “plain”, uncultured Normandy cream which was so thick it could not be poured. Also, those lovely cows were always so clean and beautiful! I just made your almond/lemon breakfast snack substituting ground toasted hazelnuts and orange zest – vraiment pas mal! Reply

  • September 15, 2019 9:09pm
    David Lebovitz

    Keith: I found them rather rich, and prefer my oysters nature (raw). But they were interesting to try!

    Christina: Yes, the cream is insanely good – and rich…and thick! I think the cows are well taken care of. At least the ones I saw. (And not just the ones in the photos, but we saw quite a few of them driving around the region.) Reply

    • Keith
      September 15, 2019 9:28pm

      As I suspected. I like mine raw too. Reply

    • Karen H.
      September 17, 2019 8:40am

      The cows can drive, too?!! Reply

      • tuffy
        September 20, 2019 10:41am
      • September 21, 2019 8:14pm

        When we are not watching, they use their opposable thumbs. :) Reply

        • Jeanne
          September 22, 2019 1:03am

          The Far Side comics suddenly appeared in my mind’s eye! Reply

  • Peter Longenecker
    September 15, 2019 9:13pm

    David, we’ll be Paris for the month of October and we will definitely be trying several (most?) of the items mentioned in this post. Any recommendation/s as to where to buy them? We’re staying in the upper 10th. Thanks for such a wonderful post. Reply

    • September 15, 2019 9:22pm
      David Lebovitz

      Most well-stocked supermarkets in Paris (and France) carry them. Monoprix stores are probably your surest bet. Reply

  • Susan
    September 15, 2019 9:13pm

    OMG…….going to Costco to see what they have here…out in the wilds of Idaho. :) I can get very salted butter here occasionally at a discount store!
    Am in hog heaven with it! thanks for a great post….YUM! Reply

  • September 15, 2019 9:44pm

    I’ve just had a spectacular visit near Alencon Normandy and stocked up on mirabelles, mustard, a ‘few’ bottles of wine and Normandy cheeses, Isigny St Mere butter and creme fraiche-like nothing else. Reply

    • Keith
      September 15, 2019 9:55pm

      lovely Reply

  • Allison S
    September 15, 2019 10:22pm

    Thank you for the fabulous post!
    I found some very nice recipes on the
    Isigny Ste-Mere site. I do wonder if anyone can tell me what size pan the Chocolat Caramel Tart recipe requires.
    It serves 4-6 and can be found at
    http://www.isigny-ste-mere.com/en/recipes/chocolat-caramel-tart/.
    Sorry, I don’t know how to make this link live. Reply

    • Judy
      September 17, 2019 9:07am

      Hi Allison, I checked the French version, which says to use individual tart pans (which from the pic look like about 3″?? And since it says it serves 4 to 6, I’m guessing it depends on your packet of pastry and how many you can get out of it! Reply

      • September 17, 2019 10:08am

        Hi Judy, Thank you for your response and checking the French version. Much appreciated! Reply

        • Judy
          September 17, 2019 10:09am

          pleasure! Reply

  • Laurie
    September 15, 2019 11:04pm

    They sell that Norman butter at a local cheese bar, and I’ve always looked longingly at it. It’s just too expensive to buy, but last month I said yes to some Amish butter that I used for the SMBC frosting on/in a cake I baked for a local senior center. I hear it was amazing. Le sigh. I’ll be buying some Amish butter for us next time, but one day I’ll really go nuts and get that French butter from Normandy. Thank you for a wonderful blog post! The making of cheese and butter fascinate me and I felt like I was there with you. Reply

  • leslie green
    September 15, 2019 11:10pm

    Thank you for this wonderful post and especially the pictures. Is the crème d’Isigny similar to the gruyere creme we had in Switzerland or is it a butter creme? Reply

  • Susan Riggs
    September 15, 2019 11:32pm

    Oh my! Every picture made me drool! I do so love cheese! I would love to visit the area-maybe next trip to Paris! Reply

  • K
    September 15, 2019 11:37pm

    So perfect! I just was finishing that round of cheese from Costco, and I was marveling at the richness. Glad it doesn’t make me less of a Francophile enjoying less ripe cheeses. Reply

  • Adele
    September 15, 2019 11:48pm

    When we were in Normandy a few years ago, we stayed two nights in Bayeux and had dinner at L’Angle Saint Laurent one evening. It was delightful in every way! The whole trip was wonderful and oh the butter and cheese every day……. Reply

    • Andrea
      September 30, 2019 1:53pm

      May I ask where you stayed? We will be in Bayeux in early November… Reply

  • Wendy Rawady
    September 16, 2019 12:10am

    I’m reading this post from Australia – Super King in Los Angeles (SFV) used to carry that butter. David, your posts are so inspiring and I treasure your books and appreciate you sharing your life with us. Can’t wait to get back to France and the fab food culture there. Reply

  • Rachel
    September 16, 2019 3:44am

    Brilliant post – thank you so much David! You are my favourite blogger of all time. x Reply

  • Margaretlb
    September 16, 2019 4:50am

    Ahh, pommeau! We hosted a teenager from Normandy in 2000 who brought us a bottle of his fathers calvados. His family farm is part of that coop. His father is now retired and his brother has the farm. Our friend is now a language tutor in Paris and we see him on our annual visits. Last year he brought us his brother’s pommeau…mmmmm. I have to remind him we’re back next month :) Reply

  • Fred
    September 16, 2019 10:34am

    What an amazing post to read !! It seems you had a blast !!
    Just need to go to Costco now :) Reply

  • September 16, 2019 3:04pm

    David – this review is EVERYTHING! As the daughter of a former “Alice
    in Dairyland” (a Wisconsin state pageant whereby the winner ‘Queen’ – spends the year traveling the country & promoting the dairy industry) – I fully appreciate {understatement} ADORE this article & all your writing. Keep ‘em coming. Xo Reply

  • September 16, 2019 3:08pm
    David Lebovitz

    Margaretlb: Pommeau is really lovely stuff and deserves to be better known outside of France. Hopefully my book will help that!

    Kendell, Rachel, Wendy, and Fred: Thanks and so glad you liked the post : ) Reply

  • Connie
    September 16, 2019 10:22pm

    My husband and I are cycling through Normandy this week and had the good fortune of dining at L’Angle Saint-Laurent which was lovely. As we roll through the Pays d’Auge on bikes, it sure seems like these cows are living the good life! And it shows in the dairy of the region. Oh the butter! Reply

  • Lenita
    September 17, 2019 12:46am

    What a fantastic post and photos were awesome. Keep blogging the way you do.. I love it. Reply

  • sharon mumby
    September 17, 2019 12:47am

    heavenly post! Reply

  • Hope Anderson
    September 17, 2019 2:10am

    This is one of your best articles–and that’s really saying something! Thanks for all the wonderful photos, too. Reply

  • Pam
    September 17, 2019 3:32am

    Love this post. Usually I cannot digest dairy, but this summer in France I was able to eat croissants, cheese, chocolate eclairs, and butter (from Normandy, of course), without any reactions. It was sublime, and, this post provides a welcome reminder of that experience. Thank you! Reply

  • Sam
    September 19, 2019 12:17am

    Beautiful! Cows and the cheese. Where do I apply for a job milking cows in Normandy? Reply

  • Molly
    September 19, 2019 7:15pm

    SOMEDAY I hope to visit Normandy. Sigh…I believe that I can find the “regular” Isigny Ste. Mere butter but not the tourage type. I’ve had uneven success with making puff pastry. Would love to try once more if I could secure the specialty butter. If anyone knows, please share. I’m in the U.S. Fabulous post, David. Love it! Reply

  • tuffy
    September 20, 2019 10:36am

    WOW!!!
    this is the coolest ever post you’ve written, IMO!!
    so much i can learn from-
    thank you!! Reply

  • rose
    September 23, 2019 8:50pm

    Lovely lovely post – and – I wonder if you could explain the difference between Camembert and Brie? I know it’s a basic Q but I’ve always wondered why someone would choose camembert over brie if both are available. I’m obviously not a cheese expert and have certainly never had a ‘good’ camembert, hence my questions. Thank you! Reply

    • September 23, 2019 10:00pm
      David Lebovitz

      Hi Rose, The names “brie” and “camembert” were never registered so they are used globally for cheeses that are made in the same style of Brie de Meaux and Camembert de Normandie, which are AOP cheeses, which means they must be made a certain way, in a specific region, from milk from certain cows, and a number of other factors. Each gets its unique flavor from a confluence of factors that include the breed of cows, what they graze on, where they are raised, as well as the type of culture that’s added to coagulate the cheese, to how it’s aged; in wood, for what period of time, etc.

      That’s a long-winded way of saying how different they are but the shorter answer is that they’re made from milk in different regions that have different characteristics, different cultures are used, the size is different (which affects the flavor of the cheese as it ripens differently), and other factors that I mentioned above. The ones that aren’t raw milk French varieties tend to have flavors that don’t match up with their raw milk counterparts, which is why it’s good to come to France to try them! : ) Reply

  • Andrea
    September 30, 2019 1:56pm

    Wonderful post- thank you! And I’ve been to Supermoon Bakehouse so no wonder it is so good there! My family and I will be visiting Normandy in early November- any recommendations for a very nice hotel, probably Bayeux is where we would stay? Thank you! Reply

    • September 30, 2019 3:30pm
      David Lebovitz

      We stayed at the Villa Lara. We checked in close to midnight and left the next morning before 7am, so didn’t have much time at the hotel, but the room was very nice and the breakfast was excellent. Reply

  • September 30, 2019 7:07pm

    I visited there about a decade ago and they told us that the dud cheeses went to prisons. Imagining incarcerated folks enjoying AOC (at that time) Camembert seemed like a interesting cultural difference between France and the US.

    Even though I went for the cheese, I left knowing we had to find a way to get the butter into our store. I have 4 or 5 blocks in the fridge right now! Thanks for this. Reply

  • Judi Suttles
    October 1, 2019 4:40pm

    I love Beurre d’Isigny and all things Normandy. It is my favorite part of France. But seeing as I live in the States I am immediately taking myself to Costco! Reply

  • Tammy
    October 1, 2019 7:13pm

    Fascinating post. I’ve never been to France, I just live vicariously through you.
    It must be some official butter week somewhere, because this is the second blog post I’ve read this week discussing the making of butter. Reply

  • Lauren
    October 2, 2019 2:46am

    Went to Normandy in my partner’s family this summer, for the first time, and had the incredible chance to attend a family banquet. Normands are so proud of their region and products, which is totally justified. We had family-made 30 year old calvados and the best Normandy Camembert I’ve got to try – if you can put your hands on Champsecret Camembert, it’s absolutely worth the shot. Its flavor evolves constantly. Pommeau, an apéritif liqueur of mixed cider and calvados, was also a great discovery! Looking forward to go back already. Reply

  • Diane
    October 10, 2019 6:11am

    Beurre d’Isigny is at Gus’ Market, 2111 Harrison Street, San Francisco Reply

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