Beurre Charentes-Poitou is a cream-coloured, 82% butterfat, easy-to-spread butter made from pasteurized cream. No additional substances, including colouring or preservatives, are allowed.
It has to be made in the French départements of Charente, Deux-Sèvres, Vendée or Vienne (part of the old French province of Poitou.) In this catchment area, it is made by 12 different creameries, both private and cooperative (as of 2006, 11 cooperatives and 1 private), with milk drawn from over 9,000 milk producers.
The milk is collected and brought to the creameries. The processors start working with the milk the day that it arrives. It is immediately stored at 39 to 43 F (4 to 6 C.) When they are ready to separate the cream for making butter, the milk is heated to 104 F (40 C) then passed through centrifugal machines to do the separation. The temperature of the cream is then heated further to 197 to 203 F (92 to 95 C) to pasteurize it, then chilled back down to 50 to 60 F (10 to 15 C.) A culture starter is then added, and it is allowed to rest for 15 hours at 48 to 60 F (9 to 15 C.) The temperature required varies by season. This resting period allows the starter to work and to develop the taste, texture and aroma of the butter.
Before 48 hours is up from when the milk first arrived at the creamery, the cream must be churned to finally make the butter, which is then washed several times with water. The butter is then mixed to give an even texture, salted, packaged, and stored in chillers until shipping.
The rules governing the butter are governed by the “Syndicat des Laiteries Charentes-Poitou” (originally called “Association Centrale des Laiteries Coopératives des Charentes et du Poitou.”) founded in 1893. In 1899, the association put transportation in place that allowed its butter to be sold in Paris within 48 hours of its being made.
Beurre Charentes-Poitou was the first butter to get an AOC. It received its French AOC on 29 August 1979, and its European PDO on 5 October 1999.
Beurre Charentes-Poitou can be stored up to 60 days at 64 F (18 C) or less, or can be frozen for up to 12 months.