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We're stumped so we thought we'd come and ask the experts.

Last weekend we were in Paris, and bought what we think was normal unsalted butter (from a marche franprix) and (again as far as we are aware) normal garlic.

We melted the butter on a low heat, cut up 2/3 cloves of garlic, put them in the butter, left it to simmer for 3/4 mins and out came lovely tasting Garlic butter with a strong (but not overpowering) Garlic flavour, almost slightly salty - very similar to Pizza Express Garlic butter if you have ever had that.

We fell in love with the stuff so as soon as we got home bought some garlic and unsalted butter from a UK supermarket. Worked through the same process and it was naff.

There's no strong garlic flavor, the butter looks very yellow and has a strong buttery flavour.

Does anyone know why there would be such a difference? A quick google shows no difference between French & English garlic or butter.

P.s. in Paris we repeated the process 3/4 times so it wasn't a one off fluke

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I cannot speak definitively, so I won't write an answer, but is French butter not traditionally made from cultured cream? This would give it a more tangy, complex flavor than butter made from fresh cream. –  SAJ14SAJ Apr 4 '13 at 19:41
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Garlic can vary a lot in strength of flavor - did you use garlic in Paris in any other way? Could it simply have been stronger garlic? –  Jefromi Apr 4 '13 at 21:45
    
The greengrocers near where I live (North London) sells many types of garlic, none of which are labelled as "normal", so the French may have sold you a different variety than you bought here. –  Steve Apr 4 '13 at 22:56
    
Also, maybe a silly question but what were you eating the garlic butter on or with - could there also be a difference there? –  Vicky Apr 5 '13 at 9:43
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sorry, had to delete the joke comments because they were flagged as chatty –  rumtscho Apr 5 '13 at 12:38
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2 Answers

The UK supermarkets have the opinion that British people like milder garlic, so most of the garlic you find in the UK supermarkets, even organic garlics, are of a very mild variety. Also, they are bred for yield, in softer soils, so they produce bigger bulbs but less strong.

Garlic found in most French and Italian stores is much stronger, as that is what people demand. It is usually hardneck, rather than softneck garlic, and hardnecks tend to be much stronger. French garlic is usually grown in stronger soils, so it produces a stronger flavor.

My solution is to grow my own, 3 bulbs planted usually yields a years' worth of garlic for me, and because I have clay soil it has a strong flavor. It's by far the easiest and most rewarding thing I've ever grown.

If that's not your cup of tea then ask a greengrocer to stock a stronger variety of garlic, or order it from an Isle of Wight supplier. Of course, you could just use about 4 times as much to get more flavor.

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The comments taken together are essentially an answer.

Not all butter is the same. As SAJ14SAJ said, French butter is normally made from cultured cream, giving it a different flavor. Additionally, the quality of butter depends on the quality of the cream it's made from. So even different brands in your grocery store at home will be different, some more buttery, some lighter, fresher and creamier. It should be no surprise that you managed to buy something different in Paris.

Not all garlic is the same. This isn't really about French vs British garlic. There are many varieties, some with stronger flavors than others. Different ones are grown in different regions, and even the same one grown in different regions will vary a bit. You may well get slightly different varieties throughout the year even in your regular grocery store. So again, don't be surprised that you got something different in Paris.

If you want to reproduce what you made before, you'll have to experiment. You can try different brands of butter; unfortunately, there's some chance that butter like what you had in Paris will be more expensive and perhaps hard to find. You'll also want to shop around and try more varieties of garlic. You should be able to easily notice differences in flavor from just eating a bit raw. It's hard to give specific advice, though - differences in appearance are pretty subtle, and everyone's stores are different. You may want to try specialty stores or farmer's markets.

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