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The Mystery of the Butter Keeper

May
22


I became infatuated with this butter keeper recently when I gave one away. I couldn’t get it out of my heart and I gave in to the impulse to buy one for myself. After all, I have fresh butter all over the place here and no way to keep it soft and spreadable.

It keeps butter soft and spreadable and FRESH at room temperature for up to 30 days! How can that be? I had to possess this magic for myself.


A butter crock is a traditional method of keeping butter fresh without refrigeration using an airtight seal of water. It was invented by 16th century French foodies. How can we go wrong?

Except.

The whole thing makes no sense. Mais oui.

I studied the directions.

They were severely limited.

And made no sense.

For it appeared– Yes, indeedy, it appeared–

You were to put butter in the cup, add some water to the crock, then put the butter cup down into the crock UPSIDE DOWN!

We all know that’s impossible and the butter will fall out and that all those French foodies were drunk when they made this up. The butter keeper, by the way, went out of fashion when refrigeration became commonplace. Or, possibly, when people stopped drinking so heavily. It has come back into vogue with the new rise of home buttermaking and foodie-ness and…. Possibly people are drinking heavily again.

After you put the cup down in the crock, you’re supposed to just go on with your day, all the while that your butter is falling out.

Not that I can do that. I have to keep checking.

And so far, my butter has not fallen out.

Why doesn’t the butter fall out? What sort of magic oppositional gravitational force is at work here? Also, how much water are you supposed to put in there? Does anyone know? The instructions were a bit lean. Is the water supposed to touch the butter, or is there just supposed to be enough water to make an airtight seal with the rim of the cup?

P.S. The only thing I do know is that you’re supposed to change out the water at least every 3 days.

P.P.S. If you want to get one of these magic oppositional gravitational gadgets, you can get one here.

P.P.P.S. Do not blame me if you start drinking heavily.

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Posted by Suzanne McMinn on May 22, 2010  

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  1. 5-22
    1:13
    am

    I love these things. I put water in the bottom and then just let it spill out if it needs to when I invert the top. Yes, it should touch the butter. Gee Suzanne, my butter won’t fall out of a regular butter dish when I turn it upside down either. And in REALLY hot weather, be sure to change the water even more often than they suggest or it will spoil.

  2. 5-22
    1:31
    am

    To late I started drinking the homemade vanilla :dancingmonster:

  3. 5-22
    2:18
    am

    My butter bell calls for 1/3 cup of water. I love my butter bell, my sister gave it to me for Christmas. It keeps the butter soft and fresh tasting.

  4. 5-22
    3:40
    am

    This reminds me of storing eggs in isinglass, which is sort of vaguely like gelatin. (Neither is vegetarian, since isinglass is derived from fish and gelatin from cows, etc. although there is, I think, a vegetarian gelatin.)

  5. 5-22
    6:28
    am

    I too have often wondered how these little gadgets work. Here is what I have decided, but don’t quote me on this because I’m far from being a Butter Scientist. (Though if such a job exsisted, I would so apply for it!)

    Butter if a fat, and just like oil fats float in water. So that’s likely the reason why it doesn’t “fall out” is because it has the pressure of the water beneath it to hold it inplace.

    As for why it keeps for a longer period, I think it’s because with how you store the butter. It isn’t in contact for prolonged periods with anything except water. So there isn’t a chance for bacteria, mold, and various other sorts of nasties to set up shop. Either that or the water itself is a sort of perservative. (which would explain why you need to change it every few days, so it doesn’t get stagnant and gross)

    That’s what I think at least! :-)

  6. 5-22
    6:51
    am

    Kelleh, you would be perfect for that job! Because that makes sense!

    I was telling John and his son about wanting to get one….that was their opposition…how would it not fall out??!!! From what I’ve read, the butter is supposed to touch the water, it keeps the oxygen from the butter, which keeps it fresher longer.

  7. 5-22
    7:28
    am

    I have one that was made by a local potter. The instructions given to me were to fill the base 1/3 full with cool water. I think the reason the butter doesn’t fall out is the pressure of the air against the water….it actually pushes against the butter!

  8. 5-22
    8:00
    am

    I LOVE LOVE LOVE my butter bell. If you store it near your oven vent or dishwasher the butter will fall out (too warm). Otherwise it stays put. Spreadable butter any time of the day or night and no waiting! Keep drinking French people, helps keep the creative juices flowin.

  9. 5-22
    8:41
    am

    I know a lady who is 99…and she keeps her butter in the kitchen cabinet, in a regular butter dish. So, I’ve been doing the same for 1 year now and it hasn’t made me or any member of the family sick…even thru Virginia’s notoriously hot/humid summer (we do have A/C). And…it always tastes fresh. Just sayin’…

  10. 5-22
    8:41
    am

    Wow! I didn’t know all this about butter storage. When I was making homemade butter I just kept it in a Rubbermade storage container. I feel somehow deprived that I have never had a butter bell. I’ve missed the opportunity to ponder about butter falling out and other such matters!Who knew? :?

  11. 5-22
    9:01
    am

    Oh wow thank you for this post! I’d been eying these things a few months ago, wanted one, but I have a roommate who is afraid of such things and silly me listened to her and put butter bells out of my mind. After reading your post I am now DETERMINED to get one! I might buy one this very day! And anyone who looks askance at my butter bell—roommate or visitors—can just go deal with their HARD, cold butter while I happily enjoy my lovely spreadable butter out of my lovely butter bell. :snoopy: :dancingmonster:

  12. 5-22
    9:05
    am

    I have one exactly like this one. It works well if you remember to change the water. I have decided to cultivate the habit of changing it every day like when I make the coffee. That way I won’t forget.

  13. 5-22
    9:06
    am

    Ha ha, Cindy drinking the vanilla, lol.

    I want one of these! I sometimes place some in the cupboard for the day … and then forget I did. This would solve so many problems!

  14. 5-22
    9:07
    am

    ….it might even help with whirrled peas!

  15. 5-22
    9:08
    am

    I have a butter boat that works on the same principle. I’ve had it for ten years or more and have no problems with it. The butter does not touch the water. Mine has a bottom that the water is put into and there is a fill line. Then the butter goes into a butter dish with a lid that is set into the bottom part. You can check them out on ebay they usually have some listed.

  16. 5-22
    9:20
    am

    Hey Suzanne!

    That is a strange thing isn’t it! I have no idea why the butter doesn’t fall down. It doesn’t make sense at all.

    I wanted to tell you I have been having troubles pulling up your blog for a good week. It is taking it forever to load. It will say something like 137 items to load. I end up hitting the x in the box to stop it just so I can look at your post. I do have high speed internet service through HughesNet.

    Angela

  17. 5-22
    10:02
    am

    I have no interest in this subject, yet I really enjoyed the post and laughed out loud. Your the only one I know who can make me enjoy a post about something I have no interest in!!! lol

  18. 5-22
    10:28
    am

    I do love kitchen gadgets, and I used to use one of those things, but I use so much butter that their small size, plus having to change the water, just got to be too much of a pain in the butt. But I love having another reason to drink heavily…now where did I leave my glass of wine… :shimmy:

    p.s. I buy roll butter, 2lbs at a time, and just keep it on the counter in a large dish. It has never yet gone bad.

  19. 5-22
    10:32
    am

    Good Morning Suzanne, I have one of those! I’m ashamed to say I haven’t used it yet…my oldest daughter gave it to me a few years ago but I felt like you…the butter will fall into the water! Mine is hand-made from British Columbia and says it’s a French Butter Dish..ooo la la. The instructions just say 1) fill top with butter 2) place cold water or crushed ice in bottom…that’s it. Now that I see that yours works…I’m going to try mine and maybe we won’t have liquid butter this summer! THANKS for posting this:) Chic :hungry2:

  20. 5-22
    10:42
    am

    I am SO glad that you posted about this! I’ve seen these at flea markets & advertized in Country Sampler for years & never really understood how they worked ~ even I’ve wanted one. Made me want to start drinking! LOL!! :o

    Blessings from Ohio…Kim~

  21. 5-22
    10:51
    am

    I visited an online friend in France about 8 years ago, and she gave me a butter bell, called a beurriere in French, that she bought for me at the brocante, or flea market. It’s incredible, we’ve never had any problems except when we’ve forgotten to change the water for too long, then it gets a little moldy.

    She told me to wash mine with a little baking soda, which works well, but I’ve also put it in the dishwasher.

  22. 5-22
    11:14
    am

    I LOVE my butter crock (that’s what we call it). Like some of the other ladies here have commented, I put enough water in it that it spills over a little, thus creating an airtight seal inside…nothing but butter and water. It kind of creates a vacuum. Thanks for sharing your daily happenings…it brightens my day. :-)

  23. 5-22
    11:32
    am

    We have one of these, too, but I have never been able to figure out how much water to put in (maybe I should put in more, based on comments here), and I have had a problem with it falling out. Perhaps it’s getting too hot. Anyway, good to get some tips here. Thanks, everyone.

  24. 5-22
    11:41
    am

    I have one of these too, but am guilty of rarely using it. I’m one of those lazy types who finds it easier to just leave the butter sitting out on the counter. It gets used up in only a few days anyways, never gets a chance to go bad. The only complaint I had with the butter bell is that it kept my butter too cool (unspreadable) in the cooler weather. It works best in the summer when your indoor temperature exceeds 72-74 degrees; at anything above that, butter just left on the counter starts to melt. Since we only see temperatures like that for a few weeks out of the year, my darling butter bell gets very little action.

  25. 5-22
    12:38
    pm

    There’s an illustration here: http://www.butterkeeper.org/

  26. 5-22
    12:56
    pm

    I gave my butter bell away. The butter didn’t fall out but it did get moldy – air pocket in the butter. So now I just leave mine on the counter in the paper wrap it came in. Soft butter whenever. Nothing to wash – and that’s the important part. I don’t think butter goes bad, it just starts to taste ‘off’.

  27. 5-22
    1:24
    pm

    I have been using a butter bell for years…best invention since sliced bread!

  28. 5-22
    1:29
    pm

    I have one of these, but I don’t use it the way it’s intended. The thought of having butter and water touch was really squicky to me, so I just use it to store my butter – with nothing else added. I put the “bell” part on the bottom, and put the top over it. Haven’t gotten sick yet, and I’ve had it for over a year.

  29. 5-22
    2:15
    pm

    Fascinating stuff, I’d never heard of them. Pretty too.

    I didn’t realise so many people still ate butter! It’s been demonised with the cholesterol hype. Maybe I should just eat the butter and take an extra statin.

    My husband has to eat butter now to try to put some weight on after years of trying to lose it so he’s eating butter again. I have to say I don’t need a butter bell. It doesn’t last that long!

  30. 5-22
    2:21
    pm

    I’ve been using my butterbell for about 6 months now and I love it. Butter has never fallen in the water. I put in enough water that the I can feel the bell touch it when I put it in. If it overflows a little now and then I just wipe it up and it’s all good. Karen Ann, I remember hearing someplace that in the old days the used to rub lard on eggs to keep them fresh for much longer. I guess it sealed the pores so bacteria couldn’t get in.

  31. 5-22
    3:09
    pm

    Angela,

    I don’t have that problem with Suzanne’s blog, but I do have it with another one, sowsearhouse. It takes 10-15 minutes to load with Firefox, but comes up right away with Internet Explorer. So maybe that would work with Suzanne’s for you.

  32. 5-22
    3:15
    pm

    I think the answer is suction. It works like top false teeth they don’t fall out either. I wonder if the boughten butter tastes better in that thing. My generic butter doesn’t have that butter flavor when it’s been in the frig. :hissyfit:

  33. 5-22
    5:22
    pm

    I have one of these and the butter does fall out of mine. Very upsetting, never mind the mess.

  34. 5-22
    6:58
    pm

    this little gadget would keep the cat from licking the butter while I’m in bed at night…I just leave mine on the counter in the wrapper.

    I might try expierementing with a small clear glass & bowl to see how this actually works….I have a very curious mind.

  35. 5-22
    8:59
    pm

    Have you seen the Baby Bells?

    They’re cutest little things, great for dinner parties – everyone gets their own little butter bell.

    The only downside, at least in my house, is that the Baby Bells only hold about a tablespoon of butter.

  36. 5-22
    9:09
    pm

    These things are too cute. But if there are not a lot of directions, I probably couldn’t figure it out either. Besides, we use a lot of butter and the soft stuff I make would probably fall out into the bottom (which is where I thought you put the water). :?

  37. 5-22
    9:11
    pm

    You are very funny! That made my day. Thanks.

  38. 5-23
    12:41
    am

    He he he – I’ve always wanted one but haven’t gotten one. I think I’d probably forget to change the water. My friend always keeps butter out on the counter in a covered butter dish and never has any trouble with it going bad. I don’t think we use ours quickly enough to do that, though. We mostly live on peanut butter toast around here.

  39. 5-23
    3:43
    am

    :sun: Okay so my daughter has one of these and left it on the stove and the butter melted! So take care with your placement

  40. 5-23
    9:47
    am

    I bought a butter bell in Savannah, Georgia at a wonderful kitchen supply store.

    The directions that came with it clearly stated that it worked because of “magic”. I did not question the validity of the statement because anything involving butter is “magic” to me!

    Sheila

  41. 5-23
    10:43
    am

    I love my butter bell. I have had my butter fall out, but it’s rare. Of course it happened when my mother came to visit. :lol: She informed me that she does NOT like my butter bell. :lol:

  42. 5-23
    1:34
    pm

    My Butter Bell calls for 1/3 cup cool water. Hope that helps.

  43. 5-23
    2:38
    pm

    I LOVE my butter bell. I try to change the water daily, if I can remember, I was told cold water was best, hence the daily change. Sometimes I put in too much and it touches the butter but I think a seal with the top is all that’s required.

  44. 5-24
    2:59
    am

    :D I have a butter boat too, like mentioned earlier, but I think the water seal would make for safer counter storage. The boat doesn’t hold much water to keep it cool. It’s pretty though, long and oval in white porceline with flowers and fruit all around. Kinda nice to hear folks still eat butter. If you read the package of margarine ingredients, you would know it’s (butter) better for you. Maybe not your waist line, but how much butter does anyone actually eat? Now those of you with really fresh, like Suzanne, with milk, cream, and butter. Mercy, :snoopy: So envious of you.

  45. 5-24
    11:42
    am

    I found super cute butter bells or crocks on Etsy.com and I love that they are all handmade pottery. :snoopy:

  46. 5-24
    5:51
    pm

    I saw these for the first time while we were on vacation last week! I was fascinated! Funny that I’d find your blog and read this post right after seeing them!

    We only use real butter in our house now, like Kathy said, all the stuff in margarine and other spreads just worries me.

  47. 5-25
    6:49
    pm

    I have a butter keeper that’s a little different from the “bell” type. It’s oval in shape (holds a whole stick of butter) and sits on top of a base that contains about an inch of water. The top part (with butter) has a lid.

    I used to have a butter bell, but find the style described above much more convenient. I simply unwrap a whole stick of butter, put it in the top crock and I’m done.

    Regardless which type of butter keeper one has, I’m sure having “spreadable” butter is heavenly.

  48. 9-20
    9:29
    pm

    Hi! I know you wrote this post a long time ago but I just got my first butter keeper and the first time we used it the butter FELL OUT! I found you as I was madly searching and troubleshooting! I finally realized it was just too hot in my kitchen after a long day of canning and chicken roasting on an 85 degree day with the AC off and the windows open. Thank goodness the butter has stayed put since it’s cooled down! Your blog is so cute!! Thanks for writing a post after my own heart!

  49. 9-20
    9:32
    pm

    sommer, I found this summer (when I don’t have the a/c on) that it DOES fall out! This is definitely not a hot kitchen idea. But it works great if you use a/c or in other seasons. I love it! (Just not in the summer, LOL)

  50. 10-26
    10:09
    am

    I’ve seen these and even have a couple of friends who have them….but….butter doesn’t spoil so quickly that it needs anything but a cover (if that) so I never understand the need. I keep a stick of butter in my cabinet all the time in a butter tray or a little bowl and in yea so many years have never had one go bad…..It’s always nice and spreadable…

    So my point is….why?

    was your butter spoiling?

  51. 2-6
    2:10
    pm

    I have a couple of the small butter keepers , I had 4 and gave 2 away , I haven’t used the small ones yet but I have used my butter boat which is along the same lines as a butter keeper except that you don’t have to turn the tub part upside down , just keep the water changed about every 3 days just like with the keepers.

  52. 4-24
    10:10
    pm

    I LOVE my butterbell!
    Did You know that Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from being PLASTIC… and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT … scroll to read more
    Margarine was originally manufactured to fatten turkeys. When it killed the turkeys, the people who had put all the money into the research wanted a payback so they put their heads together to figure out what to do with this product to get their money back.
    It was a white substance with no food appeal so they added the yellow colouring and sold it to people to use in place of butter. How do you like it? They have come out with some clever new flavourings….

    DO YOU KNOW.. The difference between margarine and butter?
    Read on to the end…gets very interesting!
    Both have the same amount of calories.

    Butter is slightly higher in saturated fats at 8 grams; compared to5 grams for margarine.
    Eating margarine can increase heart disease in women by 53% over eating the same amount of butter, according to a recent Harvard Medical Study.
    Eating butter increases the absorption of many other nutrients in other foods.
    Butter has many nutritional benefits where margarine has a few and only because they are added!
    Butter tastes much better than margarine and it can enhance the flavours of other foods.
    Butter has been around for centuries where margarine has been around for less than 100 years.

    And now, for Margarine..
    Very High in Trans fatty acids.
    Triples risk of coronary heart disease …
    Increases total cholesterol and LDL (this is the bad cholesterol) and lowers HDL cholesterol, (the good cholesterol)
    Increases the risk of cancers up to five times..
    Lowers quality of breast milk
    Decreases immune response.
    Decreases insulin response.

    And here’s the most disturbing fact… HERE IS THE PART THAT IS VERY INTERESTING!

    Margarine is but ONE MOLECULE away from beingPLASTIC… and shares 27 ingredients with PAINT

    These facts alone were enough to have me avoiding margarine for life and anything else that is hydrogenated (this means hydrogen is added, changing the molecular structure of the substance).

    Open a tub of margarine and leave it open in your garage or shaded area. Within a couple of days you will notice a couple of things:

    * no flies, not even those pesky fruit flies will go near it (that should tell you something)

    * it does not rot or smell differently because it has no value ; nothing will grow on it. Even those teeny weeny micro-organisms will not a find a home to grow. Why? Because it is nearly plastic. Would you melt your Tupperware and spread that on your toast?
    Share This With Your Friends…..(If you want to butter them up’)!

    Chinese Proverb: When someone shares something of value with you and you benefit from it, you have a moral obligation to share it with others. …so Pass the BUTTER PLEASE

  53. 9-4
    8:05
    am

    So, I was looking for the French type of butter holder that is upside down. I googled it and this site popped up. What’s weird is, I have a prior connection to you from your perfect pepperoni role recipe. You’re my hero, Suzie, and I love you to the bone. I envy your life. Thank you so much for being. -Jim

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