The butter crock, at long last
Everyone has had the experience: you have a pile of delicious pancakes steaming in front of you. You insert your knife into the butter and attempt to spread it evenly over the surface of said pancakes. Pancakes proceed to tear wide open as your knife drags the lump of rock-hard butter right through your breakfast.
What to do? Switch back to Country Crock? Microwave (and re-chill) your butter every time you want to use it? Leave it sitting out on the counter all the time, maintaining spreadable consistency but risking the stench of rancid dairy in your butter dish?
Ah, but there is an alternative option!
I have finally gotten my hands on a butter crock, specifically the Le Creuset Butter Crock in Caribbean. (I wanted Marseille, but that’s a new color and hasn’t made it to the outlet store yet. 😦 )
It’s hard to describe in words how this thing works, so I’ll put up the pictures and then have a go.
The thing that looks like the lid is actually the cup that holds the butter itself.
You soften your butter, then pack it into the cup. You don’t want it liquid, because then it will slide out when you invert it. It needs to be just soft enough to pack firmly.
This is the inside of the base. You pour cold water into the bottom up to the fill line, then pop the bell inside. The bottom of the bell is beneath the water, which keeps the butter airtight. You keep the butter crock at room temperature on your counter, replacing the water every couple of days, and the butter stays fresh, yet spreadable.
Depending on who you ask, you can keep the butter in there with fresh water for anywhere from 5 to 30 days. Truthfully, I think a lot of it will depend on your weather: how hot and humid it gets in your kitchen. This is not an item to store a product that you rarely use; this assumes that you’re going through butter fairly quickly, but not quickly enough to just let the sticks sit out by themselves.
Important tips for choosing a butter crock:
- Butter crocks are also called butter bells or French butter dishes.
- You want a crock that holds at least a stick of butter.
- Porous materials are not your friend. A marble version exists, but prolonged use has been known to leave mold. Stick with ceramic.
- Make sure you find one with a flat lid, or a flat knob on the lid. The bell is meant to be a serving dish, so it needs to be able to stand up on its own.
Important tips for using a butter crock:
- Make sure the inside of the bell is thoroughly dry before trying to pack the butter in. A wet surface prevents the butter from sticking, and increases the chances that the butter will fall out.
- Change the water religiously, especially if it gets dirty. (Crumbs in the butter will fall into the water.)
- Be aware of the climate in your kitchen. Hot and humid air will not only shorten the usable life of your butter, but can melt it and cause it to fall out. Don’t keep it next to the stove!
So far, I LOVE LOVE LOVE this thing. It’s Le Creuset, so of course it’s beautiful – like artwork on my counter. I’m so bad about remembering to thaw butter before serving pancakes or muffins or ANYTHING that requires spreadable butter; this has made my life so much easier. And it solves my problem of finding a butter dish to fit my stupid West Coast size butter sticks. Take THAT, California! 🙂
Here are some options for finding your very own butter crock:
Le Creuset: If you don’t like these colors, look around at different retailers; the company makes different colors for different stores. (If you live near a Le Creuset outlet, even better. There were at least five colors on the shelves at mine, and I got it at a much more reasonable price.)
The Original Butter Bell Crock: They have a large selection; you should be able to find one to match any style of decor. And they’re a little cheaper than Le Creuset. Some even come with a little spreader!
French-style (no lid knob): These are nice, with a little more vintage look.
The budget model: This is about the cheapest one you’re going to find, but be aware of a commensurate lack of quality. Some people use these and have no trouble, but like any inexpensive stoneware, the risks of cracking and crazing are higher. If you’re not sure you love this enough to pay out for an expensive one, this can be your trial run.