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Butter Bells


Fat Guy
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I've been seeing this product, the Butter Bell (http://www.butterbell.com/) advertised in the back of food magazines for years. What's the deal here? Has anybody purchased this item? Does it indeed fundamentally alter your butter experience?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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I don't know if this ever altered my butter experience fundamentally. But I do have to say that this gadget, as old as butter itself, was standard kitchen utensil when I grew up in Germany. We had no refrigeration. We had iceboxes, and the iceman came only once a week, and after '42/'43 not at all. Well, we didn't have much butter either, but what we had was kept in one of those "coolers". The principle was an unglazed  earthenwear/clay pot with lit, plus a glass insert. The glass part was smaller than the clay pot. The clay pot was filled with enough cold water to hold. Not being glazed allowed the water to saturate the clay, becoming a natural insulation agains warm temperature. The glass insert, when placed (with butter in it) into the cold water and covered, kept the butter at a temperature just right for spreading. Today, if you leave butter out of the fridge overnight, it's too soft, if you leave it in, it's too hard to schmear. So there. Hope to have answered your puzzlement.

Peter
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Peter, do you use such an item today? Do you recommend its purchase?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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No, I do not have one anymore. The one my mother had got losted in the hasty departure from East Germany. My sister obtained one for me at a flea market in Muenchen, and that one got broken. Do I recommend one? yes, if it is not overly expensive. It's also a conversational piece. One word of caution, do not put ice in the cold water, it would only keep the butter harder than desired.

Peter
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They run around ร.95, though there are more expensive ones available with painted patterns and such.

I'm really dense, but I can't follow the diagram on the http://www.butterbell.com/ Web site. Does the butter get stored upside-down (I mean, I know butter doesn't have a top and bottom, but I'm talking about where the opening of the bowl is)? Is the surface of the butter touching the water? Peter, please tell all about this remarkable device.

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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My step mom received one this Christmas from an east coast relative.  We looked at it and couldn't quite figure it out.  I'm not sure if she's tried it yet.  I'll send her the link, and Peter's interesting description of the origins...thanks.  It does seem an unusual concept to store butter upside down, on top of water.  

If I am imagining this correctly, then you must wipe the water off the butter each time you use it?

(Edited by Blue Heron at 11:32 am on Jan. 6, 2002)

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I'm really dense, but I can't follow the diagram on the http://www.butterbell.com/ Web site. Does the butter get stored upside-down (I mean, I know butter doesn't have a top and bottom, but I'm talking about where the opening of the bowl is)? Is the surface of the butter touching the water?

By sheer coinkidink, there was mention of this in Chowhound.  The poster keeps her butter "out all the time in a 'butter keeper', a two-piece crockery dish.  One part holds 1/4 cup water and the other holds a stick's worth of butter, mashed into the cup.  For storage, the cup overturns into the base with the water."

I searched 'butter keeper' at Altavista and came up with a bunch of hits.  Dang things are sold all over the place.  There are some quite pretty ones at www.mississippiclayworks.com/pp1_imgs/pp1_fbk.htm with butter in them.

As near as I can tell, the butter doesn't fill the cup clear to the top.  When you invert it into the shallow saucer that contains the water, the cup rim and the saucer and the water form an air-tight seal, thus keeping the butter fresh and at the proper temperature.

Now I want one. :cheesy:

Gail

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So, okay, if the butter doesn't touch the water, what keeps it from plopping down into the water and just floating around? Does it stick that well to the surface of the dish?

Steven A. Shaw aka "Fat Guy"
Co-founder, Society for Culinary Arts & Letters, sshaw@egstaff.org
Proud signatory to the eG Ethics code
Director, New Media Studies, International Culinary Center (take my food-blogging course)

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Quote: from Fat Guy on 5:27 pm on Jan. 6, 2002

So, okay, if the butter doesn't touch the water, what keeps it from plopping down into the water and just floating around? Does it stick that well to the surface of the dish?

I consulted the 'butter keeper' Chowhound about that, and she wrote this:  "Yes, the cup with the butter is suspended upside down, and I don't know what keeps the butter from plopping into the water.  I suppose that, if I didn't pack it tightly into the cup to begin with, it could, but it never has."

She went on to correct herself, that she had meant to say 'butter bell' and not 'butter keeper'.

So there you have it.  It is apparently a mystery of science, like how cats always land on their feet.

Gail

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Steven, about this "Butterbell" devise/gadget, from clicking on their web page and clicking Information, the diagram that comes up shows the butter "hanging" upside down right in the water. Can't comment on that, never seen it before. The one I used to have was something more like a "bain marie"/double boiler type crock with lid. No water ever touched the butter, but again, the cooling was achieved through the water soaked porous pottery. The physics principle lies in the evaporation of water creating a cooling effect. It is the same principle people in arrid regions use by taken glass bottles with liquids, placing them into a soaking wet sock and hanging them on a clothes line, any, even the slightest, moving air will cool the beverage. (thanks or Bagel and Cheese info)

Peter
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The Broadway Panhandler, which hasn't been on Broadway for years, has this item on their shelves. I saw two models there this weekend. One was decorated and the other not. I believe the undecorated one was also unglazed as Peter's childhood model was. The advantage of the unglazed, as already noted, is that water will permeate the crockery and evaporate off the outside surface thereby cooling the whole device and keeping the better cooler. In both the glazed and unglazed models a function of the water is to create a seal and keep fresh air out of the container.

Broadway Panhandler is on Broome Street just off the corner of Wooster Street.

Robert Buxbaum

WorldTable

Recent WorldTable posts include: comments about reporting on Michelin stars in The NY Times, the NJ proposal to ban foie gras, Michael Ruhlman's comments in blogs about the NJ proposal and Bill Buford's New Yorker article on the Food Network.

My mailbox is full. You may contact me via worldtable.com.

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  • 3 years later...

I wanna Butter Bell for obvious reasons. I don't wanna pay $18-25 plus $7-10 shipping for obvious reasons. It's a flippin' butter dish, for pete's sake.

I iz a smart shopper, yes I iz.

I kept an eye out at the next-door-to my office resale shop. Bingo.

Got an immaculate white one for $2.50.

Had a silly superior grin on my face, took my purchase, walked to the car, fumbled for my keys, dropped the bag on the concrete,and smashed that sucker into a dozen pieces.

Do they work, and who has the best price?

:angry: Now I'm mad and I WANNA BUTTER BELL!

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:angry:  Now I'm mad and I WANNA BUTTER BELL!

My name is Judy and I am a klutz, too. Don't worry, you'll get over it.

I don't know where you are but in these parts (midwest) the TJ Maxx and Marshall's stores inexplicably offer a pretty amazing array of kitchen stuff. Some of the prices are incredibly cheap; some are not much less than regular retail, so you should go there knowing what you're after and what it *should* cost. I saw a butter bell at one or the other recently for around $3 and almost bought it (even though I already have one) just because I knew they should be $20. So, if you have either of those nearby, you might give them a try. Otherwise dear ol' eBay or overstock.com.

This is one of those things that I never dreamed I needed or wanted but, once I received one as a gift, I can no longer imagine life without one.

Judy Jones aka "moosnsqrl"

Sharing food with another human being is an intimate act that should not be indulged in lightly.

M.F.K. Fisher

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I don't worry about the water too much this time of year, the counter keeps the water cool and the kids use it so much that it's cleaned out every other day anyway. (I wash it when it empties)

I love the darn thing, but we sure do use a lot more butter since we got it! And more expensive stuff too...

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I got my Butter Bell at Ross (which is similar to TJ Maxx and Marshalls) for about $5, but am having trouble with it. I change the water every third day, but after two weeks, have seen some black mold-like stuff on the bell part. Wiped it off, but a couple of days later, it returned, and it also appeared in the butter itself. The butter also had a little off smell. I've had better luck just putting my butter in a small covered container. Any advice?

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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I got my Butter Bell at Ross (which is similar to TJ Maxx and Marshalls) for about $5, but am having trouble with it.  I change the water every third day, but after two weeks, have seen some black mold-like stuff on the bell part.  Wiped it off, but a couple of days later, it returned, and it also appeared in the butter itself.  The butter also had a little off smell.  I've had better luck just putting my butter in a small covered container.  Any advice?

I bought mine at Amazon for 7.50. I'm having the same problem as you Karen. Although the black stuff didnt get into the butter, just on the bell part.

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You have some mold spores in the microscopic pores of the glaze. It happens.

wash both pieces with soap and water, rinse well and place in a container with warm, not hot water completely covering them. Add 1/4 cup of bleach and let it sit for 24 hours. You may see some tiny bubbles streaming up from several points on the pieces which is okay.

After the treatment, rinse well with plain water then immerse it again in plain warm water, allow it to sit for an hour or so, then repeat this process.

Now wash and rinse with very hot water, or put through the dishwasher.

Use distilled water or water you have boiled and cooled in the butter bell and change the water daily.

When you have used all the butter, wash and scald, then cool before adding fresh butter. That should solve your problem.

"There are, it has been said, two types of people in the world. There are those who say: this glass is half full. And then there are those who say: this glass is half empty. The world belongs, however, to those who can look at the glass and say: What's up with this glass? Excuse me? Excuse me? This is my glass? I don't think so. My glass was full! And it was a bigger glass!" Terry Pratchett

 

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You have some mold spores in the microscopic pores of the glaze.  It happens.

wash both pieces with soap and water, rinse well and place in a container with warm, not hot water completely covering them.  Add 1/4 cup of bleach and let it sit for 24 hours.  You may see some tiny bubbles streaming up from several points on the pieces which is okay.

After the treatment, rinse well with plain water then immerse it again in plain warm water, allow it to sit for an hour or so, then repeat this process.

Now wash and rinse with very hot water, or put through the dishwasher.

Use distilled water or water you have boiled and cooled in the butter bell and change the water daily. 

When you have used all the butter, wash and scald, then cool before adding fresh butter.  That should solve your problem.

Thanks andiesenji! I'll give it a try.

Karen C.

"Oh, suddenly life’s fun, suddenly there’s a reason to get up in the morning – it’s called bacon!" - Sookie St. James

Travelogue: Ten days in Tuscany

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  • 8 months later...

I finally got a Butter Bell, liked it so much I bought another.

1/3 cup of very cold water every 2 days into the bottom. I just get it from the fridge ice water dispenser. Only time I've ever had a mold problme was when I forgot for 4-5 days.

And the second it's empty, put it in the scorching hot diswasher cycle.

How did I ever live without one?

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buttter bells are also called french butter dishes. i am a potter and make them for sale. i also have a married son living in france. the french relatives have never seen or heard of the french butterr dish. i also know it exists in germany - i saw it there in the last 8 years. now for its efficiency--it works. i advise my customers to change the water every few days. and yes the butter holds in the cup even while it is inverted into the water. it keeps the butter fairly soft and spreadable. lots of people who own cats find it is a wonderful way to keep the butter out but not available to their kitties. the ones i make are fully glazed except arround the rim. mine are individually thrown and glazed with a food safe glaze and sell for $28, but i have seen other handmade ones going for $20-$30. .as i am in vacation now i can't post a picture of my dish but maybe someday i will.

in the meantime, try one you will like it :smile:

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After reading all these comments, I OFFICIALLY WANT ONE NOW. Of course, if I find one here in Korea, that will be a miracle.

Doddie aka Domestic Goddess

"Nobody loves pork more than a Filipino"

eGFoodblog: Adobo and Fried Chicken in Korea

The dark side... my own blog: A Box of Jalapenos

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I've had my butter bell for a couple of years now, but I don't always use it because I get mold too. I like butter and all, but I have to change the water every couple of days.....even my plants don't get that kind of treatment! :blink: It's definitely an interesting product though!

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We've had one for years, and never had a mold problem. I strongly doubt the water gets changed unless the butter is used up....

For those of you with mold problems, 2 questions:

1. Do you keep it filled with water to a high enough level. IOW, does the water cover the inverted bell?

2. Do you make sure you use a CLEAN untensil when you get butter? IOW, you don't dip into the jelly jar first, and then the butter, leaving bits of jelly on the remaining butter do you?

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I've had a butterbell for several years; works great. Only occasional mold problems, mostly when someone gets crumbs of bread on the butter and then puts it back in the water.

For those of you who are waiting to find a butterbell on sale: before I got an "official" one, I used two dishes. I crammed the butter into a small, straight-sided glass bowl and inverted it into a wider, shallower bowl full of water. Worked fine.

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