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Butter Bells

d
debw1946 Jan 3, 2011 10:12 AM

Do these things work? How often do you have to change the water and how long will the butter actually stay fresh outside the frig?

Thanks for your help.

Deb W.

  1. f
    fourunder Jan 3, 2011 10:38 AM

    http://www.ltremain.com//page_display...

    Three Days for water... The small amount of butter per stick never lasts more than a week, so no issues with spoiling.

    They make nice gifts.

    1. John E. Jan 3, 2011 10:41 AM

      We have used them for over two years without a problem. There have been other threads on this topic and some people responded with complaints, but we have had only good luck with ours.

      They say the water should be changed every three days. We have let ours go longer and it hasn't been a problem. The only time the butter has fallen into the water is if it is too soft when it is first put into the butter bell. We have never had any mold or anything else happen. I think it depends more on what's floating around in the air in your home rather than the ambient temperature of the house. Stuff gets moldy in the refrigerator, so if mold is forming on the butter in the butter bell it's not because it's too warm.

      1. r
        rainey Jan 3, 2011 11:25 AM

        We've been using one for years. I like the Emile Henry vaguely conical shaped one because the wider base and smaller opening keeps the butter from dropping down into the water -- a problem we've had with other models.

        I empty the water and pack the butter cavity with ice cubes each night before I go to sleep. By the morning they've melted and the butter is soft again.

        I pack mine with a quarter pound and we use that for about a week before I remove any remaining butter and wash the whole thing. Never had a bigger problem than the toast crumbs.

        1. kaleokahu Jan 3, 2011 12:48 PM

          debw: Count me as a complainer--yes I have one, and I don't especially like it. IME, it doesn't keep the butter any longer than the paper wrap or a butter tray in the fridge, and changing the water all the time is a pain. If you DON'T change the water regularly, the anerobic bacteria make for one of the worst smells in the world. Forget measuring out of them. And every one I've seen is unstable when open.

          17 Replies
          1. re: kaleokahu
            John E. Jan 3, 2011 03:26 PM

            Your experience has been the opposite of ours. The whole point of these things is so you DON'T have to keep your butter in the refrigerator so it is soft enough to spread. When you lift the butter out to use it, you dump the old water out and put new water in, easy peasy. We've accidentally left the butter out and been gone for a week and there was no bacteria, no mold, no problems. It's never tipped over either.

            1. re: John E.
              kaleokahu Jan 4, 2011 03:16 PM

              All I'm saying is that without habitual water changes (especially if you don't also refrigerate). you're gonna be growing some anerobic bugs. If, as you say, the "whole point" is to be able to not refrigerate your butter, a simple covered butter dish (that accepts a whole 1/4, so you can measure) works as well. Folks like the idea of underwater butter, I guess.

              1. re: kaleokahu
                Chemicalkinetics Jan 4, 2011 03:20 PM

                The idea of underwater butter is awesome. Seriously. I didn't know what these things are for until I read about them a few days ago. I have seen them, but didn't know them. I may just get one in the future, but first I need to get a salt pig.

                1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                  kaleokahu Jan 4, 2011 03:49 PM

                  Chem: You can double down and go for underwater salt, too!

                  Hey, I like your style, Chem, so if you see a ne plus ultra saltpig, lemme know?

                  1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                    tim irvine Feb 11, 2011 05:58 PM

                    Chem, you definitely need a salt pig!

                  2. re: kaleokahu
                    John E. Jan 4, 2011 03:43 PM

                    As I posted before, we have had no bugs or mold. There apparently is no bacteria or spores floating around our kitchen. The only time we put our butter bell in the refrigerator is when we go out of town. We have a faucet nearby so the water changes aren't a problem either. If your butter was underwater you were using way too much water.

                    1. re: John E.
                      kaleokahu Jan 4, 2011 03:55 PM

                      John E: "If your butter was underwater you were using way too much water." Help me understand... Isn't the idea to put in enough water to submerge the rim of the "bell", and supposedly seal out air? And--other than making a mess on the table--how could you possibly use too much water?

                      1. re: kaleokahu
                        l
                        Leepa Jan 4, 2011 04:14 PM

                        On mine, it only needs a scant half inch of water in the base to seal out the air. I've never needed to add enough to make a mess on the table.

                        I've read that if you use unsalted butter, one should add a bit of salt to the water to retard spoilage.

                        1. re: Leepa
                          kaleokahu Jan 4, 2011 04:19 PM

                          Leepa: Yes, I bet it doesn't take much water--I only made that mistake the first time I used it. I was just responding to John E.'s statement that I was using 'way too much, and why would too much matter? Thanks.

                          1. re: Leepa
                            Chemicalkinetics Jan 4, 2011 04:29 PM

                            That is a good point. I presume the reason for changing water is to keep the water fresh and make sure the bacteria are not growing in the water. Highly salted water will inhibit bacteria growth, so that will increase the duration for changing water.

                          2. re: kaleokahu
                            John E. Jan 4, 2011 04:31 PM

                            I was trying to be funny. You mentioned underwater butter. You are correct, only the rim is underwater. You live in Hawaii, right? There must be more stuff in the environment that spoils food. Right now the outdoor temp here is 2 and the kitchen temp is 65.

                            1. re: John E.
                              Chemicalkinetics Jan 4, 2011 04:34 PM

                              I think Leepa bought up a good point or two. A salted butter will spoil slower than an unsalt butter. European style butter has less water content and may spoil slower (?). Temperature matters too. Hawaii is probably warmer than where you live.

                              1. re: Chemicalkinetics
                                John E. Jan 4, 2011 04:41 PM

                                We only buy unsaled butter. I think the temp has less to do with it than available microbes, spores, etc. Since stuff spoils in the refrigerator. You must have been writing your post at the same time I was (re. temp where I live).

                                The only real point I have is that we have had none of the problems some others seem to have experienced.

                              2. re: John E.
                                kaleokahu Jan 4, 2011 04:52 PM

                                John E.: Sorry I didn't get your joke. My heart is in Hawai'i, but I live in Seattle.

                                There are many things like the butterbells that appeal to and work for some, others not so much. I recently defended the humble honey spurtle here against the polyethylene squirt bottle, so to each his own.

                                1. re: kaleokahu
                                  John E. Jan 4, 2011 06:21 PM

                                  I had to look up that thread. I must have missed the 'spurtle' reference because I had never heard that before. Our honey is in 1 liter plastic Fanta bottles (which get squeezed). My father brought several home on a visit to relatives in Ukraine (a cousin is a beekeeper over there). It's the only honey I can remember having that hasn't crystalized. (We don't eat much honey).

                                  1. re: John E.
                                    s
                                    smkit Jan 4, 2011 06:24 PM

                                    Hey, I brought some samagon (homemade vodka) back in a little plastic bottle from Ukraine. No crystals there either....

                                    1. re: smkit
                                      John E. Jan 4, 2011 06:49 PM

                                      My dad didn't try that but my grandmother did. She brought back 10 liters of potato vodka her brother made. This was 1970. She went back to her home village using her Canadian papers (she first emigrated to Canada in 1922) so she was actually traveling with an illegal passport. She ditched the tour she was on, that means she also ditched her 'watcher' to go home to see her brothers and sisters. Anyway, she got all the way back to Minnesota before they were going to check her suitcase. She said "what do you think a little old lady like me would have in there"? She left all of her clothes with her sisters so her bag was full of booze and other gifts. The customs guy let her through without checking her luggage. The last time I flew they took my toothpaste.

                    2. s
                      smkit Jan 4, 2011 05:58 AM

                      I have used one for a couple years now and really like it. I don't change the water as much as I should and have only run into problems with it turning rancid a few times, but I use a lot of butter so the butter doesn't sit around that long.

                      I have never had the butter fall into the water or not stick, buy my parents have had that problem with theirs and no longer use it. I think a lot of variables can cause this (a) type of butter (b) where you store it -- is it near a stove? and (c) how warm do you keep your house. Just my troubleshooting thoughts.

                      It is hard for me to imagine a stability issue unless there is a specific design out there that is flawed. The base of mine is about the same size as a coffee cup and is very stable. The top does have a smaller handle that you can use as a short-term 'stand'. Mine has never tipped over, but usually I just put it back in the base.

                      I would also like to add another benefit to the butter bell: your butter doesn't sit in the fridge and absorb odors.

                      6 Replies
                      1. re: smkit
                        kaleokahu Jan 4, 2011 03:24 PM

                        smkit: Maybe my butter bell is special. It, too, is about as wide as a coffee cup, but when out of the water jar sits on a small rim (the handle?) It tips over easily.

                        "...your butter doesn't sit in the fridge and absorb odors." If you use a lot of butter, yours sits in the fridge absorbing odors until you put some of it in the bell, and then the rest sits there, too. Right?

                        1. re: kaleokahu
                          s
                          smkit Jan 4, 2011 06:20 PM

                          My butter goes directly from freezer to the butter bell. I make my own butter and buy some hand-rolled stuff and freeze it. The good butter goes in the freezer and the cooking sticks are in the fridge.

                          As for the rim, mine is like that too and I also thought it would be unbalanced at first, but there is a sort of counter weight disk that makes it much more stable than I expected. A tea cup with the same height and base would tip much easier because of the center of gravity being higher, but for some reason mine seams very well balanced with that low/cover disk.

                          But then again, maybe it is simply that it exceeded my expectations of balance considering the small base. Regardless, mine has never tipped probably because I put it back in the base directly after using it.

                          1. re: smkit
                            kaleokahu Jan 4, 2011 06:27 PM

                            smkit: "My butter goes directly from freezer to the butter bell."

                            Do you portion it out before freezing, so you know you'll be talking out just the right amount to fill the bell? If so, that's a good idea. Thanks.

                            1. re: kaleokahu
                              s
                              smkit Jan 4, 2011 07:51 PM

                              The butter I personally make is almost exactly the right amount. I bought some vintage wooden butter mold off of eBay and I have my 'fancy rounds' frozen in wax paper and zip bags ready to go. It works perfectly. The other hand-rolled butter is in larger amounts and I just take it out to soften, then cut it and refreeze the rest. I've gotten used to how much I need.

                              1. re: smkit
                                kaleokahu Jan 4, 2011 08:34 PM

                                smkit: Cool. That must be really satisfying to make and serve your own like that. I haven't made butter since grade school.

                                Since you're a do-er, have you seen Grace Firth's book "Stillroom Cookery"?

                                1. re: kaleokahu
                                  s
                                  smkit Jan 4, 2011 09:11 PM

                                  No I haven't, but will definitely check it out. It looks interesting.

                                  Btw, every other holiday I recuse myself from cooking duty (sort of) and just make bread from scratch (sans mixer) and my own butter. It is amazing how many jaws drop when you whip that up in a few hours.

                      2. b
                        baseballfan Jan 4, 2011 04:23 PM

                        I have had 2 of these and while I wanted to like them, they just didn't work for me. I never had problem with spoilage but we use a lot of butter. I did have problems with the butter sliding out into the water. I have resorted to buying the spreadable butter for toast etc and using my refrigerated hard butter for everything else.

                        1. l
                          Leepa Jan 4, 2011 04:40 PM

                          I hope this isn't overstepping the bounds of Chowhound, but I'd love some feedback from those of you here who use the butter bells. I'm a potter and have made a few of these and haven't settled on "my" design yet. From those of you who use them, what do you like best about yours? I've seen some with a small air hole near the top (or the bottom of the butter container depending on how you view it). I'm not sure what that does. Does yours have that? Does it have a knob on the top that becomes a foot when it's turned over? I'd love to hear about yours. Thanks.

                          My apologies to Chowhound if I've overstepped.

                          2 Replies
                          1. re: Leepa
                            John E. Feb 11, 2011 09:47 PM

                            I just now noticed your post. Here are a couple of links with photos:

                            http://www.butterbell.com/

                            http://www.csnstores.com/asp/show_det...

                            We have both kinds of these butter bells. I also found a very old, what appears to be a hand thrown and hand painted and fired butter keeper that is shaped more like the Emile Henry version but larger. The Henry butter keeper has a narrower opening for the butter and is shaped less like a bell. It also does not have the pronounced 'handle' at the top of the bell (top when it is in he water).

                            I always had an interest in pottery and did a little of it back in my school days. I still remember the name of the kid that stabbed one of my pots with a pencil before it got fired. I didn't find out what happened until after it exploded in the kiln. If I hadn't been such a scrawny kid in the 8th grade I would have done something about it. Ol' Harold got away with it that time.

                            1. re: John E.
                              l
                              Leepa Feb 12, 2011 04:50 AM

                              Thanks, John. I really like the design of the Henry one as well. A friend of mine makes them like that. I think my final version will be somewhat like that as well.

                              I've only had one kiln disaster when another potter friend persuaded me to wedge some couscous into the clay and throw that. He has success with it - making an open clay body and visual interest. Mine just blew up.

                          2. Bada Bing Jan 5, 2011 10:58 AM

                            I like the butter bell a lot, and I think I have gone at least month or so between water changes. I only change the water when I refill the bell, and I don't worry about time. Maybe I'm insensitive to bacteria, or maybe I just go through tons of butter and turnover saves me, but I have found the butter bell to be a very good and uncomplicated tool.

                            1. LNG212 Feb 11, 2011 11:59 AM

                              I just got a butter bell. I've had it for about a month now and I love it. The butter is the perfect temp. Of course, it's dead of winter here so I've experienced no "butter falling into water" issues. I haven't seen what happens in the summer when our kitchen tends to be rather warm and if that will make the butter fall out. I've purchased one to give my mother too - she always wants to leave her butter out but worries about it going rancid.

                              @leepa -- mine is rather small-ish, white with a blue strip, with the little handlething on top. The butter "bell" part balances quite nicely on the handlething when you invert it. I don't know what I would do differently at all as I like the design. But a hand-made one would be a real special gift, I'd think.

                              1. LaureltQ Feb 12, 2011 05:32 PM

                                I just keep my butter in one of those wide flat ramekins that are totally useless for creme brulee. I keep it in my spice cupboard to keep the cat and flies away. It stays great for as long as the butter lasts.

                                Is it really a problem for people to keep room temp butter for a week without it spoiling? Maybe our house is just so cold that it's like it's refrigerated/

                                1 Reply
                                1. re: LaureltQ
                                  John E. Feb 12, 2011 05:43 PM

                                  Sometimes it gets too hot and the butter melts or gets too soft. The butter bell keeps it the same consistency pretty much year-round (at least it does for us). Plus, we don't gave enough cupboard space as it is and dedicating enough shelf space for a butter dish just won't work.

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