The topic of Butter Bells came up again recently on one of my Yahoo groups. As I said in my post about The Dutchman’s Store, I was really disappointed to not find one there. Of all the places I’ve visited in the last couple of years, I just knew they would have one … but they didn’t
If you don’t know what a Butter Bell (or French Butter Bell) is, it’s a container designed to keep room-temperature butter on your counter for extended periods of time, one that employs a salt water seal to keep your butter soft and moist, while also keeping it away from the air.
I’ve prowled local thrift stores for nearly two years looking for a cheap one … to no avail. The pickings online haven’t been great either. This Norpro is the least expensive one I’ve found on Amazon, but it’s over-priced, especially once you factor in shipping. Others just go up in price from there. I’ve even seen a few marked over $18.00, with shipping on top of that. It’s ridiculous what they want for one, especially given the fact that traditional butter dishes are a) cheap and b) plentiful. I assume the designers/manufacturers of most retail Butter Bells are trying to keep themselves in an elite corner of the market … but–as far as I was concerned–it wasn’t a corner of the market I was willing to visit … not when I could find any number of serviceable butter dishes at my local thrift store, starting at $0.49 each.
The call of the kitchen geek got me in the end, though. I didn’t need one, but I wanted one (I’m sure all of you know how that feels) … so I finally decided to see if I could engineer a Butter Bell for myself
I started at my local WalMart, and quickly found all the materials I needed: a medium-sized (I think it’s a 2.5 cup) glass storage jar and an Anchor Hocking measuring cup.
How I selected them was simple. The measuring glass has to fit properly in two places: sitting inside the lid like so:
… and–once it’s glued to the lid and inverted into the jar–it can’t touch the bottom of the jar.
I got out my trusty hot glue gun to join the lid and the measuring cup together, and plugged the glue gun in to let it start warming up. Experience working with this sort of job told me to heat my two glass pieces, too–just a bit–so that the glue doesn’t start hardening the instant you squirt it on the cold glass. That’s important because most glue guns are cheap and inefficient. It’s going to take you a couple of minutes to squeeze out enough glue to do this job … so you don’t want it hardening too much before you have a chance to join the two pieces together.
I microwaved the all-glass measuring cup for one minute (or you can heat it in some other manner) and then I microwave the jar lid (with the plastic seal) for 30 seconds. Don’t microwave the lid more than that. You could melt/warp the seals if you do.
Once your glass is hot, squeeze out a fairly large amount of hot glue into the indention in the lid. To give you an idea … using a mini-glue gun, I used approx. one and a half glue sticks in total to set up enough glue to bond the measuring cup to the lid. As soon as you get enough glue in that indentation, press the glass into place and let it cool.
Once the glue is solid (I gave it about 12 hours … just to be sure), press a stick of room temperature butter into the measuring cup.
In the storage jar, combine 2/3 cup of water with 1/2 teaspoon table salt. Stir until dissolved.
Once you’re ready to assemble your homemade Butter Bell, simply inert the butter bell down into the glass storage jar, and press until it seals.
That works, huh?
To use, pull the lid/bell from the storage jar, invert, and spread softened butter from the underside. Various manufacturers suggest changing the water every 3-7 days. Needless to say, if it’s warm … change it sooner. If it’s cool … you probably won’t need to change it quite as often, especially if you use salted water. Some makers say you don’t have to use salt in your water if your butter is salted, but since the salt greatly inhibits the growth of bacteria and yeasts … I’d recommend salting your water, regardless.
I’ll keep you posted with how it works, but–for now at least–I’m thrilled with the way it came out, and I’m anxious to take it for a spin in/around my kitchen
Bonus points: The Norpro at Amazon is $8.59 plus shipping. With my homemade version, I paid $2.89 for the glass storage jar and $1.00 for the Anchor Hocking measuring cup … so for $3.89 and a few squirts of hot glue, I had mine without having to wait for them to ship it to me.