The $15 French Butter Keeper I Wish I’d Bought Years Ago
Nobody does butter — sorry, I mean, beurre — like the French. Whether it’s the luscious brunch staple hollandaise sauce or a pastry-making technique that calls for wrapping a buttery dough around a giant slab of butter, these folks have mastered the art of dairy fat. So, it’s not surprising that the French also figured out an ingenious way to keep butter soft without running the risk of spoilage.
Mais oui, I’m talking about the French butter crock.
When I was growing up, my parents kept their room-temperature butter in an American-style butter keeper (like this one, only way less fancy). It worked all right, but it was never perfect. In the hot summer months, the butter would turn into a puddle in the cupboard, and in the winter, we might as well have buttered our toast with ice cubes. When I moved out of my folks’ house, I kept my butter in a Mason jar on the counter. I quickly learned this was a huge mistake, because the airtight glass-and-metal container meant that the butter went rancid even quicker than it would outside of the jar! So then I just kept it on a small plate, which meant that it was susceptible to the dog hair that’s perpetually wafting around my kitchen. (Sorry, I know; gross.)
I recently decided to invest in a French-style butter crock and, frankly, I’m a little irked I didn’t do it sooner!
This tool is also known as a butter keeper. Unlike American stick storers, a small amount of cold water goes into the bottom of the crock and this makes all the difference: It helps regulate the temperature of the butter as it waits patiently for your toast and tomato sandwiches, keeping it spreadable but not melty. Surface tension is what keeps that mass of upside-down butter in place, which I learned from frenchbutterdish.com, a real website that exists and is very interesting. Most crocks have a small line near the bottom to indicate how far up to fill them with water. If you overfill, the butter will get wet and you’ll get water on your counter.
Yes, you do have to change the water regularly, but there’s no need to get fanatical about it. I refresh mine every morning while I wait for my coffee to brew, but I’ve also gone a few days without noticing any funny (smelling) business. The crock won’t keep your butter indefinitely, but if it’s taking you longer than, say, a month, to eat a few tablespoon’s worth of deliciously soft butter, then a) Why did you buy a French butter crock? and b) You need more dinner rolls in your life.
One helpful hint on making the most out of your crock: Pack the butter in the well when it’s soft. (Cramming slabs of cold butter inside would lead to frustration and won’t have the same effect.)
Buy: Priority Chef Store French Butter Crock, $14.39 (originally $16.99)
Do you have a butter crock? Do you love it? How much do you love it? Tell us in the comments!