Living Without Refrigeration – The Butter Bell

By , July 5, 2010

Living off grid, we’re constantly realizing the value of “outdated” tools and methods. The old-fashioned butter bell crock is a particularly useful and decorative tool.

Butter bells. The one on the left is our new favorite (Photo: Mark Zeiger).

Believed to have been developed in 19th century France, the butter bell is a small two-piece crock. The lid has a bowl or recess in which butter is pressed. It is then nested in the base, which holds a few millimeters of cool, salted water. The crock can be stored on a shelf or kept on the table, rather than refrigerated. The salt water seals air away from the butter, keeping it from going rancid. This not only preserves butter longer without refrigeration, but also keeps the butter spreadably soft.

We have used a butter bell for a long time. It is, of course, more frugal to use spreadable butter, which avoids using too much simply because it chunks up! Butter bells make great gifts, particularly for weddings. Recently, we found a rather homespun crock at the local thrift store that we now use most often, as it fits the rusticity of our cabin perfectly.

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