Using a Butter Crock

Butter Keeper Crock

Butter Crock
Butter Crock | Source

What is a Butter Crock?

Butter crocks are a clever piece of pottery which has been in use since the middle ages. They have two parts:

1. A lid with a bell-shaped container attached to it which you fill with butter.

2. A bottom crock that you fill with cold water.

When you put the butter in the water, it seals it to keep it fresh. Of course before refrigeration, butter crocks were essential to keep the butter from spoiling

How Does a Butter Crock Work?

When you place the butter bell inside the water-filled crock, it completely seals the butter so that oxygen and bacteria can't get in. The result?

  • The butter stays fresh up to a month.
  • The butter is soft and spreadable all the time.
  • Your butter is always ready for the table in an attractive serving container.

How to Use Butter Keeper

Butter Keeper with water and butter
Butter Keeper with water and butter | Source
Butter Keeper Lid fits in crock
Butter Keeper Lid fits in crock

How Do You Take Care of the Butter Keeper Crock?

Caring for the crock is easy and since it is made of porcelain, it is dishwasher safe and should last your lifetime. To keep the butter at its best:

  • Change the water every 3 days.
  • Refill with cold water.
  • Add a little salt to the water to enhance the preservation of the butter.
  • Take all the butter out and wash the crock once a month. Refill with fresh butter.
  • When you refill the crock, make sure it is dry. Then soften the butter on the counter, but not too much. It should be packed firmly in the crock.
  • Make sure you get all the air bubbles out of the butter when you first put it in the crock and as you use it.
  • You can put flavored butter, like my Honey Butter (with orange, lemon, cinnamon and pecan variations) in the crock, but they won't last as long. Check for freshness before you use.
  • You can't use the butter crock effectively for keeping whipped butter or margarine over a long period, but you could use it to serve those butter or even cream cheese or another dip.
  • If you butter falls out of the bell, be sure you pack it in tightly, don't let it sit on the counter too long and use a few ice cubes to keep water cold.

Where Can You Buy Butter Crocks?

Can you buy butter crocks today? Yes. Potters still handcraft butter crocks and you might find one at a craft fair. Moreover, the popularity of those handcrafted items, as well as the revival in gourmet cooking, has led to three manufacturers producing butter keeps of excellent quality:

  • La Creuset and L. Tremain produce stoneware butter crocks that have elegant designs in many colors.
  • Norpo and Butter Bell manufacture classic styled butter keepers which are inexpensive. Norpo even has one made in marble.
  • Handmade Butter Keepers: You can also still find some craft potters selling butter crocks in their shops or at craft fairs. Look for them with the other stoneware.

Butter Keeper in Other Languages

In German it is "Butterdose."

In French it is "Pot a beurne Breton"

In English, it is called: Butter Bell, Butter Keeper, Butter Bowl, Butter Saver, Butter Dish with water, Butter Keeper Crock or French Butter Dish.

Where do Butter Crocks Come from?

A markerVallauris france -
Vallauris, France
[get directions]

Ceramic Butter crocks from Vallouris, France were well known. They may have been invented here.

History of Butter Keepers

The famous French potters in Vallauris, France are given credit for designing and marketing the first ceramic butter crocks. Because they were easier to wash and keep clean than the wooden keepers used previously, porcelain butter keepers quickly became popular.

With refrigeration, butter could be stored safely without special pottery, and so many modern people aren't familiar with butter keepers. However, during the 1970s and 80s, craft potters in the U.S. rediscovered this useful crock and began producing them for their stores and craft fairs. That is how I first saw one at the home of my friend Katie, who showed me how it worked. As soon as I saw it, I wanted one too!

Nowadays, butter crocks are a wonderful way to keep butter soft and spreadable. Everyone knows how unpleasant it is to either have the chunk of cold butter either just sit on your bread in one piece or else make holes in your toast as you try to spread it. Butter keepers are attractive and useful kitchen equipment. They keep your butter ready for the table so you don't have to heat it up before using it or remember to take it out of the refrigerator to sit out a while before the meal.

Butter Crocks as Collectables

Vintage Butter Crocks are now valued collectors items. Americans particularly value these utilitarian crocks because they represent a way of life when families had no refrigeration and needed to keep the butter they made themselves fresh. Owning an antique butter crock is a reminder of the hardships the pioneers encountered.

Which butter crockery is most valued? Of course, older pieces are more highly sought after, as well as ones which are more ornamental. Because Butter Crocks were items used every day, they often have nicks, cracks, or sometimes are missing a lid or have mismatched pieces. Butter crocks with interesting designs or the names of the manufacturer are valued more highly. However, perhaps the most important thing in collecting is to find a piece that you like!

Butter Crock Enhances Meals

Soft  butter on cornbread
Soft butter on cornbread | Source

Butter Crock is a Connection to the Past

Why buy a butter crock? Not only is it useful, it is a connection to the people of the past and a different way of life. When I got married, my French mother-in-law told me that they always kept their butter in a "Pot a beurene Breton" at her family's country home in Perigueux, France. For my girls, using a butter crock reminds them of their meme, but also is a connection with the American pioneer past of my side of the family. We talked about this when we visited our local history museum and watched butter being churned.

They wanted to make their own butter, so we did using our Home Made Butter Recipe. They loved being able to pack the butter in the crock and we talked about how Laura in Little House on the Prairie had done these sorts of tasks.

Do you have a favorite baked good to eat with butter? Share it in the comments and get our mouths watering!

How to Make Home Made Butter

More by this Author


Comments 15 comments

VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 2 years ago from United States Author

Yes--you certainly can keep it in the refrigerator. I also live in a very humid climate and I do sometimes keep it in the refrigerator when we aren't using it for a while. Great idea!


SuthunLady 2 years ago

This may be a really silly question, but, hey! cut me some slack here....I've had a tough few days.........

Would it be okay to use the butter crock as described but keep it in the 'frig? I realize this may be defeating the purpose of the whole soft, spreadable, thing, but.....I don't use lots & lots of butter, however, I love the crock. I do live in a hot, mildewy, type climate and I'm gone often. So, I'm thinking use the crock - keep it in the refrigerator and when I'm going to be using the crock just set it out early in the day. Would this work or am I totally wonky on this? Thanx for any input on this!


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 3 years ago from United States Author

Hi mimi--I think whether butter spoils may depend on where you live and also how fast you use the butter. I'm in a hot climate, so it spoils fast.


Mimi 3 years ago

I keep butter on the counter in a glass covered butter dish in all the seasons and have never had it spoil. It's soft and ready to use. I spotted a vintage butter keeper at an estate sale, which is how I landed here, curious about its use. Thx for the info, was curious if anyone else keeps butter on the counter and if they've ever experienced it spoiling?


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Picadilly--love that name! You are right that this makes a great gift. It isn't expensive and is unique too.


picadilly profile image

picadilly 4 years ago from Schaumburg, IL

I love this hub!!! I have learned something new today, and have been given a great idea for Christmas presents for friends who live in their kitchen with their gadgets!! The butter crock will make a unique gift!! xo


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Thanks so much toknowinfo. I was so surprised when I started researching these too!


toknowinfo profile image

toknowinfo 4 years ago

Wow, I never knew about butter crocks. This was such an interesting and well done hub. Thanks for putting this together and really teaching me a lot. Rated up, useful, interesting and awesome.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

Don't tell anyone but I use butter all the time~ Not a lot - just a tiny bit but I prefer it to using substitutes and that slimy stuff my husband uses thinking it's good for him...welll I don't think so~ I'm definitely going to try this...here I thought you had to have a churn...and maybe a cow for good measure!


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

akirchner--I didn't put it in the Hub but I actually found some pretty good arguments to say butter is good for you! I'd love to know that was true. Making your own is really fun. My kids love to do it. We usually make ice cream at the same time--basically do the same technique but you put some vanilla and sugar with the cream, then put it in a bag or plastic container with ice cubes and salt around it.


akirchner profile image

akirchner 4 years ago from Central Oregon

Dang - I'm not sure I needed to come here and see how to make butter...how COOL is that? I love making everything from scratch and it is downright time consuming but making my own butter...well now I just have to try it!

Love the butter crocks - and way to go too on the map thing...I can't seem to keep that in my mind for 5 seconds...how am I gonna get a map in mine? Maybe I'll put one in for my Italian dish...thanks for the idea!!!


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

zsobig--hope you do! I love learning about new things like this.


zsobig profile image

zsobig 4 years ago from United Kingdom

Wow I have never heard of this appliance before, but I will try it out once in the future.

Voted up + useful!


VirginiaLynne profile image

VirginiaLynne 4 years ago from United States Author

Wow--we are just doing the back to the basics in a small way. We do have a group of people near us who do live as much as possible in a very simple way, making everything themselves. I think there is such value in learning to live life simply.


carter06 profile image

carter06 4 years ago from Cronulla NSW

I love this Virginia...I used to make butter in a churn when we lived on a property in Young(see my hub about a Cherry stoner)and loved the fresh taste...our dream is to move back to a small property in the next few years where we can get back to a few basics & produce some products organically...thanks for the info...VUUA & shared...cheers

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