Butter Crocks - use a beurrier to keep your butter fresh
The butter bell or crock -
"Well" said my mum "what a great idea. Look how this keeps the butter fresh and cool."
We were in a café in France and the item she was talking about was a beurrier or, as they're sometimes called, a crock.
Throughout our meal, she kept mentioning it because this was many years ago and these items weren't available at home.
"See how it sits in the water" she'd say, then "and it's easy to spread too..."
Every five minutes she'd say something about the beurrier. All that fuss about a simple dish....
"OK" said my dad (in a pretty exasperated tone) "I get the hint - as soon as we've finished eating, we'll go and buy you one".
I, as the eleven year old who had just started learning French as school, was dispatched to ask the French waiter where we could buy such a thing. "Er ... excusez moi ... le beurre, um , beurre dish, ou can we achetez one?" Pretty hopeless, I know.
The search was on
Despite my almost non-existent French, but probably due to some rather inventive mime, the waiter seemed to understand me and launched into a torrent of French.
I understood about three words.
My dad, I think, hoped that mum would forget all about her quest, thanks to the intricacies of paying the café bill ("oh, I don't understand this foreign money"), pre-journey bathroom visits and getting three kids into the car. But she hadn't.
Despite having three grumpy kids who wanted to be on the beach and a reluctant husband who hated shopping, Mum was on a mission.It must have taken us all afternoon to finally locate a precious beurrier to buy and it became one of mum's most precious possessions! Fast forward to today and mum is no longer with us but her crock is still in daily use in my sister's home.
It would have been a lot easier with the internet!
We could have saved a whole afternoon of our valuable vacation time, had the internet been around in those days. These items, also known as bells and keepers, are now widely available online. As someone who has been using one since the age of eleven (you could say that I'm a crock connoisseur!) I've selected the best below.
Le Creuset crock
I love this gorgeous example. Of course, the name of Le Creuset is known to everyone who enjoys the best kitchenware. Something I particularly like about this one is that it is actually made in France in the traditional way.
Like other similar items, it ensures that the spread stays fresh but is kept at a temperature that makes it easy to spread - no more carving solid slices for your toast! I love the bright cherry color too and it's good to know that this comes with a lifetime warranty.
The company produces other kitchen accessories in the same color - this could be the start of a lovely collection. You can use the button below to get more info or to order.
Glazed French keeper
Look at this one - isn't that glaze magnificent?
This isn't just a practical way of keeping your dairy fresh and ready to use, it's a beautiful ceramic object in its own right. This is a handcrafted and I'd really urge you to take a good look at the other ceramic products they produce too.
They make a range of keepers (too many to put onto this page) in a lovely range of designs and glazes. These are handmade in America and would make a wonderful gift as they are an art object as well as being hugely practical.
This is a two man company (well, one man and his wife) and it's great to think that these artisans are able to offer their work online so that they are available to us all. The button below will take you to more details.
Although these are a very traditional item, they are also available in designs that will suit modern décor and today's dining table,
This is a pleasant combination of the traditional look and a more streamlined modern appearance.
Although I'm showing the lovely cerise color here it's also available in a pretty Lemon yellow, a rich blue and a deep eggplant-colored purple.
Although the design leans slightly towards a modern look, this is a genuine French beurrier that's made in the Burgundy region of France by a company that combines its 150 year history with modern technology to provide an excellent product.
This pot can hold a full eight ounces and keeps it fresh and ready to spread at any time.
I love the glaze on this ceramic pot - it's so rich and deep. Use the button below to see enlarged images.
Sleek in steel
I usually prefer moden-looking kitchen goods rather than traditional even though I have a soft spot for the traditional type for nostaliga reasons. So I love this version featuring crisp stainless steel and clear glass. As you might expect from its modern design, this item comes from Scandinavia.
One of the most stylish restaurants I have ever been to used these on every table. The company that provides this item carefully select the products they sell to ensure that they are stylish and efficient. If you're looking for a gift for someone who likes sleek modern design that's married to stylish looks, I'm sure that this would be ideal.
Click on the button below to learn more or to order. Gift wrapping and messaging are available too so this is a great way to send a gift to someone who isn't local.
The example below is a lovely blend of both traditional and modern. It's extremely functional and looks wonderful.
Although the black version is shown here, the Bell is available in a range of colors.
Personally, I love the black because it combines the traditional beurrier shape with sleek good looks that are perfect for today's modern kitchen. It's also available in green, yellow, blue, red and white. For those wanting a traditional look, there is also a version available that white and green with a pink flower motif. That is too flowery for my tastes but would look lovely in a traditional farmhouse-style kitchen or with vintage or retro decor.
These are made in China and distributed by an American company. If you use the button below, you'll be able to see the range available and see enlarged, detailed images.
About the beurrier
- It's easy to be confused as these are also referred to as pots, keepers and French dishes. 'Butter Bell' is a brand name but the product is the same thing. In our house, we just called it the French thingy!
- These are ideal at keeping spreads ready to use without the need of refrigeration. They were first produced in France in the nineteenth century - a long time before household refrigeration became the norm.
- As you can see in the photograph above, the spread sits in the bell-shaped part on the inside of the lid. The lower part is then filled about half way with water and when the lid is put on, the contents stay soft enough to spread but are protected from heat and bacteria.
- Something that amazed me when I was a child was that the spread doesn't fall out! It's added when it's slightly soft and pressed down so that there are no pockets of air. This miraculously keeps everything in place.
- The water should be changed every few days and the contents will stay fresh - without being in the fridge - for about thirty days or so.
- This means that your spread can live out on the countertop and this saves space in your fridge. Because crocks are stylish items in themselves, they look great on the dinner table too so there's no need to have separate dishes for storing and serving.
- Herb spreads can also be kept in the pot although they won't keep as long as regular dairy spreads. This is great when you're entertaining.
- When the weather is very warm, or when you're using your beurrier outdoors in the sun, add slivers of ice to the water to help it keep cool. The crock is ideal for when you're eating al fresco because the spread is protected from insects.
- Have you ever spread onion flavored spread onto something sweet? I have - yuk. This is because dairy spreads stored in the fridge will pick up the odors of other foods that are stored in there. By using your crock, the butter will always taste as it should.
All crock images from Amazon. The photograph of the French cafe is from stock.xchng,