Keep it simple

One of the things that can help to increase sustainability is simplification. For example, simplify the food chain by buying direct from a local producer and you can reduce food miles and keep money in the local economy.

Something that has been niggling at me for ages is what I spread on my bread. Although lactose intolerant, I can eat dairy in the form of butter or margarine in small quantities and do use it on toast and sandwiches; plus Mr Snail-of-happiness is not lactose intolerant, so we’d use it anyway. Because I like to be able to spread the stuff, we have been using a dairy-based margarine that can be used straight from the fridge. However, it contains lots of things:

Vegetable Oils (31% Seed Oils), Buttermilk (27%), Salt (1.7%), Cream, Emulsifiers (E471, Sunflower Lecithin), Natural Flavourings, Colour (Natural Beta Carotene)

And I’m wondering whether  those vegetable oils (although not hydrogenated according to the manufacturer) include palm oil – I think they probably do, as I know they did in 2010. Anyway, all those ingredients must require lots of processing. What I’d really like to do is to have spreadable butter, preferably produced locally and organically. This also makes sense in terms of health benefits, since recent reports suggest that unprocessed fats, like butter, may well be good for the heart.

I was delighted, therefore, to come across a blog post a couple of weeks ago that seemed to offer the solution… a simple way of storing butter at room temperature, but without it being exposed to the air: a butter bell. It’s a French idea, involving a thing like a large egg cup that you fill with butter and a container into which you put water. The egg cup thingy is then inverted into the container of water so that no air can get in and, hey presto, you can keep your butter for several weeks at room temperature. I just had to have one:

Butter bell without butter

Butter bell without butter

Add water to one half and butter to the other

Add water to one half and butter to the other

Lower the butter bell into the water container and keep at room temperature for spreadable butter that won't be tainted or go off

Invert the butter bell and lower it into the water container then keep at room temperature for spreadable butter that won’t be tainted or go off

Sadly I had to buy a mass-produced one, because I just couldn’t find one from a local potter and I wasn’t clear enough about the design before I had seen a butter bell for real to be able to commission one to be made.

There is a slight problem at the moment, in that it’s not very warm in our house, so the butter in it is not very spreadable. I’m sure that it will function well for much of the year and I’ll just have to find it a slightly warmer spot for it to live (top of the fridge?) for these chilly months.

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  1. Wow! You got on that quick! 🙂

    Kudos for leaving your house quite cool in winter. I used to do that, but hubby is not a fan… I hope you find a nice warm spot for the butter and get many years of spreadable enjoyment!


  2. What a very practical item. Have you considered leaving it on top of the fridge, near the back, where the warmth rises from the motor? Or in the airing cupboard (assuming you have one)? We’re lucky down here. There’s a brand of butter which is spreadable straight from the tub, and contains nothing at all except the normal ingredients of butter. I won’t buy the other stuff because it’s all got canola (rapeseed) oil in it, much of which is GM. And I abhor margarine. I’d rather do without if I can’t have butter.


  3. And duh, I find you are ahead of me on the fridge issue. Sorry I failed to read properly to the end before commenting!


  4. Very good idea 🙂

    We also use butter (and keep it in the fridge, so yes, it’s a bit hard to spread), but also this organic margarine:

    The label reads:
    “Sunflower oil*, palm fat*, water, coconut oil*, carrot juice*, emulsifier: soya lecithin, lemon juice*
    *= Certified organic ingredients
    The Organic Palm fat in our margarines comes from a certified sustainable project in Columbia.”

    I wonder if the emulsifier is bad? it doesn’t sound good


  5. Do you have Brummel and Brown over there? It is a yogurt spread that tastes like butter to me, and is a whipped consistency like margarine. I love the stuff. It is said to not work for cooking. I wouldn’t know as I do not cook much!


  6. It has palm oil….



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