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Replacements, Ltd.
Dean's Corner

Dean's Corner – Butter Dishes and Butter: A History

Butter dishes have long been produced in crystal, silver, and china. In the era before refrigeration, butter was kept in a dish on the dining table, covered until the next meal.  Some butter dishes had an insert that held the butter suspended over a small saucer of ice chips, which helped retain the butter’s consistency during warm weather. Many silver butter dishes have been crafted with a metal slot or rack to hold a master butter spreader horizontal to the table, ready for use. To prevent the butter from coming into contact with the metal for extended periods, many silver dishes were made with a glass or other non-silver insert.

Butter was first produced more than 4,000 years ago, when it was most likely made using goat or sheep milk. Butter is, in essence, milk fat produced by separating the solid and liquid components of milk. This is usually achieved by agitating or churning the milk until the fragile membranes surrounding the milk fat are ruptured. Once broken, the fat droplets can join with each other and form clumps of butter fat. Continued churning joins the clusters of fat with air bubbles to produce foam. As the bubbles in the foam pop, the result is buttermilk, which is drained off, and the remaining solid can be compressed into butter.

Over the past hundred years, butter has typically been measured out in one-pound lumps and shaped using a butter mold. Theses butter molds were often stamped with a symbol or design that would be transferred onto the butter. Typical designs included a sheaf of wheat, a cow, a beehive, or the maker's initials. Early butter molds were typically round, but these round molds were eventually replaced by rectangular ones that stacked, stored, and shipped more efficiently.

Historically, if the molded butter was round, the dish that held it was also round. Thus, for handmade butter, the typical butter dish was round. But once machine-made quarter-pound sticks of butter and butter substitutes became common, the popularity of the round one-pound butter dish gave way to the elongated butter stick dish most commonly seen today.

Replacements, Ltd. carries a wide variety of both round and stick (sometimes known as ‘quarter-pound’) butter dishes in a huge variety of china, silver, and crystal patterns.  When we say we have something for everyone, we mean it.  Be sure to browse our inventory and have a look!

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