Fresh bread from the oven, a baked potato, or steamed broccoli. All delicious and chances are, served with butter. Butter comes in several forms; spray, stick and in a tube, but sometimes it has designs on it or is in the shape of something. Have you ever wondered how the manufacturer has done that? The answer is a butter mold!
Butter is made by churning fresh or fermented cream or milk. One would churn the butter until the fat separates from the liquid and forms a semi-solid substance. To learn more about butter click here. Over the years there have been many different tools used to make butter. An example would be the barrel churn which had a larger area to make the butter and was mounted on a stand, a churn like the one pictured on the left. Families would make and use their own butter, and when people started moving from rural areas to urban areas they wanted their butter. The problem was that once they moved the stock of cream or milk went way as the cows would have stayed in the country.
To fix this problem butter molds were invented so makers could sell butter to their customers in an easy to get home way. These molds might have been elaborate or simple but most butter, regardless of the mold, had a stamp on it that would differentiate makers from each other. The molds might have been the classic stick or pretty patterns like wheat, fruit or flowers. Butter molds were handmade in the 1800’s and it was not until companies wanted to sell butter that butter molds were made in bulk. Many individuals filed patents on the butter mold or made improvements on the butter mold. Perley L. Kimball of the Vermont Farm Machine Company filed for a patent in 1889. This particular butter mold resembles one we have in our collection at the High Plains Museum.
The picture on the right shows a wooden one pound butter mold. The box would mold the butter while the stick with flat bottom on the left would be used to push the butter out. Besides the wooden stick mold we have several other kinds of molds in our collection at the High Plains Museum. The picture on the left shows one of our shape butter molds. While you cannot see the design, this particular mold is of a pineapple; we also have one of a swan. According to Lehman’s to use butter molds like these, you would add the butter and chill. Once you are ready for the butter the top part of the mold is a plunger of sorts, which pushes the butter out.
Butter that is in different shapes or has a stamp adds a special touch to any table. Butter molds were not needed until people in the cities went to the store to buy their butter. The molds became a way for store owners to sell butter in many different forms; stick, stamped, or in a pattern. Through the years butter has become a must have product in the kitchen and can help make a table unique. Do you have shaped butter at your dinner parties?
Look for more posts in this series about our wonderful collection of Sherman County history.