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Butter molds are of two basic types. They can be fanciful and decorative and used to create small shapes made out of butter. Alternately, they are the molds that shape freshly prepared butter into squares, rectangles or cubes, to then be packaged. When most people made their own butter, having the more utilitarian type in the home was highly desirable to put the butter into a convenient shape. The former is more likely to be used to impress guests and add to the presentation of food.
Smart shoppers can find many antique butter molds available. Typical sizes range from one quarter to one-pound molds (113.4-453.6 grams), much the way butter is sold in stores today. Molds were often made of wood and the freshly made butter would be placed in them to take shape. Other molds may be made of different materials like ceramic, and shapes could vary from rectangular to round. Some molds had fancy carving that would press into the butter and create extra detail.
One of the reasons that pressed butter might have extra details like a special design on it was to identify butter makers. Not all people had cows and they might buy their butter from various dairies. The designs essentially functioned as a label, long before commercial packaging and printed labels were common. However, butter molds with carved stamps were also used in the home, marrying practicality and design.
Today it is much easier to find butter molds of the decorative type, usually used to make individual serving size butter shapes. These might be metal, plastic, wood, or even silicon, and typically feature several wells so that multiple shapes can be made at the same time. Some people use small candy molds to make fancy butter pats. Various shapes can include things like shells, leaves, stars, and flowers.
Cooks may want to create shaped butter pats but don’t know how to do it. It’s actually a fairly easy process. It’s important to allow butter to soften first, because it’s hard to spread in butter molds otherwise.
One the butter is soft, it can be spread evenly into the butter molds. Some people use powdered sugar so that the butter comes out of molds easier. This may affect butter taste though, and many cooks find it unnecessary.
It is important to place the butter into the freezer for several minutes, but not to forget it and end up with frozen butter. Aim for getting the butter firm but not frozen before unmolding. Unmolded butter pats should then be stored in the refrigerator until serving time.