The butter lamb is a Polish Easter tradition which my family carried out each year growing up in Western New York. The carved butter is used on the Easter dinner table, and is meant to symbolize Jesus Christ, Lamb of God, as a reminder of His sacrifice.
Buffalo, NY and the south towns still have large, active Polish communities that have preserved this tradition, among many others. Although pretty much any grocery store in the area stocks pre-made lambs, everyone knows that the best place to buy one is the Broadway Market, and this is exactly where my mother, sister and I would shop the week of Easter. As a child, I remember the great excitement with which I unwrapped the butter lamb, set it on the table, and graciously offered to decapitate it with my knife so others would feel like they could dig in.
A lot has changed in the last 10 or so years. Moving to Raleigh, NC, where Polish Easter traditions are not so mainstream, for one. No longer eating butter would be the other.
But I miss my family's traditions all the same. So this year, I decided to try my hand at carving an Earth Balance Easter Butter Lamb. And for a first-time butter carver, I think I was pretty successful.
No matter what beliefs you hold, if you have an Easter dinner, this is just a neat tradition to start with your family. Very kid-friendly, simple and takes about 15-20 minutes from start to finish.
You will need
1 15-oz. tub of Earth Balance
A butter knife
2 Whole peppercorns
Frosting Piping bag
Frosting star tip (I used a #16)
5-6 inches of thin red ribbon
Tiny Pennant Flag (optional)
I started by lining my counter with about a square foot of parchment paper. I overturned the Earth Balance tub onto the paper and cut it into two pieces with about a 2:1 size ratio. I used the smaller piece as the initial shape for the body, and cut a smaller rectangle shape and small square shape from the remaining Earth Balance to make the head. Assembly looks as such:Using the heat from my fingers, I adhered one piece to another. This part is very simple - butter just seems to want to stick to itself. At that point, I used the butter knife to start carefully carving it into a lamb shape, and discarded the excess back into the Earth Balance tub for later use.
Once the body is the right shape, put the lamb in the fridge to chill while you fill the frosting bag with the excess butter. Test for temperature. If it's too runny, pop the bag into the fridge or freezer for a few seconds. I did a few practice squirts on the parchment to make sure it was ready. I drew a messy rope style line around the body of the lamb, and piped on ears as well as tail. Messy is good because it makes the lamb look more fleecy. One nice thing to note: this is a very forgiving medium. If you screw something up, wipe it off and start over, or use the heat of your fingers to re-shape.
The last step is simply to decorate! Choose a couple of nice looking peppercorns for this eyes. Then add the ribbon (no need to glue the ribbon as it sticks to the Earth Balance and stays put) and the little banner in the lamb's rear. Typically the butter lambs you see at the stores have a banner that says "alleluia" on them, but in my case, I made one out of what I had on hand, which happened to be a wooden skewer and some craft paper.
Carrying on the tradition in North Carolina! Mother is so proud.