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— I’m thinking of churning some butter. It has been a long time since I have seen or tasted real, honest-togoodness cow butter. Even when we ask, “Pass the butter, please,” it’s not real butter that we pass, it’s a yellow spread made to look something like butter. Over the past several years a margarine product has been on the shelves labeled “I Can’t Believe It’s Not Butter!” As for me, I grew up on real, fresh, home-churned cow butter, and I have not the least difficulty believing that Can’t Believe It spread is not butter!

What a change we have seen in the ways milk is produced and distributed, and even in how milk products are regarded and valued or spurned! There was a time when the expression “bread and butter” was used to talk about providing your basic food needs. Although people have always eaten a great variety of foods, bread and butter were considered fundamental needs. Having butter provided a sense of well-being. Having butter for your bread and butter on your toast was a sign that you were enjoying the good life. Knowing on which side your bread is buttered was an expression about having a good practical sense of how to live, about appreciating where your blessings were coming from, and having a good set of basic values and priorities.

My dad tells of the days when he was growing up on the farm out of Garfield, near Elkhorn Tavern, how they would milk the cows, separate out the cream, using a cream separator, then put the cream can on the train at Avoca to ship it to the milk plant. In the 1920s, the cream for making butter was the prized part of the milk. The skim milk was not marketed at all, but was used in cooking at home, and the excess was fed to the hogs.

When I was growing up in the 1940s, we were sending our whole milk tothe milk plant. We were no longer separating out the cream. But, some milk plants were still called creameries. We sold milk to the Carnation Milk Company at Rogers. I think our milk was primarily used for making cheese. For our own uses at home, we used the milk fresh from the cow. I don’t remember ever buying milk to drink or butter for spreading.

We churned our own butter, and I’m pretty sure our home-churned butter was at least twice better than the butter that came from the store. Our butter was great on toast. My mother always made toast in the oven. She would first spread butter on the bread, then place the slices on a cookie sheet and put them in the hot oven.

I knew that some people toasted their bread dry, then buttered it; but that seemed backwards to me.

After electricity came to the farms in 1945, we learned about electric toasters, but you couldn’t toast buttered bread in an electric toaster, so who needed one?

One of the first “jobs” my mother gave me was to churn the butter. Our churn, at that time, was a half-gallon jar. She poured the milk and cream up to so high, put the cap on tight, and handed it to me to “churn” it. That meant shaking it until the butter formed. I don’t remember just how long I“churned,” I just remember thinking I was going to shake my brains out before that butter started showing up in the milk.

It was not long before we got a Daisy Churn. I’m pretty sure it was ordered from the Montgomery Ward catalog. We ordered lots of things from the Montgomery Ward catalog.

That Daisy Churn was really up-town. A large glass container held the milk and cream. Up top, attached to the screw-on cover, was a cranking mechanism with gears which turned the dasher. The dasher was mostly made of wood, shaped to stir and agitate the mix. It was pretty much fun to churn with a Daisy Churn. Turning the crank and watching all the commotion inside was lots more fun than shaking my brains out while shaking a fruit jar.

As we moved toward the 1950s, we began hearing about something called oleo. I guess the full name of it was oleo-margarine, but we called it oleo. I remember that my folks bought some oleo one time.

It was sold in two parts: The main part was white, and looked something like Crisco shortening, or like a very white lard. The other little package was the coloring. You mixed the coloring with the white goo to make the yellow spread for your bread. It was pretty bad as I recall, and we saw no advantage in it. We went right back to churning real cow butter, which tasted about 10 times as good.

Contact Jerry Nichols by e-mail at joe369@centurytel. net, or call 621-1621.

Community, Pages 5 on 12/09/2009

Print Headline: Now & Then Churning Butter

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