When I read “Yellow-Rumped Warblers: Meet the Butterbutts” a few days ago in Bird and Blooms, I free associated butter with memories of making butter as a child on the Quarter Circle A Ranch in the 1950s.
The chore of making butter as a child would, today, be a delight. Seeing rich, thick cream freshly hand-milked from a Jersey cow turn into bright yellow lumps would engender an almost forgotten taste sensation we modern city dwellers do not enjoy.
From “Lulu, a milk cow,” the thirteenth chapter in Growing Up Floridian:
Lulu's bounty in milk and cream allowed us to make butter, cheese, and ice cream. The butter was produced every weekend the cow was fresh with a hand-driven churn. Cream, poured off the top of the milk containers every day, went into a separate gallon jar. Typically, on Saturday afternoon, the square glass churn with wooden paddles on a steel rod that descended from a hand crank mechanism was filled with the cream. Although the churning only took fifteen minutes or so, unless there were two containers of cream, a chore was a chore. Rich yellow butter magically appeared after cranking the handle as evenly as we could for a quarter hour. My mother shaped the soft gob into a rectangle, and, if we already had enough butter in the refrigerator, wrapped the latest batch in white butcher's paper for storage in the freezer. Using some of the buttermilk left from the churning process, she would heat a gallon of whole milk and produce a white blob that became, a day later, cottage cheese, which was not one of my favorite milk products as a child. An exception to the this-is-a-chore mentality occurred on the rare days when the hand-driven ice cream churn also came out. Then, we knew a tasty reward awaited our efforts. If we had picked enough blackberries, our favorite purple creamy delight came out dripping from the big paddle that spun inside the ice cream churn's stainless steel cylinder that, in turn, spun through ice sprinkled with rock salt in the maker's can. Rock salt caused the ice to melt quicker and dropped the temperature outside the canister that held the ice cream mixture. We took turns sitting on the milking stool cranking the handle and changing places every five minutes. If we were patient and churned at a constant speed, we would have creamiest and sweetest result. Even though ice cream took twice as long to make as butter, the extra crank-turning was worth the results.
From “Chapter 18 April 1948” of Natalie, A New England Girl with Cowboy Dreams:
When she found Georgia in the main house office on Tuesday morning, she said, “Good morning. Mayneil told me last night that milk cows were due to arrive today. Do you know what time they are supposed to get here?”
“Nat, just who I wanted to see. They should be here by noon. We are going to have to add cow milking twice a day to the work schedule, and we will have to pencil in butter making time as well. I bought a brand-new square glass butter churn yesterday. I hope everyone will be willing to take turns milking and churning during the week. I plan to do my share, and dividing these extra chores among the group of us should not be too hard,” she replied as she shuffled papers about on the desk, trying to find her work schedule calendar.