FULLY APPRECIATING BUTTER
OLDTIMER INFORMATION ON MAKING BUTTER IN THE WINTER
This is some information I found in one of my ancestors’ journals. It’s rather good, and I believe most of it is still something we could learn from. You read it and decide yourself.
Let’s say you have ten cows. You feed them some nice early cut hay that you have stored away, twice a day – every day. You also give them cornmeal and carrots, 1 quart each, slightly scalded with 2 quarts of sweet skimmed milk (for each cow), twice a day. They eat well. You water them immediately after you feed them.
You know they need a salt source nearby at all times and that their bedding must always be clean, using sawdust and leaves. Before you milk them, you know you have to clean their home/barn before you start the milking process. And that you have to have clean hands and clothes.
The milk needs to be strained though a cloth, then heated to a temperature of 130 degrees F. Your father taught you to then place the milk in a series of small pans, and to never allow them to sit in these pans longer than 36 hours before skimming the cream off.
You know to take the cream you skimmed off and place it in as cool a place as you can find – but never allow it to freeze! Remember, this is winter and you will need to have some sort of heat in the room where you keep the pans. They used wood stoves.
The pans of milk were set on circular racks that that were attached to upright posts, 6″ x 6′ to 8′ long with slats nailed across 8″ apart. A pivot was placed in each post to allow the racks to swing around, making it convenient for skimming several pans at once. (one good milk cow can produce up to 8 gallons of milk in one day!)
You had to skim this milk twice a day, and churn (by hand!) twice a week. The cream had to sit 12 hours after its last skimming to allow it to ‘ripen’ (allowing the cream to sour a bit to raise its acidity) before churning could occur.
When it was in the churn, you had to warm it up to 62 degree F. by using sweet, skimmed milk. (Sweet meaning regular milk, not buttermilk). Then you would ‘wash’ (or rinse) it in three batches of brine (lightly salted water), one after another, this removes the butterfat, which you can then use as buttermilk. After removing as much of the brine as possible, you would weigh it. The formula for adding salt was 1/ 2 ounce salt to 1 pound of butter.
After folding and refolding the butter so the salt is thoroughly mixed in (use a wooden paddle, NOT your hands) , you would then place it in a ‘butter-box’ with a tight lid to keep it as air-tight as possible. When it ‘set’ you would cut it into square 1 pound lumps, stamped to indicate if it was salted or unsalted, and wrapped in butcher paper.
Remember, this was how to make butter in the WINTER. During summers, you would place pails of milk in bowls of ice to keep it from spoiling! The carrots were given to the cows to produce a bit of color to the butter, and also to provide the cows with other nutrients. These carrots came from the farmers garden and were stored in a ‘root cellar‘ for later use.
Simple, right? So start looking at that butter you buy in a slightly different way. Be glad for electricity and machines and all the other conveniences we have now. And hope we never lose them. But – just in case?