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OLE STUFF AND SUCH Chores on the Farm: Milking, churning butter, the perfect cake

By Frances Lowery Garner


One thing that I failed to master on the farm was “milking the cow.” Not to say that I didn’t try a couple of times to no avail.

The cow only had to lift a hoof or switch her tail and I would be up and running resulting in an overturned bucket and a worried cow.

This chore was left to either Mama or Daddy who had no problem with keeping our family with plenty of fresh milk.

The cow or cows were milked daily, usually in the early morning or late afternoon. A shiny gallon milk bucket would be filled with enough water to wash the cow’s bag and a footstool would be kept handy for the designated milker.

The result was always a bucket of warm, foamy milk brought into the kitchen, strained, and poured into a pan or pans. This would be placed in a cool place for the cream to rise in order to make butter.

The cream would be skimmed off and placed in the stoneware churn until there was enough to start the churning.

The skimmed milk was used for drinking or left to clabber if not needed and given to the coon dogs that would eat anything and glad to get it.

In the winter time, the churn would sit close to the wood stove so the milk would be warm and also the person given this task.

Some milk would be added to the cream and it would be ready for the churning. It seemed like forever before the butter would appear and you would work the dasher ( this fit through a round hole in the lid of the churn and had an X shaped bottom) until you thought your arm would come off.

Mama would check on the outcome periodically and sometimes put some hot water from the tea kettle to hurry the process along.

Finally the butter would be ready and Mama would dip out the dripping butter into a bowl and let it cool down before she would work it up and mold it.

Once cool, it was kind of a kneading process to take out the extra milk and water before it could be pushed into the wooden mold that held exactly a pound.

The overage was just made into a pone like shape about saucer size. We would usually eat this first and if Mama was overstocked with butter, the pound size was always welcomed by a neighbor whose cow might be dry at the time.

The remains in the churn was good fresh buttermilk, poured up in jugs for making cornbread or just plain drinking or sharing.

A dish of real cow butter was always a staple at our table. We had hot buttered biscuits daily, cornbread, buttery fruit cobblers, baked sweet potatoes with butter and a hundred other uses, including Mama’s pound cake, which was her trademark.

This required a whole pound of fresh butter, fresh eggs, and other needed ingredients to make a cake that had a taste hard to describe.

Cakes made today in modern ranges, mixed with the best of mixers, pales in comparison to that cake mixed by hand and cooked in a wood stove oven with no temp gauge.

Somehow Mama knew the right time to put in the oven and the right time to take it out because it was always just perfect.

It was a favorite of my Yankee sister-in-law from Boston when she came to visit. She was delighted with a piece of “butter cake” with her hot cup of tea.

A simple pleasure in simple times!

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