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The Sweet Slap-Slap Of Churning Butter

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MY father had a bachelor uncle who made his home with us while I was growing up, and we children never tumbled that he lived with us because he had no other place to live. His obligations were never enumerated, but he entertained, instructed, and admonished us children until we grew up to realize he earned his keep many times over. He used to say his main duty was not to stand around under foot. Once in a great while, and far from often, he would say to my mother, "All right, Hildy - you clear out of the

kitchen, and I'll make the butter!" Uncle was an expert on butter and knew how to make my mother like him.

As with most folks who kept a family cow, Mother would churn once a week, on Saturday. But when Uncle came to live with us, he told her cream was too delicate for that, and she should churn twice a week. Old age, he said, was all right for some things, but.

I'm sure some of you folks out yonder have noticed that the carton of fresh and rectified milk you get in the supermarket on the third day of May is marked, "Use before June 25." Our milk was used on the Tuesday after it was extracted on the Monday, or it went to the pigs. Except for the butter program. Milk for butter was "set" in pans and after the cream rose it was skimmed off and kept for the churn. But Uncle said it mustn't be kept too long.

Uncle had learned to make butter, he told us, from Lizzie Reynolds. The Reynolds' farm was next above his home place, and he used to go there to help with chores, and once in a while would take a meal. Lizzie made butter once a week for the stores, and accordingly Uncle would be subjected to Lizzie's butter. He said it was better than gudgeon grease on a cartwheel, but when it came to a hot biscuit he'd as soon have gudgeon grease. Lizzie, that is, made very poor butter, and Uncle figured out why. He sai d sometimes her butter would jump up and walk around the top of the table. For one thing, she let her cream stand altogether too long before she churned. And then she didn't "work" it enough so she removed all the residual buttermilk. Working the buttermilk out was called "spanking," and done with a wooden paddle. Lizzie just didn't have the muscle. Or the tender, loving care.


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