Tales from the Bear

Butter: to churn or not to churn? That is the question

By K.A. Pendergast

I was having a muffin the other day and watching myself spread the margarine on it. It got me to thinking back to a time when I was a little girl and we lived near a dairy farm.

It was a time before there were quite as many regulations about all the chemicals and cleaning agents used in making the milk products so long lasting and preserved as they are today.

Don’t get me wrong, it was a big place and they had huge vats and machines to help milk the cows. It wasn’t done by hand or anything. They did have some that they could milk the old-fashioned way and I did learn how.

It was fun and messy and interesting all at the same time.

They did have ways to get the milk and products ready for the markets, but because we were in a very small town, after shipping the rest, they also sold locally.

By small town I mean a bit larger than Little Fort, but not nearly so big as Clearwater. We used to buy the milk directly from them, take it home and wait and watch the cream rise to the top of the bucket.

We used buckets because it was easier to skim the cream from the top with them. Then my mom showed my brother and sisters and I how to make butter.

We were pretty excited I gotta say. We had nothing to churn it with because everyone used machines for that already.

So, we got to put it into big mason jars and shake it. It was really fun for us kids, we shook and jumped around and up and down dancing, but it started to wear us out because you need a lot of shaking to make butter.

Imagine if you had to make whipped cream by hands—it was along those lines. We did finally get it done and after washing our hands we got to each make a small shape out of the stuff in our jars after we drained off the extra buttermilk since it was sort of like play dough.

Then we tucked it into a bowl for the fridge. It was not as yellow as it is now, but it still tasted good. That was about the amount of time it had taken my mom to make fresh buns to go along with it.

Sometimes we added salt and sometimes not. It was a learning experience for sure, obviously, since it made a lasting impression.

I wish all of the chemicals and stuff they use now were not quite so necessary. I know since there are so many germs and regulations for “everyone’s protection” it must be done, but I would personally love to show kids some of those old ways. We get so caught up in what is best for the masses that we don’t really think about what is best for the individual anymore.


I suppose I am just wishing there wasn’t so much danger in the world, in general. Maybe there are a few things we can do to help others as well as ourselves along the way. Hmmmm. We can go back to basics once in awhile.

Could we focus on the better things? The simpler things? I know, maybe we could go start a class on some stuff like that. Anyone want to learn how to make butter? It has been awhile for me, but if I forget anything then I bet we could google it? We could have my mom, who is in her 80s now, via facetime and possibly someone local show us the right way to make some nice dinner buns to go with it?

What do you think?

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