have been nearly grown when Mother began buying butter at the store.
Today, each time I peel the paper from a stick of butter, the image
of a beautifully formed lump of homemade butter flashes across my
mind. Grandma Trew used a glass bowl from a Quaker's Oats special
offer to mold her fresh churned butter. It was almost too pretty to
slice. Wooden butter molds left a flower imprinted in the surface.
Butter was discovered when goat skins of milk carried on the backs
of camels across the desert turned into butter. From 1790 to 1893,
patent records show 2,440 devices were invented to churn cream into
butter, so making butter has always been important.
I'm told Great-Grandma Mathews held a nursing baby with her right
arm while churning butter by rocking a glass jar of cream across her
leg with her left hand.
Grandma Trew made butter with an upright crock churn using a wooden
dasher worked up and down. My mother and family cranked a Daisy Churn,
activating a paddle inside a large glass jar. A neighbor lady churned
butter, turned her breadboard upside down and used the surface to
work the water out of the butter with a wooden paddle. She used salt
somehow, but I don't know why.
Most of the old families can tell a few churn stories.
Almost every object imaginable has been fished out of a churn at sometime
or another. Rocks, potatoes, marbles, and yo-yos have been mentioned
to me. My father received his first hard spanking when grandma fished
a sputtering, meowing kitten from her crock churn.
Romance sparked at times when young churners of the opposite gender
shared the chore. Rebellion and punishment occurred when young churners
tried to evade the call to work.
The never-ending drudgery of chores while milking cows, separating
milk and churning butter were forgotten once the fresh milk, buttermilk
and butter were placed into the tin cooling trough sitting in the
kitchen window. The crocks were covered in white dish cloths, draping
down into the water in the trough, catching the cool breezes coming
through the open window.
From this lactic "horn of plenty," one could enjoy a fresh glass of
sweet milk or a glass of tart buttermilk, either with cornbread crumbled
inside, or a generous slice of golden butter smeared across a biscuit
or slice of homemade light bread. Talk about a real snack. This was
I'm sure these memories are enhanced by the "hungries" of a growing
boy whose appetite never diminished. In retrospect, I look back and
realize the greatest treasure of all was the stories told while taking
turns "dancing the dasher" or "twisting the crank" making fresh butter.
© Delbert Trew
"It's All Trew"
February 1, 2005 column
Related Topic: Food