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Texas | Columns | "It's All Trew"

All types of things happened
when making butter


by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
I must 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 the ultimate.

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


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