Behind the Times and Nuancing the Farmlife
t was one of those days, I needed to skim 5 gallons of milk to make butter. Oh no wait, I needed to skim 5 gallons of milk to make room in the refrigerator for the evening milking. (Jane is currently at 3 gallons a day but it adds up fast when you need room for food in said refrigerator too.) Oh no wait, before I skim those gallons of milk, I need to wash out the 20 quart stock pot so I have somewhere to put the 5 gallons of skim milk. Oh no wait, before I wrestle that stockpot into the sink I need to wash the breakfast and lunch dishes. It’s not the milking that takes so much time really with a dairy cow, it is the washing of all the minutiae that goes with home dairy. Buckets, straining cloths, jars, churns, colanders, and stockpots. Thank heavens I milk by hand! No milking machine to wash. Almost every day is one of those days in this deliberate life. I say deliberate because it is entirely of my choosing. I chose to keep a milk cow all these years, so you’ll hear no complaining from me. My cows are my saviors many days.
A friend called on that day, and I explained I was busy and going to churn. She suggested that I use a food processor to make my butter, it would be faster and save me time. I thanked her for the suggestion but continued with my plans to churn. I hate washing my food processor :( It may seem quaint to continue to use a hand cranked churn, but the churns I use that date from the 1920’s and 1940’s really are elegant in design. The jars are designed for maximum effect, either the square jar or the tulip jar working in tandem with the paddles can make quick work of butter making, if you have your cream properly aged and the correct temperature. I don’t know really if a food processor would save time, the churn lid has a screen for draining the buttermilk and subsequently the wash water. No colanders, no cheese cloth, just the churn and my butter bowl and paddle. I am going to venture a guess that the churning part is faster with a food processor, and your arms do get a workout for 10 or 15 minutes with a churn, but I am betting the cleanup takes a lot longer with the modern method and tools.
I realize this makes me sound like I don’t like doing dishes. It’s not that I dislike washing dishes, it is more that when I churn my butter by hand, I see the differences in the cream as the process moves along. As soon as you give your work over to a machine ( or at least to an electric or fuel powered machine) your mind and body move to a different task or plane of thinking and feeling. I want to feel my butter when it comes. I watch it carefully as I switch from arm to arm. Is it frothy? I feel the jar – too warm? Too cold? Is it washing yet?
Most of the time though while I am watching the cream change into butter, I am thinking of days like this.
Oftentimes instead thinking of the cows though, I am lost in the memories of the sights, sounds and scents haymaking days like this. It felt decadent to make Ruthless a birthday cake with a lots of butter and cream. Mostly because all the memories, feelings and sweat wrapped up in that pound of butter from the birth of a calf so we could get milk, to the summer task of stocking the pantry for the cows. The churning part seems small in comparison. My daily worries are wrapped up in a lot of tasks that all fit together like a puzzle, I need to pay attention to all the pieces, if I put my cream in a food processor I would be watching the machine, and in too much of a hurry. And look at what I might miss.