Little Egypt Heritage Articles
Stories of Southern Illinois
20 October 2002
Vol 1 Issue: #8
Good Evening Ladies and Gentlemen of Little Egypt,
Ahhh, I got into a conversation with a near centurian
not long ago. We talked about the "old" days and one of
the topics was butter making. Butter was made at home.
You remember those hand churns made by barrel makers
[coopers] that you see in so many museums. Like making
homemade ice cream, the product tastes so much better
[different] when you do it yourself. However,
Grandmother didn't think it was so much fun, ...
rather, she thought it "so much work".
Butter was/is made from "ripened" [slightly soured]
cream. It can be made from fresh cream, but ripened
cream churns much faster and actually produces better
flavored butter. Now if you can use sweet [fresh]
cream the flavor is blander.
How is cream ripened? Glad you asked! Let cream stand
at room temperature for 12 to 24 hours. The surface
will appear glossy and the cream will have a slight
acid taste. Left to ripen any longer will tend to make
sour flavored butter.
A Wisconsin cheesemaker, told me that the ripened cream
has to go through concussion. Grams said that was the
dairyman's term; she said it needs to be agitated. At
any rate that means that the globules of butterfat
suspended in the cream are brought together to form or
yield the butter.
So you want to try it yourself? Well, you can do it!
equipment is not expensive [exactly]. Probably you
already have an electric beater, but you could use a
hand wisk or an old fashioned egg beater. Shucks, you
could even just shake it [but don't bruise it]. In the
Middle East, leather bags were filled with cream and
strapped to the backs of horses.
Cream temperature should be about 60 degrees F. Higher
and the butter will be soft and if lower the butter
will take a heck of a lot long to form. In about
fifteen minutes the cream should feel heavy. Once the
granules have formed, stop churning and drain the
buttermilk off. Then wash [rinse] the butter with cold
The buttermilk poured off can be used in baking, or
drunk, or even used in milkshakes. Grandma used to lay
the butter on a piece of cheesecloth in a colander to
let the cold water run over it.
Now the work continues. The butter granules need to be
worked together with a butter paddle [wooden spoon will
do]. Grams added salt at this stage. She used "pinches"
but I'm told that between 1/4 to 1/2 teaspoon per
pound. This preserves the butter longer. The final
product is shaped or molded and wrapped in waxed paper.
Pasteurizing the cream first will assure avoiding any
Any milk or cream that is allowed to stand at room
temperature will ferment and curdle due to bacterial
action. With careful timing, thorough sterilization of
the product and the use of pure-cultures of desirable
bacteria, This natural spoiling process can yield such
healthful and "delicious" cultured milk products as
yogurt, sour cream, buttermilk and kefir.
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