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Willliam J. Hopkins

The Butter Story

dropcap image NCE upon a time there was a farm-house, and it was painted white and had green blinds; and it stood not far from the road. In the fence was a wide gate to let the wagons through to the barn. And the wagons, going through, had made a track that led up past the kitchen door and past the shed and past the barn and past the orchard to the wheat-field.

In the morning, when Uncle John had milked all the cows, he took all the milk, in the big pails, to the milk-room that was in the corner of the barn, and he poured it through a cloth into some cans. Then he carried the pails to the kitchen door, and Aunt Deborah washed them out with cold water. Then she poured some very hot water into them and rinsed them out, and set them in the sunshine. And Uncle John went back to the milk-room and took the cans of milk and carried them out to the spring-house.

The spring-house was a little low house that was in the orchard, and a stream of water ran right through the middle of it. It was the same stream of water that ran on through the big field where the cows went to eat the grass, and then it ran on, under the road and through another field and into the river. They didn't have ice then, in the summer time, but the water of the little stream was cool, and they used that to keep the milk and the butter from getting too hot. They had made a trench for the water to run through, and in the bottom of the trench they had put great flat stones, so that the water ran over the stones. And on top of the stones the water wasn't deep at all.

So Uncle John took the milk to the spring-house and poured it into big flat pans, and set the pans in the water on the flat stones, so that the water would keep the milk cool while the cream came to the top. The cream is the yellow, fat part of milk, and when the milk stands still, the cream comes to the top.

Every time Uncle John had finished milking the cows, he took the milk to the spring-house and put it in flat pans and left the pans in the cool water.


And when the milk had stood so for as long as all day or all night, Aunt Deborah went out to the spring-house and took a kind of big spoon and skimmed the cream off the top of the milk, and put the cream into a stone jar. And she left the cream in the jar for two or three days until it was just right to make into butter.

When the cream in the jar was just right, Aunt Deborah and Aunt Phyllis took it to the buttery and put it in the churn, a kind of box that had a long handle. And on the end of the handle was a big piece of wood with holes all through it. Then Aunt Phyllis took hold of the long handle and made it go up and down, and Aunt Deborah held on to the churn, so that it wouldn't tip over. And when Aunt Phyllis was tired, Aunt Deborah made the handle go up and down, and Aunt Phyllis held on to the churn. And the cream splashed all about, and at last it began to turn into butter, in little lumps.


When it was done enough, Aunt Deborah poured off the watery stuff that they called buttermilk, and she washed the butter with water, and she put in a lot of salt. The buttermilk she saved, because sometimes people like to drink it. Then she took the butter that was all in little lumps, and she worked it together, so that the water came out of it, and it was all in big lumps. And she worked that all together until it was worked enough, and was in one big lump.

Then she got a little mould, a kind of cup with a cover. And in the inside of the cover was a picture, cut into the wood, of an ear of corn and some marks all about. Then Aunt Deborah put some of the butter into the mould, and she put the cover over, and pushed hard, and the butter was squeezed into a little round cake, with the picture of the ear of corn on the top. Then she took out that piece and put in some more, and she made a little cake of that. And so she did with all the butter, until it was all in little cakes; and those cakes of butter they call pats.

When all the butter was made into pats, Aunt Deborah put the pats into a great round wooden box and carried the box out to the spring-house to get cold, and keep until it was wanted. Every week she made enough butter to fill the big round box. That was enough for them to eat, and some to take to market besides.

And that's all.