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I am Sandra - faithful steward. listener. shepherd. dream believer. hard worker. collects brass bells, boots. Jesus follower. contented. star gazer. homemaker. farmer. prayer warrior. country woman. reader. traveler. writer. homebody. living life large.

Friday, August 09, 2013

Churning and Making Butter

Mary's children and I were invited to the county fair to demonstrate making butter so Dalton and Kim used a Mason jar and a pint heavy whipping cream with a LOT of shake, shake, shake power. They didn't understand the entire process was going to take a while so adults took their turn as well.
The chilled, heavy duty whipping cream, is poured into a Mason jar and a lid and ring screwed on until just tight. The liquid is shaken until soft peaks form...this is whipped cream and with the addition of a small amount of honey or sugar is just dandy on strawberries or pound cake or strawberries and pound cake...just sayin', mind. 

BTW, a pint of heavy whipping cream will make one half pound of sweet butter.
This whipped cream was a trifle sweet to the taste.
 Shaking commenced again until a soft, round column begin to separate from the liquid. This soft, round column is the beginning of butter and the liquid is buttermilk. 

The contents are placed into a bowl and the buttermilk poured off from the butter. I worked the butter just like kneading dough until more buttermilk could be poured off and when the butter didn't release any more buttermilk, it was ready to be salted. There are those who wash the butter with plain, cold water and then add salt; I do not. I like the taste of strong butter so skip the washing process, add sea salt and then press into my half pound butter mold.

Start to finish, making butter in a Mason jar takes around 30 minutes. I started with cold, heavy whipping cream and it would have been faster had I used cream at room temperature.
My butter mold and churn were given to me by Aunt Bonnie who also taught me how to churn. She churned all her life and her butter, egg and milk money helped keep together bodies and souls for her six children, husband and herself.
The butter mold is a classic star or daisy pattern but wasn't used much. Aunt Bonnie would churn a few pounds of butter and hand mold them into rounds about a pound in weight. She lived a hardscrabble Appalachian life and beauty for her was having and preparing the food for family and whoever was there at mealtimes. Manys the time I've seen her feed folks she barely knew...simply because there were there at mealtime; no one was ever turned away from the table.

When Dave was alive, I'd churn butter and bake bread; he loved both and I think he loved the idea I could do both. It pleased him, as the memories still please me, to know we were so well matched. He was the high tech geek and I the low tech geek. He was genius material, truly, and was in process of applying to MENSA when he died. We always laughed because he had a Bachelor of Arts from WVU in biology and chemistry and I have a Bachelor of Science from VCU in Recreation, Parks and Tourism. He made bombs, I made baskets, but his dear old Mother wasn't quite as amused -lol-.
This churn belonged to Aunt Bonnie and she gave it to me when her health no longer permitted her to churn. It's a vigorous activity and takes some strength, especially when the cream begins to come together. It takes cream to make butter and this is the first time I've ever made butter from pasteurized cream; I've always used raw milk. 

In order to milk a cow, which is a female bovine, she must have had a calf. The calf always gets the first few milkings because these contain the colostrum, very necessary for the calf to both live and thrive and, btw, all female mammals produce colostrum in their first breast milk. Once the calf has milked out, or drank, all the colostrum, the human comes in and begins to take a share. Generally, in the beginning, the calf gets most and as the calf gains weight and grows, the human begins to milk more and more. By the time the calf is weaned, the human is getting all the milk. 

Aunt Bonnie would milk her Jersey cows, a breed originally from Jersey Island, and, after straining the milk with a clean cloth, she'd keep the cream from several milkings in the refrigerator. Unless, of course, it was winter and then the milk would be kept in a pail on the back porch. Unless, of course, it was the dead of winter and then she'd keep it in the refrigerator where it wouldn't freeze. Appalachian winters are COLD!
Pasteurized Duchess All Jersey Cream, from Rural Retreat, VA was used in the churn and is unbelievably wonderful! I poured the chilled cream into the churn and within fifteen or twenty minutes, the cream was beginning to set up or thicken into whipping cream...very fast!

In another few minutes, curds were forming and the butter was beginning to separate from the still my heart!

Jersey cows have among the best butterfat; it's around 5% and makes the best...everything! Visit here for a listing of cows, butterfat, protein and a lot more information. Holsteins, those black and white cows, are shysters, they have only 2.5% to 3.5% butterfat..hardly worth bothering! 

Here, I'm pouring off more buttermilk, so the butter can be worked into a solid.

Churning produced approximately two quarts of sweet buttermilk, p'raps a bit more. When the cream is pasteurized, the buttermilk is sweet; when the milk is raw, the buttermilk has a tangy flavor. I much prefer sweet buttermilk and already anticipate some cornbread and honey for supper -grin-. 

The butter is scooped out of the larger bowl and placed into a smaller bowl for ease of working and so the buttermilk can be poured into a smaller container.
From a gallon and half of sweet Jersey cream, 8 pounds of butter was churned and I brought home a half pound of butter. I also brought home what the children and I shook and they are taking some on vacation next week. In the photo above, the butter on the left is made from the store bought heavy whipping cream; the butter on the right is from Jersey cream...big difference in color and a noticeable difference in flavor.

So, was it worth it? Absolutely! I'm already planning a monthly trip to Rural Retreat to buy my own Jersey cream so I can churn...every month. For me, it's a sweet activity, one that brings me closer to both Aunt Bonnie, Dave and my Appalachian roots.

In the winter, Aunt Bonnie would put together scrap quilts, using salvaged pieces of cloth and her old sewing machine, tucked into a corner of her bedroom. Over the years, she gave me a quilt, p'raps two, and said, "Now Kid, these don't go on the wall or in a chest. They go on the bed and are meant to keep you warm, understand? If you're not going to sleep under it, I'll give it to someone who needs to be warm."

Never once did I turn her down and slept under a quilt or two until they had holes. Now, it's the memories that keep me warm. 

Blessings ~ an old churn ~ sweet cream ~ willing helpers ~ Mason jars ~ sweet butter ~ Dave ~ Aunt Bonnie ~ precious they linger ~


  1. most good things come with some hard work - and real butter - is worth that work! Yum on the jersey butterfat - if you are going to have butter - have good butter!

  2. I enjoyed this very much. I have heard stories of my grandma churning but I never witnessed it. I love your churn and butter mold and the memories you shared here today.

  3. What a great experience for the kids. I remember actually churning the butter we used on the farm. The old churn went missing before my Mother came to live with us. I so wish I had it back. What a fun thing for everyone! xo Diana

  4. Oh this was just a wonderful post. I enjoyed reading the steps and seeing your photos! Granddaddy used to have a wooden round mold. I can't remember what design was in the center. My Momma had it at some point, but it has gone on to further pastures I think by now. It has been years since I thought of it. It was dried and faded from use. I think it was made of maple, like so many of the cutting boards were. Thanks for sharing, I enjoyed this so much!

  5. Hmm, whipping cream and a mason jar and shake, shake, shake, who needs to join a gym for upper arm exercise. May have to add making a pound of butter to my bucket list one of these days.

    Thanks for sharing.

  6. Sandra, you know how to do SO many things!

  7. Wonderful post. I have memories of 'helping' my grandmother as she milked her cows, and ran the still warm milk through the separator. She only had a few cows but sold milk to the local dairy up until 1961. She had the glass jar with wooden paddle type of butter churn and I still remember that too and the smell and taste of fresh made butter. Yum. Thank you for bringing memories to the forefront of my mind once again. Blessings to you.

  8. What a wonderful post! The whole concept is just how it should be to me in making
    butter like this and who knows one day we may be returning to this way again and that would even be a better way to live if you ask me!
    Have a great weekend!

  9. Good morning to YOU! I am a teacher, and my first year teaching in the primary grades, we made butter. Being a city woman, I had never made it before, and I remember the genuine surprise I had WITH THE KIDS the day we made butter, or "beurre" in French (I am a French teacher). WHAT MAGIC! And the taste? Can't beat it!

    Thank you so much for coming to visit my horse post! Ahhh.....I may be a city woman, but give me a horse and I melt, I slow down, I listen to my heart so he/she can listen to mine. Enjoy your horses, your lovely life. Anita

  10. What an enjoyable post, Sandra! I haven't made butter in years - not since I had dairy goats back in CO - but if I ever have a local source for affordable cream, I will do it again. Very satisfying, as you describe so well :)

  11. Sandra- this was totally fascinating. I've seen my great grandmother make butter with a churn when I was a child-- but the Mason jar thing is totally new to me. I bet the children had a great time! Your photos tell such a great story----
    I hope all is well with you- I know you are always busy busy busy :)

  12. What a beautiful post, dear friend! The stories about your Aunt Bonnie are so dear. I pass by Rural Retreat every time I drive to WVa to see my kinfolk. Such beautiful rolling land. My s-i-l there (in Renick) milks and makes her own butter, although she doesn't use a churn :) She uses (last time I checked) a food processor, I believe. That look delicious! So glad you're passing on your Aunt Bonnie's skills and principles to the next generation!

  13. I really enjoyed reading this post and seeing the pictures and sharing in the nostalgia...your Aunt Bonnie sounds like a wonderful woman...and yes, indeed, memories can warm our hearts and cover our longing spirits...

  14. Love love love this post!! All of my great grandparents were farmers and sharecroppers and probably all the generations before them farmed. My grandparents escaped hard scrabble subsistence farming as soon as they could and never looked back. One of my favorite activities as a kid was listening to my Grandma tell of picking cotton, churning butter and trying to keep baby chicks warm by their kitchen stove. Since then I've dreamed of having a little farm though I know nothing about how to do ANYTHING on a farm. I hope you write more articles like this so I can learn what it takes to live a farming life. I may try making butter in a jar with my little ones.

  15. What a lovely post. The Jersey butter is especially beautiful.
    We have a butter mold. A few months ago I found it on the basement floor. Apparently a previous homeowner had left it, one of the cats found it and employed it as a new toy.

  16. That is really cool how you make the butter. I didn't have a clue!

  17. This was such a wonderful post! I enjoyed reading about your husband, grandchildren and making butter!! I bet that butter was the best! Yum!
    Thank you so much for stopping by!

  18. I'm glad you blog and share your stories; you know so many things and so very interesting. :)

  19. Sandra,I could not quit reading, your post is so amazing and educational. It also brought many memories..things were harder then, but work was so honest and rich and the rewards from it "richer" for it, ..the butter and the closeness of family. So sad that modern technology has taken that from us and that so many young people will not know the rewards of hard work, but only the sadness of failure for what did not come easy.
    Hearts and Hugs to you my special friend!

  20. The pictures are lovely, and sweet and buttery! You look like you are in your element! mm-mmm...

  21. Dear Sandra, I always love visiting here and this post taught me so much. Also my parents had a hoby farm where we raised rabbits for food, I have never had the privilege of making butter. Both of my daughters homeschool so I am going to forward this post to them to incorporate into a lesson. Blessings to you today.
    In Him, Noreen

  22. Holstein vs's a case of quantity vs quality I think.

  23. LindaSue, I hate oleo and agree, use butter, sparingly, but use butter.

    Mildred, making butter is a pleasure for me.

    Diana, it was fun and love having the butter on biscuits this week.

    Annie, having the little butter mold made a pretty 1/2 of butter; makes eating it even better.

    TL, do it now, life is short!

    Karen, jill of all trades, master of none.

    Suzy, it was a good day with lovely home made butter to take home.

    Anita, it is magic, isn't it? You should make butter again, to experience the magic again.

    Quinn, you can use heavy whipping cream from the grocery store; that works too.

    Vicki, the children loved making butter and the attention, it was good for them.

    MK, people use food processors, churns, Mason jars, blenders... whatever works for them.

    Karen, she was a wonderful woman who is now enjoying heaven.

    Mee, you should try this with your little ones, they'll get a kick out of will you.

    Carol, it's amazing what cats can find, glad it was a butter mold.

    Debbie, making butter is easy, eating it even easier -lol-.

    Holly, those are my friend's children, I've never had children nor grandchildren. Glad you enjoyed the post, it was a lot of fun.

    Vilisi, you're welcome and thank you for visiting.

    Kim, hard work keeps us honest and gives us some good butter to boot!

    Gretchen, anytime I'm demonstrating, I'm happy. I love showing folks how things were once done.

    Noreen, making butter is easy and you should try it. grab a Mason jar, heavy whipping cream and, in a little while, butter!

    Vic, you're right...Holsteins give a lot more gallons/pounds of butter a day but it's not as good as the Jersey milk.

  24. Sandra, This post was a treat to read -- I am SO making my own butter! My husbands' grandmother was a circuit rider nurse, who rode all over the mountains on a mule to care for the sick, deliver babies and give vaccinations to people in rural areas. She could do everything, according to family stories. I still make her recipe for lemon chess pie. The directions for it include, "Butter the size of an egg" so you know she was making it and scooping herself. Thanks for a smile today!

  25. I think you churned butter is wonderful! I keep reminding myself I need to do this as I am getting tired of the nasty butter I buy which is in cartons in the grocery store. And we have no clue, really, how old it is!
    Thank you for the reminder to make my own!
    Teresa in California
    Pray for me, as I am facing a small surgery to remove a cancerous spot on my face. God knows all things.

  26. I have one of my grandmother's churn and my other grandmother's butter mold. I've never churned butter with her churn but tried it using the Mason jar. It never would make. Maybe I was too impatient and didn't wait long enough. You've got me wanting to try it using the churn, and I've been wanting to make my own bread for ages. Now is as good a time as any!


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