When Mother Made Butter
Hannah Chappell Rees
by Mae R. Winters
One of the most vivid memories I have of my home and my mother was when she made butter. To her, making butter was not a task but an art in which she excelled. Mother was very proud of her skill.
First of all came the separating of the golden cream in the separator. Twice daily the warm milk was brought from the barn into the milk house; there the cream was separated from the milk. The cream was caught in a large blue bowl and allowed to cool completely before it was emptied into a big crock with the other cream. It was then allowed to ripen. Another seemed to know just when the cream was sour enough to make the best butter; she judged more by the smell than by anything else.
The churning of the cream took place very early in the morning, usually at five o’clock in the summertime. Morning was the best time for working, and the cream was just right when it was cool. Singing always went along with the swish—swish of the cream as it dashed to and fro in the old wooden churn. Most often it was a hymn mother sang or an old English folk song. Many times we children were awakened by the churning and mother’s singing as he went cheerfully about her task.
I suppose my mother owned many churns in her life, but the one I remember best was an old wooden one that was also owned by my grandmother. It had been brought from gland and then across the plains in an ox-driven wagon. The churn stood on legs just the right height for sitting and turning. I was never allowed to turn the churn, for mother declared that I turned either too fast and slopped cream all over the kitchen, or too slowly and the butter never came. Churning morning found us close to the kitchen as we watched in fascination.
The golden butter was lifted from the churn with a wooden paddle into a large, flat wooden bowl. We were not allowed to wash this bowl with soap, for this would mike the butter stick to the bowl. Mother had found this out through long years of experience.
The molding of the butter into pounds was a ritual in itself. It called for extra care because all of the buttermilk must be removed. Over and over again it was pressed against the side of the bowl, turned and worked, and, finally, washed in ice-cold water. Then the right amount of salt was added. The salt was never measured; mother knew just how much was needed. The mold was supposed to hold just one pound, but other always heaped some on top so that the top of each pound was round instead of flat. When weighed at the store, each so called pound was actually much more. Oh, how sweet and good the butter tasted on hot biscuits, on pancakes made from the buttermilk, or on big slices of homemade bread with strawberry jam!
After the butter was molded, each pound was wrapped in tissue-thin paper which bore Mother’s name and address. She was justly proud of her name on that butter wrapper because it was a symbol of her ability and artistry.
Taking the butter to market was a joy to all of us children. To be denied the privilege of hitching the horse, Old Dan, to the little buggy and riding with Mother into town was the most severe punishment that could be administered.
Most of the butter went to the local merchant where it was traded for cur food and clothing; some, however, was distributed to customers. Mother had the same customers for years. Twenty—five cents was a good price her pound. Mother often received as much as ten cents a pound more, because her butter was always sweet, clean, and of good measure.
Yes, one of the fondest memories I have of my dear Mother was her making of butter, (published July 1957 Relief society Magazine) (l952)
Nellie Rees Crittenden (Mae’s sister) writes: “I talked with Uncle Will Chappell about the churn and he said Grandma had it ever since he could remember and his is 78 years. She churned butter in churn until about 5 years before her death. (Mother is Hannah Chappell Rees born 1862 but brought to United States by Hannah Lake Chappell born 1837, Grandma) (Churn restored in 1970 and in possession of Thomas and Helen Rees Berger.)
(From Ray Walker’s Book of Remembrance)