John Larrysson Column: Summer Story Chapter 2 Part 4 - Churn on Thursday

Butter is made from cream. Cream is the richest milk from the top of fresh milk. In winter the cream was not as yellow as it was in summer. Butter made, or churned, from it was white and not so pretty. Mother liked everything on her table to be pretty, so in the wintertime she coloured the butter.

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Butter is made in a butter-maker called a churn. After she had put the cream in the tall churn and set it near the fire to warm, she washed and scraped a long orange-coloured carrot. Then she grated it on the bottom of an old, leaky tin pan that Laura’s father had punched full of nail-holes for her. Her mother rubbed the carrot across the roughness until she had rubbed it all through the holes and when she lifted up the pan, there was a soft, juicy mound (pile) of grated carrot.

She put this grated carrot in a little pan of milk over a fire and when the milk was hot she poured the milk and carrot into a cloth bag. Then she squeezed the bright yellow milk into the churn, where it coloured all the cream. Now the butter would be yellow.

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Laura and Mary were allowed to eat the carrot after the milk had been squeezed out. Mary thought she ought to have the larger share because she was older and Laura said that she should have it because she was littler. But mother said they must share it equally. It was very good.

When the cream was ready, mother scalded a long wooden stick called the churn-dash. She scalded it by pouring hot water over it. Then she put the churn-dash in the churn and dropped the wooden churn-cover over it. The churn cover had a little round hole in the middle. Mother moved the churn-dash up and down, up and down, through the hole.

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She churned for a long time moving the churn-dash up and down, up and down. Mary could sometimes churn while mother rested, but the churn-dash was too heavy for Laura. At first the splashes of cream showed thick and smooth around the little hole. After a long time, they began to look grainy. Then her mother churned more slowly and on the churn-dash there began to appear tiny pieces of yellow butter.

When her mother took off the churn-cover, there was a big golden piece of butter floating in the buttermilk. When cream is made into butter a thin watery type of milk called buttermilk is left behind. Then her mother took out the butter with a big wooden spoon and put it into a wooden bowl. Next she washed it many times in cold water, turning it over and over and working it with a spoon until it was clean. After that she salted it.

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Now came the best part of the churning. Mother moulded the butter. On the loose bottom of the wooden butter-mould was carved the picture of a strawberry with two strawberry leaves.

With the spoon mother packed butter tightly into the mould until it was full. Then she turned it upside-down over a plate and pushed on the handle of the loose bottom. The little, firm piece of golden butter came out, with the strawberry and its leaves moulded on the top.

Laura and Mary watched, breathless, one on each side of their mother, while the golden little butter pats, each with its strawberry on the top, dropped on to the plate as mother put all the butter through the mould. Then their mother gave them each a drink of good, fresh buttermilk. Buttermilk tasted very good.

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The Little House in the Big Woods

Chapter 1 - Part 1: Introduction

Chapter 1 - Part 2: Wolves in the Night

Chapter 1 - Part 3: Venison

Chapter 1 - Part 4: Smoked Meat

Chapter 1 - Part 5: Food for Winter

Chapter 1 - Part 6: Butchering Time

Chapter 1 - Part 7: After Butchering Time

Chapter 1 - Part 8: Winter

Chapter 1 - Part 9: Winter Night

Chapter 1 - Part 10: About the Author & Where to Find the Book

Chapter 2 - Part 1: Winter Days and Winter Nights

Chapter 2 - Part 2: Jack Frost

Chapter 2 - Part 3: Laura and Mary Helped Mother with the Housework

Chapter 2 - Part 4: Churn on Thursday

Chapter 2 - Part 5: The Best Time of All

Chapter 2 - Part 6: Her Father Began to Play his Fiddle and Sing

Chapter 2 - Part 7: Father Told Stories

Chapter 2 - Part 8 - The Story of Grandfather and the Panther


by John Larrysson

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A native English speaker who has been teaching practical English in Hong Kong for more than a decade.