Sunday, January 1, 2017

Butter, Butter, Who's Got Butter?

   Remember when, back in the summer, I wrote about embarking on our "milk journey?" (If you don't recall that tale, you can read about it here.) Robin and I gave it a valiant effort but, try as we might, we just couldn't keep up with five gallons of milk a day. After about two months, we were happy and relieved to find sweet LouAnn a new home.

Now she lives with a lively family with five growing children who need a lot of milk. She's such a good cow, very sweet-tempered and very patient with all the pulling, tugging, and twisting that goes along with the young ones learning to milk.

That left us with Star and her calf, which is a very good thing. The calf took all the milk unless we penned her away from her mama for eight to twelve hours. Then we could milk and manage the gallon and a half with ease. And we didn't have to milk again until we needed more. The perfect dairy life, I'd say.

But there comes a time when the calf must be weaned, and that turned out to be at the beginning of December. Now Robin is milking morning and evening again, and we're getting about two and a half gallons every day. That's still a lot of milk, but it's oh, so much more manageable than eight gallons!

These days, we're making yogurt, butter, curds, and sometimes pudding. We give some away to our little friend Kirsten, who loves it. We feed some of it to our chickens. Little Notch, our rescue cat, is growing sleek and fat on his share. But mostly, we make butter. Lots of butter!

While we had LouAnn, there was so much cream that Robin dug out the old electric churn his mother and aunt used decades ago. This thing is somewhere between vintage and antique, probably from the 1940s. With some coaxing and TLC, it still works. These photos are from our first time using it. We put in about two gallons of cream and the dasher,

and then got the tank all settled in the frame and hooked up to the motor on top.

Robin plugged it in, and wa-laa! It worked! It was a bit noisy and he had to sit with it to make sure the lid didn't bounce off, but in about half an hour we had butter.

However, it wasn't right. It was too fluffy, more like cake icing and almost white.

I managed to get it washed and packed, but it was quite a mess. All that fluff ended up being made into ghee, a wonderful substance that I use for frying and oiling bread pans, among other things. But that's another story.

In the almost 30 years since we made butter, we had forgotten that one must add some milk to the cream in order for the butter to form. Once we did that, we ended up with real butter.

After LouAnn went to her new home, we didn't have enough cream for the big old electric churn, so we went to the manual method.

This old glass churn really is an antique, but it still works just fine as long as you supply the power.

We also remembered another nugget of churning wisdom: let the cream and milk come to room temperature. Doing so cut the churning time almost in half, from close to an hour down to 20 minutes, give or take a few.

After the buttermilk is poured off

the washing begins. Did you know you must wash the milk out of the butter?

Simply add cold water and start squeezing.

It takes several rounds of squeezing, pouring off the water, adding clean water, and squeezing some more to get all the milk out.

Then you squeeze more to get as much water out as possible, add salt, and squeeze and pat some more. When the salt is all mixed in and most of the water is out, you're ready to pack.

Butter freezes well, so once it's solid inside these containers, we pop it out, wrap it in plastic wrap, and pack the butter blocks in zip-top bags. We have quite a stash now. And the cream keeps coming.

This past Saturday, we bought a more "modern" electric churn from the same folks we bought the cows from.

Isn't she a beauty? She needed a good bit of scrubbing and a new cord, which we took care of right away. Now she's as good as new.

There's even an on/off switch

and a pretty red handle.

Maybe she needs a name. Hmm...I'll have to think about that a while. I'm open to any suggestions you may have. Anyway, we loaded her up with three quarts of cream and a quart of milk...

put the dasher/motor/lid on, plugged her in, and turned her on.

My! How quiet she runs! Just a soft whir on my kitchen counter. How nice it was to turn her on and walk away while the she did the work.

After about 30 minutes, she sounded like she was working a little harder. Sure enough, butter was starting to form.

We let her run a few minutes more and there it was! Beautiful, golden butter floating in the milk, and we barely had to lift a finger. What a wonder!

From there on, it was the same process of washing and packing. I was so delighted with what's her name that I forgot all about taking pictures.

Along with the churn came this handy butter mold, which also worked like a charm. It holds a pound and you can cut it into four sticks, just like store-bought butter. That's great for cooking and baking, where measurements matter.

I think we've finally come to an even keel in our milk journey. Star will be milking for another month or two. She's hopefully bred again, with a calf due in late summer. She'll be dry for a few months while her baby grows, meaning she won't give any milk. Never fear, though! We have plenty of butter to get us through until she freshens with a new calf. Then we'll be back in the dairy business again.

Saturday, December 24, 2016

A Gurley Christmas Story

And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Ceasar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed. And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.

And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; because he was of the house and lineage of David:

To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child.

And so it was that, while they were there, the days were accomplished that she should be delivered. And she brought forth her firstborn son,

and wrapped him in swaddling clothes, and laid him in a manger; because there was no room for them in the inn.

And there were in the same country shepherds abiding in the field, 

keeping watch over their flock by night.

And, lo, the angel of the Lord came upon them, and the glory of the Lord shone round about them: and they were sore afraid.

And the angel said unto them, Fear not: for, behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy, which shall be to all people. For unto you is born this day in the city of David a Saviour, which is Christ the Lord.  And this shall be a sign unto you: Ye shall find the babe wrapped in swaddling clothes, lying in a manger.

And suddenly there was with the angel a multitude of the heavenly host praising God, and saying, Glory to God in the highest and on earth peace, good will toward men.

And it came to pass, as the angels were gone away from them into heaven, the shepherds said one to another, Let us now go even unto Bethlehem, and see this thing which is come to pass, which the Lord hath made known unto us. And they came with hast, and found Mary, and Joseph, and the babe lying in a manger.

And when they had seen it, they made known abroad the saying which was told them concerning this child. And all they that heard it wondered at those things which were told them by the shepherds. But Mary kept all these things, and pondered them in her heart.

And the shepherds returned, glorifying and praising God for all the things that they had heard and seen, as it was told unto them.
Luke 2: 1-20

Merry Christmas!

Thursday, November 24, 2016

Pilgrims on My Table

As far back as I can remember, my mother had these little Pilgrim candles out for Thanksgiving.

The labels on the bottom reveal that they were made by the Gurley Candle Company of Buffalo, New York. The Pilgrims cost 15 ⊄, and the turkey 29⊄.

When my mom bought these, probably back in the 1950s, 59⊄ was more than just pocket change and was carefully spent. She never lit the candles, keeping them in their original condition for decades.

When I married Robin, he came with lots of stuff. Among his treasures were more Gurley Pilgrims.

The little lady is like Mom's except for her grey dress, and the larger turkey is a duplicate of Mom's. I had never seen candles as big as the taller lady, nor a turkey as small is this little one.

Many years later, my sister found this little Indian girl in a thrift shop and gave her to me for Christmas.

She's a Gurley too. Until she joined my Thanksgiving candle collection, I didn't know they made Indians. The text on the bottom label is different from all the others...does that mean she's older?

Even if she's showing her age, she has a sweet little face, don't you think?

A few months ago, I ran across this pair of Pilgrims in an antique store.

They're the same size as Robin's taller lady, about 5 1/2 inches. I'm not sure they started life together as a pair, since their labels and prices aren't the same.

But they're just the right size to go with Robin's larger turkey, so now I have another perfect three-some.

And now, for the best find so far...

I found this whopper just ten miles from home! Our local chapter of the SPCA runs a second-hand store in town. Not long ago, I went in to see if they had anything new and this lovely fellow greeted me from a table near the door. I couldn't believe it! I didn't know Gurley made holiday candles this big. He's almost six inches tall!

He's in perfect condition, without a flaw of any kind that I can see.

When he was brand new, he was quite an investment at $1.19. I got him for a steal...only 50⊄!!

He towers over my other little turkeys. Do you suppose they made pilgrims this big? They would be at least eight inches tall, maybe taller.

Gurley candles are among my favorite vintage things. I always enjoy having them on display during the holidays, and put them where I can see them often. Besides these Thanksgiving candles, my little collection includes two Halloween candles and several Christmas ones. Do you remember Gurley candles from your childhood? For me, they evoke a comfortable aura of nostalgia. Sweet memories of home and family are something to be thankful for, are they not?