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Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PST

The Milk and Human Kindness A Look At Butter Churns

The Milk and Human Kindness A Look At Butter Churns

The Milk and Human Kindness: A Look at Butter Churns

by Suzanne Lupien of Thetford Center, VT

Finding an old butter churn at a flea market, one that is still usable can be a lot of fun, and because there are so many types, it’s good to know a few tips to help you find one that works well for you. For one thing, the size of your butter churn must match your cream supply so that your valuable cream gets transformed into golden butter while it’s fresh and sweet, and that your valuable time is not eaten up by churning batch after batch because your churn is too small.

So the factors in choosing a butter churn are: size, cost, efficiency –- how long it takes for the butter to come — and care, cleaning, and maintenance.

If you have a very small amount of cream, say a pint a day, you might consider simply shaking the cream in a wide-mouthed half gallon mason jar — or better yet having your teenage son do it. It takes a bit more physical energy in the shaking, but you end up with beautiful butter and no dasher to clean, and therefore every speck of butter ends up in the butter dish rather than going down the drain with the wash water. I much prefer dasher — less churns for these reasons. Large, coopered “tumble” barrel churns are my favorite but their capacity is usually too much for the family cow scenario. If you are very lucky you may even find a ceramic tumble churn perhaps one small enough to fit your cream supply.

Many folks love their 2 1/2 gallon daisy churns with the little plastic propeller-type dasher. I personally do not favor this type as they are slow. I suspect people like them because their capacity is bigger than most glass churns – a little over a gallon. (Keep in mind that you can only fill a butter churn half full owing to the fact that cream expands as you go.)

I once had a 2 gallon glass motorized churn with a cylindrical metal dasher that worked like a dream. The old motor went on it and it was a simple matter to mount a new one. If you find one of these prize churns, treat it ever so gently, it’s a great loss should the jar get broken.

People think they can plug in their electric churn and then nip outside for a quick errand to the henhouse but I don’t recommend it. Things happen: if the butter comes and forms into a solid mass thereby stopping the dasher from turning you can burn out your motor in a jiffy. There are plenty of things to do right there in the kitchen while the cream is spinning.

I used to pooh-pooh the tall plunger style dasher churns but actually they work very well. And I’m sure they fit nicely into many multi-tasking kitchen plans like dandling a colicky baby on your knee and working the dasher with one hand. Or bottle feeding a baby lamb. Certainly you could be adding up the week’s farmer’s market receipts while churning, or calling everyone on the bake sale list while running your plunger churn, it’s not very noisy at all.

The Milk and Human Kindness A Look At Butter Churns

Ceramic butter churn.

Old ceramic plunger churns are surprisingly easy to find. They are distinguishable from crocks by their deeply cut-in rim, like bean pots, to receive the circular wooden lid with the central hole for the dasher handle. You could easily fashion the lid and dasher and be merrily making butter before you know it.

Old wooden butter churns, the classic tall narrow slant-sided hooped style, the tumble churns with metal hoops and a clamping lid, the table top drum style churns with the hopper top and the crank handle, and the cradle-like swing churns are all marvelous and very functional styles. However, in the intervening years the wood shrinks, mice chew and other little bug varmints’ drill holes and tunnels. Occasionally I’ve found one that looks like it would hold cream after the pre-requisite soaking in water, but it is hard to tell. I’ve got a beautiful three gallon barrel churn that leaks like a sieve even after I meticulously removed the hoops and snagged them up and re-riveted them. These barrel churns were advertised in Back to the Land catalogues so perhaps they’re are still being made (hopefully not in China!) and in any case they were produced up until 2000 so you may find one someplace. I love using these churns. The thumping of the dasher as you turn the crank sound like the team trotting along, it’s easy to pull the plug and drain the buttermilk and rinse and turn after adding cold water, and the ladder dasher is very easy to clean.

In my estimation, all hand operated churns do a much better job than the electric versions which spin the cream a bit too fast with the result that washing the butter is harder since it is often no longer in grain or kernel form, but rather like peanut butter.

Another drawback with the electric models is that cream always splashes up the motor shaft and gets up where you really can’t sanitize it.

To make good butter your equipment needs to be spotless, sweet and in good order. Your cream needs to be fresh, and not too cold. 50ºF works well.

In the next issue I will write about making good butter: skimming, and churning, and washing, and draining, and working, and pressing, and forming, and salting, and storing!

Spotlight On: People

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American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

by:
from issue:

On a sunny early September day I met Doug Flack at his biodynamic and organic farm, just South of Enosburg Falls. Doug is an American Milking Devon breeder with some of the best uddered and well behaved animals I have seen in the breed. The animals are beautifully integrated into his small and diversified farm. His system of management seems to bring out the best in the animals and his enthusiasm for Devon cattle is contagious.

Farmrun John Erskine

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John Erskine farms with horses in Sequim, WA.

Kombit: The Cooperative

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We received word of a new environmental film, Kombit: The Cooperative, about deforestation in Haiti — and an international effort to combat it by supporting small farmers on the island.

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George Ziermann has been making custom measured, hand made shoes for 40 years. He’s looking to get out, but can’t find anyone to get in.

Almost a Veterinarian

Almost a Veterinarian

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from issue:

In 1976, after reading the memoirs of a much-lauded veterinarian/author from Yorkshire England, I got it into my head that I would make a good DVM myself. It was a rather bold aspiration inasmuch as I was a thirty-three year old high school dropout with few credentials and no visible means of support. It was a shot in dark: I hadn’t been in a classroom for fifteen years, but I made my way back to Guelph, Ontario, where the only veterinarian school in Canada was located.

Twain Under the Farm Spell

Twain Under the Farm Spell

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from issue:

In his greatest works — Tom Sawyer, Life on the Mississippi and Huckleberry Finn — Twain offered a contrast and tension between town and countryside, between the web of deals and cons and bustle of activity that the modern world would call decidedly urban, and the hard-scrabble but quiet and ultimately nourishing living on farms. There were four farms that touched Sam Clemens, rural locales that sustained and helped mold him, that reached from his beginnings through the decades of his greatest creative efforts.

The Farmer and the Horse

The Farmer & The Horse

In New Jersey — land of The Sopranos, Jersey Shore, and the Turnpike — farmland is more expensive than anywhere else. It’s not an easy place to try to start a career as a farmer. But for a new generation of farmers inspired by sustainability, everything seems possible. Even a farm powered by draft horses.

Loose Hay with Ryan Foxley

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B. Adroit's Profiles in Passion: Herscel Gouda

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Excerpt: Um, ya, you’re just gonna have to read this one.

Central Oregon Food and Farms

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Who is growing food in the high desert? How can you find it? And how can you contribute to creating a vibrant local food community in Central Oregon? Find out here! By consuming more Central Oregon grown food we keep money in our region, support local businesses, and have delicious, fresh food to eat.

UCSC Farm & Garden Apprenticeship

UC Santa Cruz Farm & Garden Apprenticeship

UC Santa Cruz is thrilled to welcome applications to the 50th Anniversary year of the UCSC Farm and Garden Apprenticeship in Ecological Horticulture. The 39 apprentices each year arrive from all regions of the US and abroad, and represent a wide spectrum of ages, backgrounds, and interests. We have a range of course fee waivers available to support participation in the Apprenticeship.

Farmrun - Sylvester Manor

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Sylvester Manor is an educational farm on Shelter Island, whose mission is to cultivate, preserve, and share these lands, buildings, and stories — inviting new thought about the importance of food, culture and place in our daily lives.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 3

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 3

Working with horses can and should be safe and fun and profitable. The road to getting there need not be so fraught with danger and catastrophe as ours has been. I hope the telling of our story, in both its disasters and successes will not dissuade but rather inspire would-be teamsters to join the horse-powered ranks and avoid the pitfalls of the un-mentored greenhorn.

Great Oregon Steam Up

Great Oregon Steam-Up

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from issue:

I went to the Great Oregon Steam-Up over in Brooks, Oregon, near Salem. Lynn has been invited and has wanted to attend for years, but this time of year might very well be the busiest time of year for him. He’s always farming or writing or editing or painting or forecasting or businessing or just generally fightin’ the power, yo. It’s nuts, I don’t know how he does it all. So, when I told him I was going to go, he was very interested and wanted a good report.

Portrait of a Garden

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As the seasons slip by at a centuries-old Dutch estate, an 85-year-old pruning master and the owner work on cultivating crops in the kitchen garden. To do this successfully requires a degree of obsessiveness, the old man explains in this calm, observational documentary. The pruning master still works every day. It would be easier if he were only 60 and young.

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

Traditional Agriculture in Siberia

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from issue:

The agricultural system of the Old Believers has long been one of hand labor. Their homesteads (hozyastvas) were not intended for tractors or horses, with the possible exception of their larger potato fields. Traditionally the small peasant hozyastva has its roots in hand labor, and this has helped maintain the health of the land. Understanding the natural systems is easier when one’s hands are in the soil every day as opposed to seeing the land from the seat of a tractor.

Fjordworks A History of Wrecks Part 2

Fjordworks: A History of Wrecks Part 2

It is always fascinating and at times a little disconcerting to watch how seamlessly the macro-economics of trying to make a living as a farmer in such an out-of-balance society can morph us into shapes we never would have dreamed of when we were getting started. This year we will be putting in a refrigerated walk-in cooler which will allow us to put up more storage-share vegetables.

Small Farmer's Journal

Small Farmer's Journal
PO Box 1627
Sisters, Oregon 97759
800-876-2893
541-549-2064
agrarian@smallfarmersjournal.com
Mon - Thu, 8am - 4pm PDT