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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

A Small Good Thing

A Small Good Thing

We shared this video a while back, and now it has been released on Netflix. Check it out! — “A Small Good Thing” explores how the American Dream has reached its end and how for most of us, greater material wealth and upward mobility are no longer possible. To find out what is taking its place, this feature documentary follows six people in one community who have recast their lives so they can live with a sense of meaning.

Birth of a Farm

Birth of a Farm

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“Isn’t it nice?” I offer to my supper companions, “to see our beautiful horses right while we’re eating? I feel like I’m on a Kentucky horse farm, with rolling bluegrass vistas.” I sweep my arm dramatically towards the view, the rigged up electric fence, the lawn straggling down to the pond, the three horses, one of whom is relieving herself at the moment. “Oh, huh,” he answers. “I was thinking it was more like a cheesy bed and breakfast.”

A Bad Day in Harmony

A Bad Day in Harmony

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Gary, hoping that that was the lot, revved up the big yellow machine in eager anticipation but once again I called a halt and disappeared in the direction of the house. When I reappeared at the graveside holding a dead cat by the tail Gary shut the machine down completely, remained totally silent for what seemed like a long time, and then leaned out of the cab and with a look of mock concern on his face said in his dry manner, “Where did you say the wife and kids are?”

Sustainable

Sustainable

Sustainable is a documentary film that weaves together expert analysis of America’s food system with a powerful narrative of one extraordinary farmer who is determined to create a sustainable future for his community. In a region dominated by commodity crops, Marty Travis has managed to maintain a farming model that is both economically viable and environmentally safe.

Students on the Lines

Students on the Lines & McD Grain Indicator Plate

from issue:

We conclude our online presentation of Volume 41 Issue 2 with beautiful photos from Walt Bernard’s Workhorse Workshops (www.workhorseworkshops.com) and some hard-to-find info on the McCormick-Deering Plain Fluted Feed “R” Grain Drill Grain Indicator Plate.

Expanding the Use of the Heavy Draught Horse in Europe

Expanding the Use of the Heavy Draught Horse in Europe

“La Route du Poisson”, or “The Fish Run,” is a 24 hour long relay which starts from Boulogne on the coast at 9 am on Saturday and runs through the night to the outskirts of Paris with relays of heavy horse pairs until 9 am Sunday with associated events on the way. The relay “baton” is an approved cross country competition vehicle carrying a set amount of fresh fish.

Farm To School Programs Take Root

All aim to re-connect school kids with healthy local food.

Changing of Seasons

LittleField Notes: Changing of Seasons

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We are blessed who are active participants in the life of soil and weather, crops and critters, living a life grounded in seasonal change. This talk of human connection to land and season is not just the rambling romantic musing of an agrarian ideologue. It is rather the result of participating in the deeply vital vocation that is farming and knowing its fruits first hand.

Bud & Mary Rickett

Buck & Mary Rickett: Successful Small Farmers

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Ten years ago I answered a classified ad and went to a small western Oregon farm to look at some young laying hens that were for sale. That visit to Buck and Mary Rickett’s place made a quiet impression on me that has lasted to this day. On that first visit in ’71 my eager new farmer’s eye and ear absorbed as much as possible of what seemed like an unusual successful, small operation. I asked what must have seemed like an endless stream of questions on that early visit.

It Is Who We Are

It Is Who We Are

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It is NOT a small world, it is a BIG world, as wide and various as you can possibly imagine. We are not alone. When we feel ourselves shut down, crowded by worry and a sense of failure, it would serve us well to remember Bulldog’s admonition, “Boss, never give up, no matter what, never give up.” Anyway, how could we? Who would put up the hay? Who would unharness the team? Who would milk the cows? Who would wax the cheese? Who would feed those woolly pigs? It’s got to be us, after all it is who we are.

The Way To The Farm

Lise Hubbe stops mid-furrow at plowing demonstration for Evergreen State College students. She explains that the plow was going too deep…

Farmrun - Sylvester Manor

Sylvester Manor

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.

The Shallow Insistence

…a life of melody, poetry and farming?

Bonjour de France

Bonjour de France

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A little sign of life from France. Everything is going rather well at the tiniest of farms. Besides the veggies I have been plowing in the vineyards of the Bordeaux area to add some extra income. The drafthorses are back over there, so they need horsemen.

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

Fjord Horses at Work in the Green Mountains of Vermont

We own a 40 jersey cow herd and sell most of their milk to Cobb Hill Cheese, who makes farmstead cheeses. We have a four-acre market garden, which we cultivate with our team of Fjord horses and which supplies produce to a CSA program, farm stand and whole sale markets. Other members of the community add to the diversity of our farm by raising hay, sheep, chickens, pigs, bees, and berries, and tending the forest and the maple sugar-bush.

In Memoriam Gene Logsdon

In Memoriam: Gene Logsdon

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Gene didn’t see life (or much of anything else) through conventional eyes. I remember his comment about a course he took in psychology when he was trying to argue that animals did in fact have personalities (as any farmer or rancher will tell you is absolutely true), and the teacher basically told him to sit down and shut up because he didn’t know what he was taking about. Gene said: “I was so angry I left the course and then left the whole stupid school.”

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

Sack Sewing with Wayne Ryan

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Watching Wayne’s sure hands it was easy for me to forget that this is a 91 year old man. There was strength, economy, elegance and thrift in his every stroke.

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

American Milking Devons and the Flack Family Farm

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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.

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