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October 16, 2011

Butter ...How mom said she made hers in the 1920's

  I was recently thinking about mom telling us about her early days as a housewife. She said that when she came to Lee Center as a new bride, she was 16-17 years old. She described her kitchen , saying it had a wood burning cook stove, and using an ice box needing a fresh ice block added every 2-3 days to keep food cold, had an outside cistern for wash water, but had to walk to the town well for drinking water. She carried fresh water daily from the town well 2 blocks away in the school yard. I vaguely remember a drinking bucket with water sitting next to the wall by her stove in the kitchen and a drinking ladle hanging on the edge of it, , but that is reaching far back in my early childhood memories. Wash days were endless for her...always on Saturdays and she had numerous clothes lines strung around the back yard tree to tree, post to garage, and post to post! It was a regular maze walking through the back yard on wash days! I remember the fresh clean smell of washed & air dried laundry. Having no electricity or inside plumbing while raining five children, was not an easy task for mom. One task she spoke of was making her own butter. Today I will share her story of how she first made butter. ( Pictured is mom when she came to Lee Center as a new bride, standing with her best friend and neighbor, Tillie Brazel)




June and Tille


Mom said she and dad had one cow they raised in their back 2 acre pasture/ yard. They would milk this cow and from the milk she would save the cream to make butter. She would take this cream and add it to a glass lidded jar and shake shake shake...then shake it some more until she had butter! this took a long time and lots of shaking she said...and would find herself doing this as she danced around the house, cleaning , dancing some more. A popular dance in the 1920s was the Charleston and swing dancing was very popular in the roaring 20s.Mom and dad loved to dance, so I can well imagine her doing this while making butter! when the butter was getting more solid, she would put it into an air tight container and place it into a barrel of rain water outside to keep it cool. In a couple years she would have the luxury of having an ice box, where food could be kept cool by adding an ice block every couple days. I found a website that quotes the prices of food in the 1920's (The Peoples History) Butter was sold at around 56 cents a lb. Mom had said it was expensive to buy butter then as dad was working at a job he made 50 cents a day (The Great Depression began in the summer of 1929)

Mom's butter making recipe( as I can best remember her saying) ...TO o make butter it requires, shaking, shaking, shaking, MORE It is very easy, you only need a few things........
Cream (Can be normal or heavy whipping cream... can be store bought if you don't have a milk cow in your back yard as grandma did .)
1 mason or ball jar with tight fitting lid
Fresh strong arms,able to withstand a lot of shaking


The whole process takes about... 10-20 minutes, the majority of the time is shaking....Mom had her radio playing I am sure,as she danced around with that jar of butter being made! She said it gave her a good work out. The rest is prep time and finish.

step 1...Adding Ingredients.First you will want to measure out how much butter you really want to make. At the beginning of the recipe she would measure about 1 cup of heavy cream. This would yield about half a cup of butter, (the other half cup didn't go missing, just "turned into" Buttermilk) I remember mom loved drinking buttermilk also...something I never understood, as to me it was like drinking sour milk!
step 2 Capping and Shaking..VERY VERY CAREFULLY put the cap on the jar and then begin to shake, it will take awhile to shake this into butter but it is well worth it, according to grandma.
In the end , I think she may have flavored it with a little salt. It was white butter with no food coloring added. This would be done later years and is described by a friend " as having a little yellow pouch of coloring one would squeeze and add to the butter" I remember as a kid going to the refrigerator and seeing white butter and sticking a finger into it to lick!


As the grandkids read this article, I am sure each is saying NO WAY ! This is how life was like for grandma and grandpa in the 1920's , and it came with no complaints ..as it was the way of life back then. I was thinking...I have this blender I could use......just kidding! 

I am glad my mom lived almost 100 years...she would later come to enjoy the benefits of the Industrial revolution, including automobiles, inside plumbing, electricity, TV, washer and driers, modern appliances, etc..... and store bought butter !   

added note...Mom later told about how she used a churn and grandpa went to cut a wood paddle for her.  The butter  turned  very  bitter and she couldn't figure out why...then it dawned on her to ask what kind of wood was used...walnut.,.which they determined, caused the bitter taste...said he should have used maple or a another type of wood. I imagine after all that churning..she was discouraged!

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