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The Great Depression: Life on the Farm



Last time you kids were here, you got called home in a hurry, didn't you? Had I finished telling you about the honey? Seems like I was all ready to pour it into jars. We hadn't planned to sell honey until we got so many hives. What happened was, every so often, some farmer would call my brother and say: "Help! I've got a swarm of bees on my oak tree and I don't want them." So we set up another hive until that row was as long as the rhubarb row and we had another thing to sell!

Now, I had to start with bees to tell you about the honey. I guess to tell you about the butter and cottage cheese, I'd better start with the cows.

"Grandma, butter and cottage cheese don't come from cows. Cows just make milk."

"Well now, that's true. But wait till I tell you about all the things we made from that milk. First of all, the cows had to be milked once a day. They were led into stalls in the barn and had a bin of grain by their heads to eat. They kept quite still anyway. They wanted us to take that milk. You sat on a little stool by their side with a big bucket on the ground to catch the milk.

I did help to make all kinds of things from that milk. Some we kept to drink, but a lot was separated into cream and skim milk. Some we used for whipped cream, ice cream, butter, or cottage cheese.

For the ice cream, we added eggs, sugar, and vanilla to the cream. This went into the can in the center of our ice cream freezer. Ice and salt was packed around this. Then I cranked that handle on and on!

I don't remember adding anything to the cream for the butter. To make butter, we put cream into the wooden butter churn. You guessed right; that had a handle to crank also.

After the hunk of butter was removed from the churn, the last of the buttermilk had to be mashed out with a big wooden spatula. Sometimes we added salt to the butter before shaping it into balls.

Recipe for Homemade Butter:

  • Small sterilized jars (modern day baby food jars work well)

  • Heavy Whipping Cream

  • Salt

  • Pour about 2 ounces of whipping cream into each baby food jar. Call your kids. Let each shake a jar until the cream looks whipped, flecks of butter begin to appear, and they feel a lump forming in the jar. Drain off the milk (and save it to make other things, like cottage cheese.) Add a little salt. And that's butter!!!

Cottage cheese was made from the skim milk. It was poured into a big flat pan and placed on top of a radiator, where it sat for several days. The warm radiator was always the same temperature. The milk separated into curds and whey."

"Grandma, Grandma! I've heard of that! Remember Little Miss Muffet, sat on a tuffit, eating her curds and whey?"

"That's right. I'd almost forgotten that rhyme. So you see, it was good to eat. In our case, we threw the whey away. We didn't like it. But my Mom used the curds to make cottage cheese. Some of my sisters did like the buttermilk though. I didn't.

Now you know about the things that I sold.



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