Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Cutting Butter

What the heck????
This morning I came into the kitchen and found Bob with an assortment of knives all spread out on the counter and they all looked used!  I wondered what the heck he was doing!

I have to go back a bit so you can get the big picture. Coming from Wisconsin and then living on a ranch where we milked cows and sold cream, I only had butter for eating and cooking.  Bob, of course, also was accustomed to eating butter. 

Back in the day, as I was growing up, the dairy farmers of Wisconsin had a powerful lobby in the state house that affected all of us.  A law was in effect that did not allow the sale of yellow margarine!  I am not kidding.  It also put a large tax on the sale of white margarine so it cost more than butter!   Therefore everyone ate butter.  It made for an interesting drive from Chicago to Milwaukee because as you approached the state line there were all these little stands selling yellow margarine for cheap.  If you did buy white "oleo" as we called it, it came in a plastic pouch with a little capsule filled with yellow food coloring.  You dumped the capsule into the pouch and then squished it around with the oleo until it was an even yellow.  You then had to shape it into a square and store it. 

When I was first married we had milk cows.  The milk was separated every morning and night and the cream was shipped on the train once a week to the creamery.  We kept some out to make butter every week too so I had to learn how to do that.  I had an electric churn that churned the cream and then you had to work all the buttermilk out, rinse it, work the water out, and add some salt. Then I formed it into squares, wrapped it and froze what we weren't going to use immediately.  So you see, I was used to blocks of butter and margarine instead of the nice 1/4 pound cubes we get at the store.

Back to Bob and his knives.  We now buy unsalted butter from Sam's in packages of 4 one pound blocks.  We keep the ones we are not using in the freezer until needed.  This morning I saw that he had just taken a new block of butter out of the freezer and was trying to cut it into 4 even cubes like you find in the store.  I normally do this job and know that I must put it in the microwave for about 30 seconds first,
Scoring the butter with the cleaver

then score the block with the cleaver before trying to cut it into 4 even cubes.

A block of frozen butter that I scored.  I normally score on 2 adjoining sides so I can cut it in half, turn it a quarter turn and cut again.

Obviously Bob didn't know any of this so he had all these different knives he had tried, plus the block of butter had lines all over it where he had tried to cut it!

Hmmmmm! Now I am wondering what ever happened to that electric churn,  the butter bowl and butter paddle, which were antiques even when I was using them, and the milk pasteurizer that Pug bought for me because she was worried my kids would get Bangs disease or something.

The butter before and after I cut it.

Sunday, November 6, 2011

Thoughts on Family History and Pug's Potato Pancakes

Darcy checks out an old cabin over in Spring Creek.  I wonder who built it and when.

A few days ago we were at Shoe's Barbershop and Tonsorial Parlor for Bob's haircut.  We were talking to Matt about how his kids were 7th generation of the Manville family in North Park!  Matt mentioned that he was supposed to go up to the school and give a talk on the Manville family and needed to do some research.  Bob started to tell him about how his great grandfather, Grampa Norris ( Bob can't remember his name so we'll have to go up to the cemetary to find it), came to North Park as a trapper in the late 1800's and then homesteaded a ranch on the west side.  that was the beginning of our family history in North Park!

As you can see, we really need to get this all written down (or recorded) as our memories are beginning to fail us!  Matt suggested I write a book but I can't even keep up with my blog!  Danny bought us a little digital recorder that can be connected to a computer and downloaded.  It is a bit complicated to get downloaded, so we have done a little recording but need to figure out again how to get it all sent to Danny.  JJ helped me last winter but now I guess we'll have to have her assistance again when we get to her house!  I really love researching the history of this area and wish I had more time, energy and gasoline to travel around and interview the old timers here in the Park.  I keep thinking about it but can't seem to get around to it!  I know several books have been written about North Park but I really like the idea of talking to and recording the stories face to face with people.

It was kind of interesting that we had this conversation because just that morning I had been thinking about my childhood and some of the crazy, fun things we did.  I even had a short story published about an incident from those days!  Hmmmmm, I wonder where that is.  Sue, you will remember it.  When that guy tried to give us a ride up on the main road.  I guess I'll see if  I can find it and put it up on the blog!  There are so many memories and I do think I need to get them written down somewhere, so I guess this blog will have to be it!

  Lynn wants me to write a book full of family recipes and memories, too.  She was always the writer of the family, so if I start writing some of these maybe she can be a "guest contributor".  Some of my cousins need to kick in with recipe suggestions from Pug and Uncle Ran, too! (Patti, Mike, Bob, Maryanne, hint, hint, hint).  I think we all can identify with Dad's daily "soft boiled eggs"!

Here is a very simple recipe that I have been craving for a long time but never could figure out how to make it the same way as Pug did.  She called it Potato Pancakes but I have finally decided the closest thing to it is Latkes!  Here is a quick and simple recipe that I got from allrecipes.com.  I'm going to call them Pug's Potato Pancakes even though they are called Latkes in the recipe I found.  They taste like Pug's anyway.....

Pug's Potato Pancakes
(Foolproof Potato Latkes )
    By: Basg
on allrecipes.com

  • 4 potatoes, peeled and cubed (I used Yukon Golds)
  • 1 small onion, chopped (I used maybe half a small onion)
  • 2 eggs
  • 2 teaspoons salt
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour, or as needed (for me this was enough--the flour is the part of Pug's recipe that is different than the ones I have tried before.  The less the better, but it does need some)
  • 1 teaspoon baking powder
  • 1/4 cup canola oil, or as needed


  1. Place 1/4 of the potatoes, onion, eggs, salt, flour, and baking powder in the work bowl of a food processor; pulse several times until the vegetables are finely chopped. Add the rest of the potatoes, and pulse again until all the potatoes are finely chopped and the mixture is thoroughly combined.
  2. Heat canola oil in a skillet over medium heat. Scoop up about 1/3 cup of the potato mixture per latke, and place into the hot oil. Fry the patty until brown and crisp on the bottom, flip it, and cook the other side until brown, 2 to 3 minutes per side. Repeat with the rest of the potato mixture, replenishing the oil as needed. Serve hot.


  • Pug used a grater and grated the potatoes on the large holes.  Using the food processor is quicker and saves your knuckles from getting barked and it tastes just as good but the texture is a little different.
  • Cook's Note
  • Apple sauce and sour cream are favorite accompaniments with these latkes. Make an interesting tuna salad, cut up some veggies, and you have a full meal.
    We always had them with homemade warm applesauce.  I would spread the applesauce on top of the "pancake" and it was soooo yummy!
Snow is a major feature in North Park history.  This is the "hummingbird tree" in front of our cabin.