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.


  1. I remember you telling us about that law in Wisconsin about the white margarine in Foods class. That's OK because real butter is the only way to go!!!

  2. Oh my that whole scene is frightening!!!


  3. I think the whole thing is hilarious. I only remember an electric butter churn. And that we didn't use it very often. I do remember the separator for the cream and then pouring the blue skim milk in the little ditch outside the old house where the hired hands lived.

  4. Yea, remember those great big hugh billboards at the state line that advertized "Cheep Oleo for Sale".

  5. I thought the story was going to end with a trip to town with Bob getting stitches!

  6. I grew up in Milwaukee too and I remember my mom making me do the mixing of the yellow goo into the white oleo!! (I only use real butter these days!)

    By the way, I found your blog through Amy Secklin who is my sister-in-law... :)