I wonder whether anyone who has ever had the opportunity to stay on a farm in the old days remembers what real buttermilk tastes like. There is no taste in the world that matches homemade buttermilk that is made by using milk that comes directly from the cow on the farm–and the cows seemed glad to give it up when their bags were full.
Before daybreak every morning, the rooster crowed as usual and woke everyone up. Then I would hear Grandpa and Grandma rustling about. On milk days, I’d hear the metal handle on the milk bucket clank as Grandpa picked it up and headed out to the barn to milk the cows. Grandma opened the mildly scratchy sounding iron door to the old wood-burning stove and arranged the wood inside of it before starting the fire to cook breakfast. She made hot biscuits every morning.
Grandpa had a contract with a milk company that year and on the days he milked the cows, he would bring the bucket back to the house full of milk, and empty it into a milk can. The milk pick-up was once a week and Grandpa did the milking the day before. On pick-up day, he would hitch up the wagon, load up the milk can, and take it down the hill to the designated spot by the side of the road. Soon the milk truck arrived and an exchange was made; an empty can for the full one.
From time to time, milk was set aside for table use. Grandma never used it in its original form. She let it set for a few days until it formed thick, curdled, sour milk she called clabber, and clabber is archaic for curd. When the milk curdled enough, it was ready to be churned. Today, there is a more refined version of clabbered milk; it is called yogurt which is processed clabbered milk.
I always wanted to help Grandma but I was too young and got in her way most of the time. However, when she was not in a hurry to get something done, she would let me churn the milk for a little while. I liked watching little bits of film and bubbles form on the top of the milk, and over the course of roughly an hour, coagulation was visible. The little bubbles turned into butter right before my eyes. When the consistency of the butter was complete and had accumulated across the top of the milk, the churning was accomplished. It was time to gather the butter. What remained was pure unpolluted milk with little tiny dots of butter floating throughout. And that is how buttermilk got its name.
The milk that is sold in the stores today still goes by the name of buttermilk. However, based on the taste, I am not convinced what percentage of it is actual milk. Food specialists have mastered the art of taste, color, and dehydration so well that I would not be surprised if it was just as artificial as some cheese I heard about.
A number of years ago, I tried to churn a quart of store-bought milk. My friends kept telling me, “It ain’t gonna happen,” but I kept going. I yearned to see fresh butter come to the top. They were right. It didn’t happen no kind of way. No sign of butter ever surfaced.
I came to the conclusion that if anyone wants real old-fashioned, homemade buttermilk today, they will have to visit a vegetarian-type farm, milk a cow, let the milk clabber, and then churn it.
I believe ‘progress’ and ‘civilization’ should be renamed. Any benefits realized from these two styles seem to be momentary, while working towards a disaster for the future.
Seeing more clearly,