When I was 6 years old my family moved to Billings Montana from Albuquerque NM. I distinctly remember the air being heavy compared to the arid climate of the dessert as well as the huge willow tree in the back yard. However, one particular day stands out in my memory, I suppose because food was involved. This is what the memory looks like in my minds eye to this day.
As we drove to church in our 4 door Rambler, I remember thinking how beautiful it was to see all the crocus and new spring flowers popping their heads out of the ground for all to see. The grass was a deep green and I could smell a mixture of fresh cut lawn and sweet flowers mingled together. The day was warm and filled with sunshine and my mood was very high.
My Sunday school room was filled with windows allowing the morning sun to pour in, making the space warm and inviting . As we all filed into class and found our way to a big rug in the middle of the floor, our teacher reminded us to "sit crisscross like applesauce" and keep our paws in our own laps. I'm not sure what crisscross has to do with applesauce but we all followed her direction dutifully. She began to say the morning prayer and in that quite moment I could hear the faint sounds of birds chirping, coming from a box on her desk. I was not the only one who heard the sounds. All of the children began to peek at each other while the teacher continued her prayer. Whispers and giggles ensued and her prayer was interrupted. Our teacher scolded us and motioned to bow our heads with a stern glance. It seemed like an eternity before she was done with the prayer.
As soon as the teacher uttered the words "Amen" we all scrambled up to see what was in the box. Our teacher motioned us to sit back down and began to ever so gently, remove the box from her desk and placed right it in the middle of the rug. As she opened the box we could hear the sounds grow louder and finally see wait waited there. Ten little yellow chicks peeped and scattered around the bottom of the box. Cheers of excitement were heard from all around the room mixed with requests "may I hold one please?" The teacher gently took the chicks out of the box one by one and placed one in each of our laps. You'd have thought we'd all been raptured by the joy streaming from that classroom.
We held our peeping charges gently while the teacher spoke of new birth and Jesus Christ dying on the cross to give His life for our sin, and being reborn to live in heaven with His Father. It was a beautiful moment, how then could it get even better? Snack time!! We were all a little disappointed when the chicks had to go back into their box but our teacher had another surprise awaiting.
In a small paper bag that rested next to the box of chicks were three empty canning jars. Our teacher proceeded to fill each one with some fresh cream from a cow named Molly. As it turned out, the teacher lived on a farm and that is how she came by the new born chicks and Molly's milk. We were rapt! As she poured the milk she began telling us the story about how she milked Molly that morning and how Molly's milk would be changed into something new, just like Jesus Christ when he rose from the dead. All we needed to do was shake the jars until the milk turned into butter. "Are you kidding me?" I thought to myself, "Butter comes from milk?" At the time I didn't quite grasp the idea of how Jesus Resurrection and butter had anything in common but now I see clearly, what she so brilliantly was trying to portray.
We all took turns shaking the jars. Miraculously, the milk began to solidify and eventually we had butter. The teacher spread the creamy butter onto saltine crackers as we waited. We hung on every word she spoke, totally in awe! Before we could eat our freshly churned butter we said a prayer of thanks to Jesus for the chicks, Molly the cow, milk, our moms and dads, sisters and brothers, our dogs and cats, the beautiful day and finally for our teacher who so graciously taught us that day.
My first bite was sweet and smooth, blended with a hint of salt form the cracker. Heavenly! The other children began to disperse to play with toys while waiting for parents to come collect them, I on the other hand, was attached to the teachers hip asking for another cracker with butter...five times! I couldn't get enough. Finally, she shooed me away to play with my friends. I didn't go quietly! I fianlly let loose as my parents arrived and bounced out of the classroom telling them the story of my incredible experience in class that day!
I wish I remembered the teachers name so I could thank her for the joy she gave to me and 9 other children, one day so long ago. I will however, remember that day like it was yesterday.
Using fresh cream to make butter is the absolute best but if you can't find a "Molly" the cow a store bought heavy cream will do. Just look for the highest quality brand you can find.
Simply, pour the heavy cream into a clear canning jar with a tight fitting lid, about half way full then begin to shake. Leaving space in the jar allows the butter to "concuss" against the walls of the jar and allows the churning to progress. Making butter is a terric work our for your arms and depending on the tempurature and quailty of the cream it could take about 15 to 30 minutes to solidfy. If you have children this is a wonderful project to keep them busy while your making dinner or you can cheat and use a hand mixer.
When the cream begins to stick to the jar add a pinch of sea salt. As the butter begins to solidfy you'll notice the seperation of buttermilk from the butter. Remove butter from the jar and place in an airtight container. The butter will keep in the refrigerator for up to one week. You can also keep the buttermilk in the refrigerator up to one week to lend it's buttery flavor to your baking projects.
To make cultured butter: Following the same instructions as above using the highest quality cream you can find, allow it to rest in container at room temprature for 12 hours or until the cream is about 75 degrees Fahrenheit and smells slightly sour. Culturing or ripening the cream gives the butter a deeper flavor as well as aids in digestion due to the living cultures. Shake to churn into butter, again following the directions above.
Add a few fresh herbs to the butter to make compound butters for grilling and cooking.
I added fresh thyme to my butter and spread it on crostini, served it with creamy corn chowder and a wilted bacon lettuce salad...it was as delicious as I'd remembered. To make your own memories try this method for churning your own butter. It's well worth the effort