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An Unforgettable Past

Maine is full of stories and memoirs from farmers and food producers from Bangor to Kittery, and I’ve got a fun, vivid memory to add to the collection.

I started working on my uncle’s dairy farm when I was 13, and I will never forget the first time I saw butter being made. We always started working and processing at 4:00 am sharp. This particular morning, my uncle Roland (who never said more than two words before 8:00 am), poured a couple of 40-quart cans of cream into what looked like a 50-gallon wood drum. The drum then rotated on a shaft which was attached to the center of the drum, so that when he turned it on, the drum turned end to end. This was our “butter churn!” I don’t remember how long it took that day for the cream to turn to butter, but I do remember when my Uncle Roland opened up that drum, seeing all of the butter balls that were floating in the buttermilk.

My aunt Noella liked to talk, and she would take the time to explain
to me what she was doing with the butter. The many early mornings on
the dairy farm those decades ago, and the lessons patiently taught to
me by my aunt and uncle, really made a lifelong impact on me. I
remember that we would then take the butter out of the churn, and put
it on a wooden table that had a crank on one side. The crank looked
like a wooden rolling pin in the middle, and when we would turn it, the
whole table would move. The butter would go under a wooden wheel, which
not only forced the excess buttermilk out of the butter, but also
flattened the butter so that we could salt it more evenly. After
salting the soft butter and sampling it many times – which, for some
reason, took a lot more samplings than I thought at the time it should
have – my Aunt Noella would put it into a wooden mold, form it into
neat blocks, and then wrap it into parchment paper. The result of these
very precise steps truly was the freshest, most mouth-watering butter
that I ever had.  (And no, I don’t just say this because I’m a Mainer!)

If you ever want to try your hand at making premium, homemade
butter, use fresh heavy cream – NOT one that has been “ultra
pasteurized” or “homogenized” – slowly churn it, and add fresh salt to
suit your own taste. Wrap your butter in foil or put it into a sealed
container, so that air and light can’t alter the butter’s fresh taste.
When you’re ready, slather on to fresh bread, warm to go along with
Maine Lobster, or use as a primo ingredient for fresh baking. You can
do it!

Dan Patry is Founder and President of Maine’s “Kate’s Butter.”

A lobster legend passes
Community Supported Fisheries (CSFs)

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