Milking Eleanor

by Kay

Weather-worn doors slid open on Pop Printy’s Indiana barn. Light shone through cracks between boards and dust would suspend in each slant of light. Spider webs shrouded the windows.

The cow’s name was Eleanor. Barn cats clustered when Eleanor was milked, hoping for a shot at warm milk. Pop would pour a little milk into an aluminum pie plate for the cats, or sometimes squirt a bit right from the cow into a cat’s mouth. Milk was stored in pails in a milk house, down a hole in the ground to keep it cool. I wasn’t allowed to play in the milk house, for fear I’d fall down the hole.

In the house, Mom poured fresh milk into bottles and let cream rise to the top. She skimmed off the cream and made butter and sour cream. She made buttermilk, too, for biscuits. Not much was on that farm that wasn’t homemade.

I still make buttermilk and sour cream like Mom Printy:

  • My sour cream jar holds around a cup, I’d say. I pour about a quarter cup of buttermilk in the jar and then fill the jar with cream. I stir it a bit and then cover the jar with a clean cloth and set the jar in a warm place for a day or so.
  • My buttermilk jar holds two cups. I pour maybe a half cup of buttermilk into the jar and fill it the rest of the way with milk. Buttermilk needs to sit in a warm place for a day or two just like the sour cream. You can start with buttermilk from the store, but be sure to buy the kind that has actual cultures in it.

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