Monday, 13 May 2019

May is the best month for butter making



Markham, The English Housewife 1683
" There be many mischiefs and inconveniences which may happen to 
butter in the churning, because it is a body of much tenderness and 
will not endure much heat or much cold; for if it be overheated it will look white, 
crumble and taste bitter, and if it be over cold the butter will not 'come' at 
all, but will make you labour in vain."



A charm to make the butter 'come'

Come butter come
Come butter come
Peter stands at the gate
Waiting for a buttered cake
Come butter come





It was important  to protect cows in May; they would be adorned with
 red ribbons and sprinkled with Holy Water to protect them from 
faeries and witches.

In Ireland there were 'butter witches' who by magic would divert their 
neighbour's cows milk to their own. 
The witch would prosper and the farmer would be left with nothing. 
To prevent this the farmer would braid the cow's tail, leave cinders or 
iron tongs near the churn.


A pair of brothers were churning butter one day when the handle of the 
‘dasher’ used to churn the milk broke, so they cut a branch from a nearby  
elder tree and used that. The churning continued until the brothers realised 
that they had made more butter than they could fill their pats with. 
The following day they loaded up all the extra butter on the wagon and
 travelled to the nearby town, and set up a stall in the market place.
 The delicious golden butter soon sold out and  
by the end of the day they had filled their saddle bags with coins 
This good fortune continued; every time they used the elder 'dasher' they filled all 
their bowls and pails with butter; this continued for some time until the 
older brother became concerned, thinking it was all too good to be true 
so he consulted a fairy doctor.

She told him that he had been a fool to speak of their luck as the branch of 
elder was from a fairy trees and speaking of it to an outsider would 
break the spell, and it did. The churn never produced the delicious golden butter 
again but the frugal brothers had spent their money wisely and lived 
comfortably for the rest of their lives.

There is a rather gruesome tale that in Ireland it was not uncommon  to use a 
preserved hand of a corpse to stir the butter with, one family using their deceased father's hand; brings new meaning to a family business!

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