all about garden mates.

January 26, 2012

You might remember a few posts (and months) ago when I wrote about digging sweet potatoes.

You might also remember Amelia, my garden mate from summers past. She’s all over this blog.

I mentioned this in the sweet potato post, but Amelia moved to Omaha in July. While I now get to live in her very, clean and well-taken care of old apartment (which I love), it means that I have a garden plot all to myself this growing season; I’m worried that’s going to be lonely.

Side note: I have a super secret plan for avoiding this loneliness, I just haven’t executed it yet.

Since she was in Omaha when I dug the sweet potatoes, I’ve been saving them for her next visit. I devoured mine pretty quickly and have been eying hers…but luckily she came to town a few weeks ago with her BF Martin. We caught up over Sport Tea at the Pig and I delivered her sweet potatoes.

As the photo indicates (even though I’d accidentally chopped some of them into pieces with the shovel), she and Martin were very happy.

Also, a super special shout out to Elaine Mohr. Amelia said you’d like this.

A couple of weeks ago, I got to churn butter.

Right now, you’re either wowed because: 1) I got to churn butter or 2) I am a 24-year-old and I am excited about this.

Well, for those of you falling under #2, I was not just excited, I was real excited. Be wowed.

It’s always refreshing when someone gives you a gift that says “Hey–I totally get you.” Though my family/friends always get me cool things, Aunt Sandy (of green beans via the USPS fame) and Uncle Kevin gave me that “I totally get you” gift this year.

After I had opened all my gifts and everyone else still had presents left (I’m not sure how I let that happen…), Aunt Sandy said that I had one more present that she had forgotten to wrap.¬† I thought it was going to be a Carhart sock cap because I had made such a big deal about NYC hipsters wearing Carhart sock caps and totally re-appropriating our Midwestern-ness, but when she handed the present to me, though, it was cold–definitely not a sock cap.

It was a Mason jar full of fresh cream. Uncle Kevin buys eggs from a local farmer. Recently, the farmer gave Uncle Kevin a jar of cream and Aunt Sandy got to churn butter. Now this farmer saves cream for Uncle Kevin and when he gave him this jar so close to Christmas, Uncle Kevin thought¬† “This is just perfect for Kara.” And it was.

Luckily, Grandma Pat’s house is a veritable antique mall, so I had my pick of butter churns. Actually, I just used the one she said to use because she knows best.

Grandma and Aunt Sandy gave me three instructions: 1) let the cream get to room temperature before churning [Aunt Sandy didn’t do this and she churned butter all day] 2) just when it seems like it will never become butter, you will start to see yellow flakes 3) rinse the butter off…but not with soap. They also promised me it would be fun.

One afternoon, friend Patrick (of STL guest gardener fame) came over to my parents’ house and we churned butter. Most people would either think a) that I was weird/a loser or b) that I meant something dirty by that, but he didn’t. He’s cool like me.

And now…mostly photos. There’s not a lot to explain really…we took turns churning and taking photos.

We also chatted and drank coffee and let my parents’ outside cat into the house.

After about 35 minutes, we started to see yellow flakes/blobs/stuff.

Regarding butter color/yellow-ness: Grandma Pat said that the butter would be more yellow in the summer when the cows were eating different things (grass, corn, etc). The chicken farmer said they are just eating hay right now. I think the butter is super yellow in some photos (and not others) because Patrick’s iPhone is newer/has a better camera than my iPhone.

We weren’t sure if more churning would mean more butter, but after another 15 minutes, we decided to stop.

Then we rinsed the butter off and put it in a bowl.

At this point, Patrick became very concerned about determining what kind of milk the leftover milk was. He did some research: skim milk. We strained the little pieces of butter out of it using a broken reusable coffee filter my dad probably kept because he knew I would one day need it while churning butter, and then let the milk sit for a few minutes. We skimmed the stuff off the top and tried it. The verdict: just like skim milk.

We tried the butter. Wonderful.

When I got back to Lawrence, I shaped the butter into a cow, much like they do at the Iowa State Fair. But I didn’t want to be a show off here on the internetz, so I just smashed the butter cow and put it in a Mason jar. It’s in the fridge.

If you weren’t sure before, I can now confirm that being real excited about churning butter is totally normal. It is cool and fun. Be wowed.