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 Texas : Features : Columns : "It's All Trew"

Got sweet, skim,
sour, butter or scalded milk?

by Delbert Trew
Delbert Trew
Previous columns in It's All Trew have been dedicated to milking cows, separating milk and carrying the remainder to the hogs.

We churned butter, ate cornbread and milk, and sold cream on Saturday afternoon. A recent Alanreed coffee shop discussion explored many other processes used in milk production. See how many "milk terms" you recognize and if we are correct in our descriptions and procedures.
Plant of Texas Milk Production Co., Marshall,  Texas old photo
Plant of Texas Milk Production Co., Marshall
Postcard courtesy rootsweb.com/%7Etxpstcrd/
 
No doubt the milk from a cow provided the owners with a wholesome, delicious liquid food in a continuous, dependable fashion. The byproducts not consumed by the family could be sold to provide much-needed income.

These byproducts were generally cream and butter. To obtain them was easy: Just separate milk mechanically or by letting it set for 12 hours. Sell the cream or make butter by churning cream. What could be more simple? However, at this point, processing milk becomes a bit more complicated and many lesser-known terms come into play.

Sweet milk, skim milk, sour milk, buttermilk, scalded milk

For instance, fresh or "sweet milk" left sitting will separate into cream and skim milk. Skim or sweet milk left sitting will turn into sour milk. Cream churned into butter leaves a tasty delicacy called buttermilk. I don't know what buttermilk turns into because we drank it all down before it could turn into any other form, especially if mother made some fresh cornbread.

At some point, sour milk becomes curdled or somewhat solid. Is this clabber yet? Charles Goodnight loved good clabber. Somehow eating clabber doesn't sound appetizing. It may just be the ugly word. Where does "curds and whey" of literary fame come into the milk picture?

What the heck is whey, anyway? When does milk reach the point it can be made into cheese? My mother made cottage cheese because I remember the greyhounds lying under the clothesline catching the drips from hanging bags of cottage cheese. Were the drips whey, sour milk or what?

Many recipes call for sour milk, and if not available, vinegar can be added to make milk sour. Does "sourdough" and sour milk have a connection? Another recipe ingredient sometimes needed is "scalded milk."

What is the purpose of scalded milk? Why is it different in nature from non-scalded milk? Is this an effort to kill the good or bad bacteria that processes milk naturally? Is scalded milk different from the heated milk we fed our babies trying to make it pure? If we heated milk enough to kill germs did, we not kill the "good bacteria" too?

As you can see from my questions all this is "whey" over my head. That "sour-smelling" cockleburr-filled tail up aside my face might have "curdled" my brain. I'm sure the answers can be "churned out" and there are probably more milk terms to be "separated" from our memories.

If you know of more milk terms, and can straighten me out about the milk processes above, let me know at the address below and I'll pass this knowledge on to our readers.


Delbert Trew - "It's All Trew"
March 19, 2004 column

E-mail: trewblue@centramedia.net.

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