Categorized | Opinion

Long Ago, It Was Real Tasty

By Otis GriffinOtis Griffin pose

For my country folks that depended on livestock and the good earth to provide a living and nourishment, chores came before the families.  After milking, there was plenty of work to complete the project.  As you know it was just a way of life.  Who can really say what was right, wrong, good or bad.  That’s all we knew!  Making the tour from the stall to the house was always interesting as cats, dogs, hogs, dinosaurs and ‘crock-a-gators’ could smell the white foam all the way to Little Texas.
Opening and closing barn doors, fighting off the vigilantes and trying your best not to slosh the fluid on the trek to the house.  If successful, attack the sagging, back screen door, the ‘wompy-jawed’ back door steps that always seemed to topple as you shifted your weight tugging on the entrance.
By the time I made it to the back porch table and finally situated the silver bucket, I was as tired as if I had been hoeing wheat all day.  I’m not finished, only beginning.  Why?  We have to run the fresh, warm milk through a strainer.  Why?  To extract all the trash, bugs, dirt, hay, and possibly some hair from the cow’s tail out of the milk.  Very simple!  For all the city slickers, the strainer was a container similar to a bucket with wire, possibly the same dimensions as the window screen from the bedroom.
Some of the community milkers owning maybe four or five cows, usually the barrel shaped strainer would hold five to eight gallons of bone building.  Our strainer was located on the back porch, next to the table.  Momma kept a clean, ‘worn out dishrag’ hung on a sixteen penny nail, hammered in the wall, that was used to cover the strainer and protect the  milk.  So thin, you could read the Memphis Press Scimitar without turning a page.
Neighbor, you know cats are sneaky and sly.  The cats would smell the tasty, foamy, warm, body builder and invade the premises.  Many times, several attempted to jump into the small barrel.
Our strainer was light green, with four red wooden legs, slightly slanted so the container hopefully wouldn’t turn over.  Every few inches on the outside of the metal container were indentions to gauge the amount such as two or three gallons, or more.  Additionally there was a small, peep window about half way up the container.  I was fascinated as Momma transferred the milk creating substantial foam.  The cats would purr, drool and dream!
A small cutoff valve at the bottom of the funnel shaped strainer allowed us to empty the container with a certain amount after cleansing.  To purify inside the metal strainer, simply wipe several times with (hopefully) a clean dishrag
Many times I had to stand on a five-gallon slop bucket wiping and preparing for about two gallons.  Once as I was pouring, amnesia set in and I forgot to check the valve.   With no container situated under the strainer, milk flowed freely, covering the back porch.  Momma let out a war whoop that would have made Geronimo very proud.  Momentarily, I was afraid I was going to get a haircut like Custer.  Neighbor, a few knots on yo’ noggin, resembling acorns, will get yo’ attention.  It got mine!
A few times, problems arose as the upright strainer was unavailable requiring Momma to assist Daddy to strain the milk through some Gold Medal flour sacks or possibly Martha White’s material.  See, rednecks are smart, but don’t let it out.  Not just yet!  It wasn’t that we weren’t a caring, sharing family, but we were afraid the bugs would drink too much of our future Clabber milk.
Beloved, this was a country way to make sure our milk was fit to consume.  We had never heard of pasteurizing, homogenizing, two-percenting, or fat freeing.  Skim milk had not arrived.  The only skim we understood was skimming the water in the bucket with a dipper to extract the unwanted bugs, flies and mosquitoes.  The gauge for butter content was determined by the breed of bovine.  A Holstein gave a smart amount, but low in butter fat.  However, Jersey cows gave a smaller amount of liquid, but high in butterfat content.  Let them Harvard professionals that don’t know how to milk a cow, ‘figger’ it out.  While they are determining this calculation, see if anyone  knows the butter proliferation of a Jersey heifer?  I don’t know this mind you, but they will tell you sumpin’!
Come suppertime, this delicacy topped the meal.  When is the last time you milked a cow?  Strained yo’ milk?. Cooled milk in an ice box?  When is the last time you had a Mason jar of good unadulterated, foamy, homegrown milk with crumbled cornbread?
This ‘STRAINS’ My Mind What I Can’t Enjoy Anymore – GLORY!

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October 2013
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