After cows are milked, the milk is left to settle in a cool place so the cream rises to the top. By
afternoon, the cream is skimmed off and put into the butter churn. Some would wait a few days to
collect enough cream to be worth churning. A little fermentation ripens the cream. The stick or dasher is moved up and down in a stoneware churn with a lid. Agitating the cream produces butter by separating yellow fat from the buttermilk. The ceramic butter churn is the long way of making butter, so when you do it, make sure to sing a song (it’s a tradition).
Butter making is a slow process that takes energy, but needs only simple equipment. While milk spoils quickly, making butter and cheese was a way for early humans to preserve food long-term. By the early 1800s, it was becoming less common in Europe for ordinary families to make their own butter. However, early in the 1900s of rural America, these low-tech butter churns were still well known.