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Out On The Mudline

How Many Pounds Of Milk Does It Take To Make Two Pounds Of Butter?

By W. P. Sissell

The Price of Eggs in the U.S. A

Several days ago, as we shopped for groceries in Piggly Wiggly, the elderly lady in front of us at the egg display, with a carton of eggs in hand, turned to Nannette and said, “Lawsy, I’m gonna just have to get me some chickens again and a cow, jes look at the price of that buttah.”  I agreed but reminded her that we pay a considerably smaller share of our dollar for food than people in the rest of the world. Her words did bring to mind many things.  

Some people who enter our home ask, “Does everything in here have a story?”  Our answer is almost always. “Yes.” Let me answer further by the following.

As I grew up my folks entered into a contract with some people at Coffeeville to provide eggs from registered white leghorn chickens.  The brooder house that I’ve described several times and is evident on several pictures I’ve used—especially the one of a couple of weeks ago with me on my sister’s horse—was built as a start to that project.  Hanging on Nannette’s kitchen wall is the little balance that every “hatching” egg had to tilt to pass as a “hatching” egg –grade A.  Those were worth three cents, 36 cents per dozen.  Compare that with the price of those in the grocery today.  

 We had two breeds of chickens, White Leghorns laid white eggs and Brahmas that laid brown eggs. The eggs, other than hatching grade, were delivered daily to Jitney Jungle along with a certain quantity of milk. Almost all of our groceries were paid for with the eggs delivered to Jitney Jungle.  

The other side of the chicken business most of us know as KFC.  Nannette, in  telling her story of her stay in the Home Management House, a requirement for all Home Economics graduates, always tells about the day fried chicken was to be the meal of the day,  starting with the preparing of the chicken.  

The teacher told Jean and May that the chicken was in the brown paper bag on the floor waiting for them to begin.  As the girls peeped into the sack they screamed, “That things got feathers and no head” (it was New York dressed).  It seems that Nannette and one other young lady in the class had ever started at this point with a chicken.


The book (original copyright date 1917) says that approximately 4.66  pounds of butter can be extracted from 100 pounds of milk.  I wonder, but I feel sure that my father knew that fact when he owned and operated the Creamery in Water Valley in the early twenties.  The same book tells that the making of most butter is moving from the farm to centralized locations, primarily because of transportation.  

I added that, I feel sure above, because my father was very well read.  He made many pounds of butter in a couple of, to me, giant churns.  He sold the Creamery  before my time.  Incidentally, some of you will like this—Mr. Fred Kendricks, future banker, was for a time employed as the butter delivery boy—a young man earning his keep.

I also wonder if Nannette’s mother knew how many pounds of milk had to pass through her separator before she had enough cream to make her usual two pounds of butter.  

If you look close you will find several churns in our collection—actually one has been in the family over a hundred years. Have you ever churned? After you get enough of the cream—as I grew up we always used pure cream on our cereal—to make the amount of butter you want, some soured clabbered  milk  is added before churning.  Although there were several mechanical churns—we had a five gallon one which my brother and I hooked to a gasoline engine, unsuccessfully, and Nannette’s father had the same experience electrifying one—the first one was a large ceramic jar with a top. The dasher, a broom handle stick with crossed boards on the lower end, came through the hole in the top. One simply grabbed that stick and moved it up and down until butter appeared.  Usually Miss Nettie Lou wrapped a clean dish  towel around that handle to keep the splashing on the inside.  The butter was collected from the (now) buttermilk and washed by kneading it through water and salt as desired.  

A gallon of milk weighs 8.6 pounds. The five gallon churn mentioned above would, on the average produce 43% of the 100 pound yield or 1.89 pounds of butter.  

The Signature

When Nannette’s mother, Miss Nettie Lou, always finished off her pat from a churning by placing the outside edge of her clenched fist on top of the pat and making an imprint.  After that she added four little finger prints and one larger one at the broad end of the first print—try it and see what you get—you don’t have to have butter, use sand.  By the way buttermilk and cornbread combined is some “good eatin.”


You can reach me most of the time at 23541 Highway 6, Batesville, MS 38606, 662-563-9879 or

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