The Collector: Sweet Memories of Aunt Sarah

A beloved relative introduced her to churning butter and inspired her to collect butter molds.


Three of Lois's butter molds

Mmmm… Sometimes, I can almost taste the homemade butter from my childhood back in Steens, Mississippi.

There were seven of us kids, and from time to time my widowed aunt Sarah stayed with us to help. She brought me into the living room after church one Sunday. “Darlin,’ it’s time for you to learn how to churn butter,” she said.

I sat on the little wooden stool near the fireplace, my eyes fixed on her. “First you add the milk,” she said, pouring it fresh from our cows into the ceramic churn. Next, she vigorously moved the wooden dasher up and down.

“The warmth from the fire makes the cream rise to the top quicker,” she said. Together, we scooped the cream out, strained it through a cheesecloth and molded it into a ball. Then came my favorite part: Aunt Sarah placed the ball in a round, wooden mold that left a flower imprint on top of the butter.

Later, when we sat down for dinner, Aunt Sarah dipped a biscuit in butter and added a dollop of sorghum syrup. “Sweet enough for a second helping,” she said.

I inherited Aunt Sarah’s flower mold, and soon I was spotting butter molds everywhere—a glass one with a cow imprint at a Mennonite estate sale, a wooden one with a rooster at an antique shop in Virginia, a striped metal one at a garage sale. I had to have them all!

Today 35 butter molds make up my collection, featuring everything from a pineapple to a lamb, and of course, my favorite flower.

I may not churn my own butter anymore, but I can still taste sweet memories of Aunt Sarah.

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