Old-Fashioned Glass Butter Churn

An old-fashioned glass butter churn survives the ages.

Glass Butter Churn

An old-fashioned glass butter churn, an heirloom passed down.

Photo by Richard Snodgrass

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Kitchen Things (Skyhorse Publishing, 2013), by master photographer and respected novelist Richard Snodgrass, celebrates well-loved objects and recipes and showcases them in an unexpected way — a way that touches upon the science of food, the physics of cooking, the sensory pleasures of eating, and indeed the very nature of life itself. The following excerpt is from page 202, “Glass Butter Churn.”

You can purchase this book from the GRIT store: Kitchen Things.

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Glass Butter Churn

“Benjamin Franklin’s Bell Jar.”


“That’s what this reminds me of. Didn’t Franklin use a bell jar to capture lightning?”

“It’s a butter churn. I’d think you’d know that.”

“How would I know a butter churn from Ben Franklin’s Bell Jar?”

“You’re a farm girl.”

“Well, first of all, I’m not really a farm girl. My parents lived next door to my grandparents, my mom’s parents, who had a farm—and the Shantee Restaurant. It wasn’t my parents’ farm.”

“No, but you used to be around it every day. You grew up around it.”

“True. But I have to tell you I never really liked it all that much. I mean it was nice enough, but the cows, they scared me. And there were bugs . . . really big bugs.” Marty shudders.

“So, I’m guessing you don’t have any really good making-butter stories.”

“None at all. Grandpap never made butter, as far as I know. And after he died it wasn’t even a dairy farm anymore. My Aunt Ruth grew corn and wheat. I’m not even sure how butter is made.”

“When you stir cream, the membranes that surround the milk fat dissipate and clumps form called butter grains. All this stirring stirs up air bubbles, and the butter grains attract other butter grains that clump together into fat globules, and eventually you get buttermilk. If you keep stirring long enough, the fat globules solidify and you drain off the buttermilk and you get butter. Incidentally, it’s pretty sad when the guy born and raised in a steel town knows more about butter-making than the ersatz farm girl.”


“There’s nothing wrong with that. It means—”

“I know what it means,” Marty says, measured. And I wonder what I’ve stirred up.

Reprinted with permission from Kitchen Things: An Album of Vintage Utensils and Farm-Kitchen Recipes by Richard Snodgrass and published by Skyhorse Publishing, 2013. Buy this book from our store: Kitchen Things.