Thursday, July 23, 2015

Cookies and butter and other good things

If a recipe calls for butter, I try to use the real thing.  Don't get me wrong, if you use the right kind of margarine (oleo, as we called it when I was growing up), you can't tell a huge difference.  Using "the right kind" is the secret.  

I've heard so many women say, "I can't make good cookies."  

I used to wonder how this could be.  If everybody follows a recipe, it ought to turn out the same for all of them, right?  But in talking to people, I've found out that not everybody knows there's a difference in margarines.  

I learned the basics of cooking from the old Better Homes and Gardens cookbook.  For the most part, my mind was a blank slate when it came to learning to cook, because although my mom was a great cook, I paid very little attention to her efforts until they showed up on the table, ready to eat.  When I moved into my first apartment at the age of eighteen after my dad's work relocated, I bought the cookbook that was to teach me many of the basics, one I still use.  I've also bought every updated version since then.  But I digress.  

There you have it.  If the recipe calls for "butter or margarine", use the proper kind of margarine.  Most people won't know you used a butter substitute.    

Because I can afford butter, that's what I use.  There is a difference when you use the real thing, but it's subtle.  Butter costs around $4 a pound these days, but if you buy it at Sam's Club or Costco, four pounds at once, it's around $2.50 a pound, I think.  

Cliff and I will go to our tractor club meeting tonight.  Several of the women take cookies, cakes, and various types of snacks for after the meeting.  Sometimes there is such an abundance of goodies that most of it gets carried back home; other times, it's a meager feast.  We often take cheese, summer sausage, and crackers, which is quite popular until a couple of other people bring the same thing; then we bring a lot of ours back home.  I don't always take anything, but I don't want to seem like a moocher, so sometimes I chip in.

The other day when we went shopping, I needed butter, but we didn't need enough items to go to Costco.  So I reluctantly paid almost four bucks for one pound of butter at Walmart.  Cliff reminded me about the meeting coming up, and I told him that since the peanut butter cookies I made the other day made such a big hit around here, I was going to make a double batch to take to the meeting.

But the recipe calls for butter.  I hate to use that expensive stuff making cookies, but it's what I have.

Of course, I do have a couple of dairy cows.  Grace gives 2% milk, I always say.  She doesn't give a lot of cream, and what she does give isn't rich and thick, the way I like it.  So I let some calves take her milk twice a day, and when I want milk and cream, I milk Penny:  She only gives about half the amount of cream most purebred Jerseys would (she's part Holstein), but at least the quality is good, and it's enough for my coffee.  I usually milk two of her quarters out once a day, in the morning; in the evening I let calves have it all.  I bring in a little over a gallon of milk each morning, skim off the cream twenty-four hours later, and give most of the skim milk to the pig.  Boy, does that pig come running when he sees me pouring milk into his trough!  
Back to the butter:  I asked myself if I really wanted to milk Penny twice a day for two or three days to get a decent amount of cream to make butter and decided it would be worth it.  A pound of butter free!  So yesterday I churned, which simply means I put about seven cups of cream in a gallon jar and shook it for thirty minutes.  Then I drained off the buttermilk (happy pig), washed the butter with cold water, and VIOLA!  I had a pound of butter.

Today the toddler and I will make a double batch of peanut butter cookies.  That is, if I can get Cliff out of the house long enough to stop playing with her.  

We sure do enjoy that little girl.


Jon said...

I always use margarine instead of butter in cookie recipes, but - you're right - it has to be a good, high-quality margarine.

You didn't think I could cook, did you? I ain't as dumb as I look.

Margaret said...

Many people don't understand that what makes margarine spreadable is water and it isn't good for the cookies. I prefer butter in my cookies and never use margarine, especially for my Christmas ones. (Russian teacakes and sugar cookies) The different in taste is very obvious because both types are primarily butter, sugar and flour.


I NEVER use margarine. I'm a butter only, girl. Those cookies sound scrumptious. That is a precious pic of Cliff and your sweet little one.