Milk, Butter, Memories and plastic

During summer holidays we would visit both my paternal and maternal grandparents. At my paternal grandmother’s place, they had cows at home and the milk would be heated in a heavy bottomed pan throughout the day as coffee was made or people drank milk. At night, my grandmother would scrape the bottom of that pan and hand out the “surandal” … oh, that was divine. I always waited for that treat. It would be a thick grainy layer at the bottom. When we got back to our home, I would pester Amma that she needs to boil the milk slowly so that the bottom layer is thick, but it never would be as thick as my grandmother’s.

Then I got married and toned milk entered my life. Till then it was nice thick buffalo’s milk or cow’s milk that we got from a nearby dairy farm or some milkman brought it home. I have never liked milk, except cold milk sometimes, so I just forgot all about the “surandal”. Life went on with Aavin, then Mother Dairy, then Aarogya and more recently Amul. When we moved to Delhi in 1997, the Mother Dairy milk was just awesome – I would set curd at home and you could cut it with a knife ! In the last 3 to 5 years, the Mother Dairy milk has started to taste like cement or a thick soap solution so from 2015 onwards we have been using Amul milk. We were getting just half a litre of Amul Cow Milk everyday and Mother Dairy’s curd every other day. About ten days back, it occurred to me that I should try setting curd with Amul’s full cream milk and see if we get any butter out of it. So I asked our milkman to give us a half litre packet of Amul full cream milk besides the cow milk.

The first day that Amma heated a couple of packets of the Amul Full cream milk she gave me the pan so that I can enjoy the “surandal”. Not as thick as my grandmother’s but still thick enough to enjoy the taste and relive the memories.

The “surandal”

The curd set beautifully too. So we decided to stop buying Mother Dairy curd and started to set the curd at home using the full cream milk. We stored the layer of cream on top to see if we got any butter out of it. Today morning I churned the cream from 3 litres of milk set as curd and got 115 grams of fresh butter !!

White home made butter

Most of the butter was polished off by us as I made sandwiches in the morning today and it was truly tasty !

My parents have never bought butter or ghee from the market because there was a dairy farm right next to their house in Hyderabad and Amma would get the milk early in the morning. She would set the curd and churn butter out of it every few days and then make ghee out of that. That Ghee would smell delicious and of course taste delicious. The whole process was “green” and zero plastic was used – the milk would be bought in a steel can or even a pan because the dairy farm was just a few houses away, the butter would be kept in a steel container with water and the ghee would be made at home and stored again in a steel container.

Look at how we have “developed” – milk comes in a plastic pouch, curd comes in a plastic pouch, butter comes in a plastic tub or a plastic lined paper carton, ghee comes in a plastic pouch or a plastic lined paper carton…. and we talk of pollution and rains causing floods !! The urban elite also laugh at the Haryana government’s idea of gifting a cow to athletes because its so “regressive”. Think again – are you regressive or having a cow is regressive ? Just see the plastic waste that you and I generate each day and how much better the old system was – every locality having a dairy farm where you can buy fresh milk from and make your own butter and ghee. Or atleast get the milk and the farm itself can make butter and ghee and sell it. I am all for the cooperative movement that made India the largest producer of milk and I absolutely love Amul, but there is an urgent need to rethink the plastic usage that it has unleashed.

Atleast at our home, we have reduced the plastic usage a tiny bit by restarting the process of setting curd, churning butter and making ghee at home… The growth hormones being injected into the cows is another major concern, but the plastic menace is an imminent disaster.

Do try and see how each of us can cut out plastic usage in our urban lives, that’s the biggest contribution we can make to Mother Earth.


4 thoughts on “Milk, Butter, Memories and plastic”

  1. Bindu,

    Interesting process, and a skill I never learned. I don’t know any Americans who churn their own butter. I need a cow.

    You’re right about the plastic. I have to buy butter, but my favorite brand that came in a one-pound block has been discontinued, and I have to buy butter in a box with four 1/4 individually wrapped sticks. Seems they are going with more packaging rather than less.

    Maybe there’s a market in India for steel containers.

    • Katharine, India till the 90s was largely using steel and aluminium containers and cooking vessels. Of course plastic has become ubiquitous, especially plastic bags. My parents always used cloth bags and groceries would be bought in those, and bulk items like rice would come packed in a cloth or jute bag. Now we are battling the plastic menace. :(:( Btw churning butter is very easy. Will post a step-by-step process in another blog.

      • Bindu,
        I sympathize. One would think, with the increasing green awareness, that people would be using less plastic, but it seems the opposite is true. It would be nice if people could supply their own packaging and buy in bulk, but plastic has become too easy and as you say, ubiquitous. Alas.

        Looking forward to your post on churning butter.

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