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How They Made It

SOFT SOAP

 

The pioneer women had no detergent but made their own soap out of fat and lye. A small holewas made in the bottom of a large barrel. Clean straw was placed in the bottom and the barrelwas then filled with hardwood ashes saved from the fireplace or stove.

 

A bucket was placed under the hole so that when water was poured over the ashes the clear,thin, brown liquid would drip into it. This liquid was called lye. After a while a fresh egg was putin. If it floated the lye was strong enough, if not, the liquid was poured through the ashes again.Sometimes more ashes had to be added. Care was taken not to touch the lye, for it would burnbadly.

 

The lye was then poured into a big iron kettle and scraps of fat and little pieces of tallow candleswere also thrown in. A fire was lit under the kettle and the contents were stirred with a bigwooden spoon until the liquid was as thick as molasses. Then it was poured into buckets andfrom there into large jars where it was stored until needed.

 

ICE CREAM was made by pouring the ingredients into a container which was then placed insidea larger one that was packed with salt and ice.

 

BREAD was baked twice a week and started at night with a sponge (dry yeast and potatowater); it was then wrapped to keep warm.

 

It wasn't uncommon to bake 15 loaves at a time for a family of ten. However, this would only lastfor 3 to 4 days and then the women would be back at the ovens, checking the temperature bysticking their hand into it.

 

When the bread ran out bannock was used as a substitute. Some even preferred it to bread. Itwas made of flour, salt, milk or water and slices of pork only. When the mixture got thick youspooned it into a greased pan and fried it like very thick pancakes.

 

BUTTER was made from scratch. A separator was used to separate the skim milk, which wasfed to the pigs, and the cream which was used for making butter.

 

A dash churn (crock with a stick that was pounded up and down) or barrel churn (which wasworked back and forth with a handle) was used for churning butter. It was poured into a widewooden bowl and squeezed with a wooden paddle to get the water out. Salt was added and itwas then shaped into round balls.

 

Another version was butter that was churned at first by pounding with a stick up and down in acrock and then by working a pedal which rotated the elevated barrel. Both ways were strenuousjobs. Next the butter was worked by placing it in wooden pans and pressing it with paddles untilnot a drop of water was left. Some was pressed into one pound wooden molds to be sold whilethe rest was saved in large jars where a good portion was cream. They made around thirteenpounds at a time and put the jars of butter in a deep well to keep it fresh.

 

Butter was made every second day. It was washed 4 to 5 times and would take fifteen to twentyminutes depending on the temperature.

 

Butter was first churned, then washed, the buttermilk was removed, salted, mixed, left to stand,mixed and put in a crock or rolled into balls. Later, one pound pints were used.