Letters to the Editor

Butterfat tester

Butterfat tester

Content Tools

ENOUGH WITH THE VISIONS: READER LOOKING FOR THE REAL THING

The article "Visions of Sugar Plums" in the December 1998 issue of Farm Collector brings to mind one question. What is a sugar plum? A fruit? A candy? Something you make, cook or bake? What's the recipe? I haven't been able to find an answer anywhere. Can you or your readers give me any assistance?

-Ivan L. Pfalser, RR 1 Box 164, Caney, Kan., 67333

As near as we can tell, a sugar plum is a small, round candy of boiled, flavored sugar. If you find a recipe, let us know how it turns out! –Editor

WISCONSIN FAMILY INTERESTED IN INFORMATION ON BUTTERFAT TESTER

Remember when cheese factories dotted the landscape of rural Wisconsin? They were, of necessity, located within hauling distance of local farms.

In the late 1920s and early '30s, our state was on its way to becoming a leader in the dairy industry. Former lumbermen had already established small farms on the cut-over forest land. The relatively cool climate and soil conditions proved favorable for raising forage crops to support small herds of dairy cows. The milk, in turn, was sold for a much-needed cash income.

In 1890, University of Wisconsin Professor Stephen M. Babcock invented a tester which measured the amount of butterfat in milk. Farmers made daily deliveries of fresh milk in metal cans to the factory, where it was weighed and tested for butterfat. The producer was paid accordingly. I remember how eagerly my parents awaited those small, bi-monthly checks enclosed in white envelopes, or "statements", containing all pertinent information. Sometimes there was only a few dollars left after deductions for purchased cheese and butter were made.

The Babcock tester in our possession was purchased by my husband's father in about 1925, probably from Sears, Roebuck and Co. It has four receptacles for four long-neck, glass bottles in which a sample of milk and certain amount of sulphuric acid were placed. It was cranked by hand, and centrifugal force made the butterfat rise in the bottle's neck, where a reading was taken. Thus, a farmer could evaluate each cow's production, as well as check the validity of the cheesemaker's calculations. We have all the parts for this tester except the small glass beaker. We would like to know our tester's value.

-Myrna Kautz, N 1672 CTH X, Merrill, Wis. 54452