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Butter-Making Class At Danzeisen Dairy In Laveen Revives A Bygone Skill

butter making
(Photo by Annika Cline - KJZZ)
Ondalynn Crosby makes butter at Danzeisen Dairy.

Convenience is the foundation of big-box grocery stores. It’s all there — we don’t have to till the ground or milk the cow to get what we need. It really comes in handy when you’re just one ingredient short for dinner. But it does create a gap between farm and table, visible through lost culinary skills like butter-making.

Before butter is butter, it’s whipped cream — light and fluffy. It’s hard not to reach into the mixing bowl and take a taste.

“It tasted like, um, milk 4… cat cream?” said Ondalynn Crosby, after trying some from a mixing bowl.

She and other kids learned all about butter in a recent butter-making class at Danzeisen Dairy in Laveen. The class is taught by A’mari Wells.

“I am 11 years old and I am the owner and baker of Drive Me Cakey,” Wells told the class.

With her help, the class is got up close and personal with butter.

And it’s messy. One participant exclaimed, “It’s snowing!” as flecks of butter jump out of the bowl.

The cream is from Danzeisen Dairy. If you were to travel a few miles down the road you’d meet the cows that provided it. 

“Literally you ask kids, where does this come from? Like, where is butter made? ‘Well, it comes from the store.’ That’s what they’ll say,” said Melanie Danzeisen, one of the dairy owners. She said she gets that kind of reaction a lot from school kids who tour here.

“They won’t say it comes from a cow, they won’t say it comes from a farm,” she said. 

And Wells used to be one of those kids. Then she started baking.

“I would start off with box mixes, but I wouldn’t sell those for my business. I would just start and try and research what they put in those,” she said.

And that’s a great question — what’s in that? For a good part of human history, we had to ask ourselves that question.

“As humans we always needed to know whether food was good for us or not or it could poison us,” said Lydia Zepeda, who researches food production and consumption at the University of Wisconsin-Madison.

“And now we don’t really have that ability to recognize things. Sometimes we don’t even know how to read the labels because they’re so confusing or complex. We’ve lost that ability to really recognize what food is good and healthy for us,” she said.

Zepeda said cheap and convenient food is directly related to expensive and inconvenient health problems today. The remedy is getting to know your food again. She said learning basic recipes is a great place to start. 

And if you mix up or mess up, Wells said that’s part of the fun.

“I just like seeing people smile when like the butter gets all over them or like, when there’s like a mess and people are laughing,” she said.

The people in this class might not switch to making their own butter; it’s a lot more work than opening a box. But when they see those perfectly rectangular sticks stacked in the grocery store fridge, butter won’t look quite the same again.

Annika Cline was a producer for KJZZ's The Show from 2014 to 2019.