Grandma Knutzen’s Salve

When I was little my grandma made this wonder drug that was swabbed on all our cuts and scraps. It seemed like it was a miracle cure for everything. I just remember it smelled divine and since Grandma made it, well then it was.

Mom said that she had made it last when I was little. Apparently they made a great quantity and Grandma’s sister Ella and possibly her sister Pauline was involved too, but I think Pauline went to see Jesus before I was born and all the stories get jumbled up in my head. So, really who knows?

According to my aunt it is called Fever Sore Salve, but we never had cold sores and used it on everything else. The recipe is basic:

1/2 pound rosin, 3/4 pound of bee’s wax, 2 ounces Oil of Spike, 2 pounds kidney lard from a white barrow pig. Melt lard first, then put in bee;s wax and melt, put in rosin and melt, have three parts melter together inside of an hour. Have it boiling hot. Take from stove and set aside. Take the Oil of Spike and stir in right away. Stir with a maple stick and let stand. Cover with a cloth for 3 hours. Salve is done. Put in small jars.

I made this recipe 3 years ago. I have made some changes and asked lots of questions. Not too many changes were made, but not before I understood the why of everything.

I had no idea where to get rosin that I needed. I knew that I it is used in rodeo, baseball, gymnastics and stringed instruments. I didn’t know that it is from the pine tree sap. All I had ever seen of it really was on TV when I saw the bull riders, baseball player or gymnasts applying it for a better grip. There was a piece tucked into the fiddle case belonging to my Grandpa Spiegelberg for rosining up the bow. It was a chunk and amber colored. I used to hold it in my hand as a child. Rosin was mentioned in the John Denver song, “Thank God I’m a Country Boy”, and “The Devil Went down to Georgia” sung by Charlie Daniels (Rick’s favorite song).

Where would Grandpa have gotten rosin? Was it available from the lumber yard at that time? I had no idea, but I did learn that I had to get it on Amazon. There is a synthetic type, but I was interested in the closest thing to the real deal as I could get.

I reached out to an old high school friend because his son was going to start raising bees, but they had just begun so there was not a supply of bee’s wax from a local person. I could probably have gotten it at the honey farm in Redgranite, WI, but got lazy and bought it at a store in Oshkosh.

I didn’t know what Oil of Spike. Mom didn’t know either so I Googled it and it turns out it is lavender. Who knew? What a good idea. Was that easy to obtain back in the day? Where would people have gotten it? Did they get that at the pharmacy? I was not able to determine that.

I learned a lot about white kidney lard and why it was desired. I researched that and discovered that it is called leaf lard. Leaf lard is whiter than other lard. Perhaps they wanted the look of the salve to be lighter. I am not sure why a white barrow pig. A barrow is a male castrated pig, which was castrated at the age of 2 or 3 weeks of age. This is done to create a less aggressive pig. I have no idea why it has to be white or male. I am sure that a party colored pig or black pig would be equally perfect. Maybe that is the breed they happened to have as it is officially called Large White. I remember in the movie “Babe”, he refers to himself as a Large White.

I went to our favorite meat market in Oshkosh and ordered some leaf lard. I rendered it myself, because really…why not (later)? My mom had done it and I remember the cracklins. I was trying to be authentic and since I was working I had it in slow cookers for like 2 days. The house smelled like a ham sandwich. The clean clothes smelled like a ham sandwich. I wanted to go see young friend Sarah Bloom give her senior recital at the U and I since apparently the aroma had permeated every pore of my skin I too smelled like a ham sandwich. I decided not to go as no shower was going to make me smell like a good smelling woman and not a ham sandwich when seated at the concert hall next to someone who was looking at me like I was straight out of Ham Central. I told Sarah this and I don’t think she really believed me. Worst ridiculous reason for not going to something I had looked forward to. Rendering lard is a mess and when I wanted to make this salve again, I decided to buy it in handy pound blocks.

Grandma said to use a maple stick. I thought it had some special mojo on it so that is what I used the first time and this time too for different reasons. When you use a scent and in this instance, lavender, there must have been a need not to have it taint wooden spoons used in the past. After you stir it with a maple stick you can just throw the stick away. I assume the maple stick was just the closest stick to the house. I knew that stirring it with a stick this time wasn’t a need as I could use stainless steel, but I used the stick because it was awesome to use a stick.

The differences this time then for this batch was that I put it all in glass containers, used processed lard, and put in one squirt of Tea Tree oil with all the other ingredients to give it a shot of an antiseptic quality. The down side of this is that I cannot share it with my Muslim friends because of Heir Piggy.

Other than that there is nothing wrong with looking into my memories and making something in the home arts field. It makes me appreciate the quality and time it took to make. When I read the ingredients on lotions and creams at the store they are full of bits that I am not on board with using or have no idea what they are. Besides, I loved my grandma and it is a connection with her that I can now share.

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