On the Care of Milk, and Making Butter

No branch of household economy brings better reward than the making of butter; and to one who takes an interest in domestic employments, it soon becomes a most pleasant occupation.

The following instructions are derived from the personal experience of one of the most skillful dairy-women in New England; and by exactly observing them the youthful housekeeper, hitherto unpracticed in such mysteries, will have the pleasure of furnishing her table with the finest butter, the work of her own hands.

The first requisite is to have a good cow. One that has high hips, short fore-legs and a large udder is to be preferred. The cream-colored and the mouse-colored cows generally give a large quantity and of rich quality. Her feeding should be faithfully attended to. She should have a good pasture, not far distant, or if this is impracticable, care must be taken that she is not to run -- a piece of mischief frequently practised. Give her a teacup full of salt once a week. Feed her once a day with waste from the kitchen, adding to it about a pint of Indian Meal. Give her the skimmed milk not wanted in the family. If she does not readily drink it, teach her by keeping her a few days without ample supply of water. Take care that nothing is given her which will injure the tast of the milk, such as turnips and parsnips. Carrots are a fine vegatable for cows. Have her milked by a person who understands the process, or she will not give it freely, and will soon become dry.

But the most abundant supply of the richest milk will avail little, unless all the articles used in the care of it are kept in the most perfect order. They should not be used for any other purpose. Keep a cloth expressly for washing them only, and never wash them in the same water with other dishes. After washing, every article, and the cloth with which they are washed, must be scalded. Wash off thoroughly all the milk from the pans, pail, strainer, churn, dasher, skimmer, spoon, etc., before scalding them. If milk remains in them when scalded, the butter will be injured, as may readily be supposed, from the fact that a cloth strainer, if scalded a few times with milk in it, becomes yellow, and as stiff as if it were starched.

To scald them the water must actually boil. The only thorough method is to have a kettle of a size to admit the pail and pans, and plunge all the articles into it; as, if the water is only poured on, the edges of the pan and the ears of the pail will not always be well scalded.

If a cloth strainer is used, it should be of thin, coarse linen. A basin having a fine wire strainer is used by many persons. Tin pails and pans are better than wood and earthen; because tin is more easily kept sweet than wood, and the glazing upon brown earthen pans is sometimes decomposed by sour milk. (About two years since four men, while making hay on a warm day, drank some butter-milk which had been kept in a jar of potter's ware, and every one died immediately.)

Large wooden churns, worked by dogs trained to to the business, are used in large dairies; but those who keep but one or two cows, will find a stone-ware churn best. No other is so easily kept sweet. For keeping the cream, never use tin, but always stone, cream-colored or fire-proof ware. For working butter, keep a wooden bowl and ladle. The last article is seldom found in New England, but always in the state of New York. Every butter-maker should have it, as the warmth of the hand detracts from the sweetness of the butter.

Have the milk closet on the coolest side of the house, or in the dryest and coolest part of the cellar, and with a window in it, covered with wire-net, or slats. Good butter cannot be made without a free circulation of fresh air. Allow no drops of cream or milk to remain a day on the shelves. Ever inch of such a closet must be kept perfectly clean.

Strain the milk as soon as it is brought in, set it immediately in its place. To remove milk after the cream has begun to rise, prevents its rising freely. For the same reason, no one should be suffered to take out the smallest quantity from a pan set for raising cream; therefore, all that is wanted for the days' use, must be set apart from the other pans. Those who have ice through the summer, have a valuable aid in making good butter. A piece as large as a peach, should be put into a pan containging three quarts of milk, as soon as it is placed in the closet. The milk will not sour as soon, and of course will afford more cream. Skim the cream as soon as the milk has become clabbered, which will, in hot weather, be in about thirty hours. To do this, first pass the fore-finger round the edge of the pan; (this is better than to use the skimmer, because there is a hard, wiry edge of cream adhering to the pan, which if taken off will injur the butter;) then take off the cream, clear as possible from the milk.

In very hot weather, especially in August, which is the least favorable month for making butter, a heaping spoonful of salt should be put into a pail full of milk, after the portion for the ordinary family uses is taken out; and at all seasons, fine salt should be put into the cream from day to day, as it is gathered. The effect of this is excellent in keeping it sweet and giving a rich flavor to the butter.

The finest butter is made where the number of cows renders it necessary to churn every day. The custom of churning once a week is not to be tolerated. Cream that is kept seven days, unless it be in the coldest weather, cannot be made into good butter. If you keep but one cow, churn twice a week; and in dog-days, three times. Do it in the cool of the morning. If the weather is warm, set the churn into a tub of cold water; add ice if you have it, and put a piece also into the churn. Air is necessary to make butter come; therefore, if the cream flies out of the opening around the dasher, do not put anything round to prevent it. When the butter has come, continue the strokes of the dasher a few minutes to separate all the little particles from the butter-milk. This done, take it out into the wooden with a ladle or skimmer. The bowl and ladle should have boiling water poured on them when you first begin to churn. After a few minutes it should be poured off, cold water should be pourd on them, and they should stand till you are ready to use them. This is to prevent the butter from sticking to them.

Work the butter with the ladle, until the butter-milk ceases to come out; then sprinkle it with clean sifted salt, as that which was put into the cream will not be enough; work it in well, and taste it to see if more should be added. Observations and experience must teach you how much to use. Mould the butter, with the ladle, into balls or lumps of any form you prefer; put it into a covered jar or tureen and set it in the ice-house or cellar.

Butter is sweetest to be worked but once, and if all which you make is used from week to week, it is sufficient, provided it comes hard; if it is soft at first, it must be worked again the next mroning. That which is to be laid down for future use, or to be kept two or three weeks, must be worked again after a day or two, and every particle of butter-milk got out. Never work butter a third time.

From October to June, the best method of raising cream is to st the pans for twelve hours in the milk closet, and then for five hours on a stove, or a furnace having embers in it, where the milk will become hot, but not scalded; then return it to the closet, and after it is cold, take off the cream, draining it very clear from the milk. Much more cream will be obtained in this than in the ordinary method; and at least a quarter more butter will be secured from the same quantity of milk. It also comes very quick -- ten minutes' churning being often sufficient. This is the method practised in Devonshire, England; and the clotted cream, as it is called there, is carried from there up to the London market; for it is not only good for butter, but of a superior quality for coffee and other uses. Care must be taken that it is not made too hot. If it becomes so hot as almost to scald, the cream will have little skinny flakes in it, which will be visible in the butter.

A lady, known to the writer, and who practised these methods, made for several successive summers, a great quantity of butter from one cow. She was, however, a rare animal. During the months of June and July, she affored from twelve to fifteen pounds of butter a week, besides cream for the table, and milk not skimmed, for little children, for puddings, and for wetting all the bread eaten in the family, -- seven or eight in number.

An Excellent Brine for Keeping Butter

To two quarts of water, put one of clean fine salt, a pound loaf or crushed sugar, and a teaspoon of saltpetre, when it has stood an hour, in order that the salt and sugar may dissolve, strain it through a flannel bag, pour it over the butter. Less salt may be enough. The object is to have as much as the water will take up.

To Keep Butter Sweet A Year

Take care that the butter is made in the best manner, and the butter-milk entirely worked out of it. Lay it in a white-oak firkin (a small woodn barrel or keg). Make a strong brine of salt and water, and put it into another and larger firkin, and set the one containing the butter into the one in which the brine is. Let the brine come up very near to the top of the butter firkin. Lay on the top of the butter a white bag with fine salt in it, cover it close, and then put on the cover of the outside firkin.

The family rolling pin was made to do service as a butter-worker, and an inclined oval table was made of hard wood (probably oak), stiffened with two cleats screwed to the bottom, into which the legs fit; a somewhat flexible strip was then tacked upon each side, half an inch higher than the table, so as to guide the buttermilk, etc., to the lower end, where an opening was left for the drip.

Information from A Country Kitchen, 1850 "A Long Ago Book"; Mrs. Cornelius (Mary Hooker), 1850. Also known as Young Housekeeper's Friend."

Home Site Menu