• The Dairy

    The object with which gentlemen keep cows is to procure milk unadulterated, and sweet butter, for themselves and families: in order to obtain this, however, great cleanliness is required, and as visitors, as well as the mistress of the house, sometimes visit the dairy, some efforts are usually made to render it ornamental and picturesque. The locality is usually fixed near to the house; it should neither be exposed to the fierce heat of the summer's sun nor to the equally unfavourable frosts of winter--it must be both sheltered and shaded. If it is a building apart from the house and other offices, the walls should be tolerably thick, and if hollow, the temperature will be more equable. The walls inside are usually covered with Dutch glazed tiles; the flooring also of glazed tiles set in asphalte, to resist water; and the ceiling, lath and plaster, or closely-jointed woodwork, painted.

  • Its architecture will be a matter of fancy: it should have a northern aspect, and a thatched roof is considered most suitable, from the shade and shelter it affords; and it should contain at least two apartments, besides a cool place for storing away butter. One of the apartments, in which the milk is placed to deposit cream, or to ripen for churning, is usually surrounded by shelves of marble or slate, on which the milk-dishes rest; but it will be found a better plan to have a large square or round table of stone in the centre, with a water-tight ledge all round it, in which water may remain in hot weather, or, if some attempt at the picturesque is desired, a small fountain might occupy the centre, which would keep the apartment cool and fresh. Round this table the milk-dishes should be ranged; one shelf, or dresser, of slate or marble, being kept for the various occupations of the dairy-maid: it will be found a better plan than putting them on shelves and corners against the wall.

  • There should be a funnel or ventilator in the ceiling, communicating with the open air, made to open and shut as required. Double windows are recommended, but of the lattice kind, so that they may open, and with wire-gauze blinds fitted into the opening, and calico blinds, which may be wetted when additional coolness is required. The other apartment will be used for churning, washing, and scrubbing--in fact, the scullery of the dairy, with a boiler for hot water, and a sink with cold water laid on, which should be plentiful and good. In some dairies a third apartment, or, at least, a cool airy pantry, is required for storing away butter, with shelves of marble or slate, to hold the cream-jars while it is ripening; and where cheeses are made, a fourth becomes necessary.The Book of Household Management, by Mrs. Isabella Beeton, 1861, 1907


The duties of the dairy-maid differ considerably in different districts. In Scotland, Wales, and some of the northern counties, women milk the cows. On some of the large dairy farms in other parts of England, she takes her share in the milking, but in private families the milking is generally performed by the cowkeeper, and the dairy-maid only receives the milkpails from him morning and night, and empties and cleans them preparatory to the next milking; her duty being to supply the family with milk, cream, and butter, and other luxuries depending on the "milky mothers" of the herd.

The dairy utensils are not numerous, churns, milk-pails for each cow, hair-sieves, slices of tin, milk-pans, marble dishes for cream for family use, scales and weights, a portable rack for drying the utensils, wooden bowls, butter-moulds and butter-patters, and wooden tubs for washing the utensils, comprising pretty nearly everything.

Pails are made of maple-wood or elm, and hooped, or of tin, more or less ornamented. One is required for each cow.

The Hair-Sieve is made of closely-twisted horse-hair, with a rim, through which the milk is strained to remove any hairs which may have dropped from the cow in milking.

Milk-Dishes are shallow basins of glass, of glazed earthenware, or tin, about 16 inches in diameter at top, and 12 at the bottom, and 5 or 6 inches deep, holding about 8 to 10 quarts each when full.

Churns are of all sorts and sizes, from that which churns 70 or 80 gallons by means of a strap from the engine, to the square box in which a pound of butter is made. The churn used for families is a square box, 18 inches by 12 or 13, and 17 deep, bevelled below to the plane of the dashers, with a loose or cover. The dasher consists of an axis of wood, to which the four beaters or fanners are attached; these fans are simply four pieces of elm strongly dovetailed together, forming an oblong square, with a space left open, two of the openings being left broader than the others; attached to an axle, they form an axis with four projecting blades; the axle fits into supports at the centre of the box; a handle is fitted to it, and the act of churning is done by turning the handle.

Such is the temple in which the dairy-maid presides: it should be removed both from stable and cowhouse, and larder; no animal smells should come near it, and the drainage should be perfect.

The dairy-maid receives the milk from the cowkeeper, each pail being strained through the hair-sieve into one of the milk-basins. This is left in the basins from twenty-four to thirty-six hours in the summer, according to the weather; after which it is skimmed off by means of the slicer, and poured into glazed earthenware jars to "turn" for churning. Some persons prefer making up a separate churning for the milk of each cow; in which there is some advantage. In this case the basins of each cow, for two days, would either be kept together or labelled. As soon as emptied, the pails should be scalded and every particle of milk washed out, and placed away in a dry place till next required; and all milk spilt on the floor, or on the table or dresser, cleaned up with a cloth and hot water. Where very great attention is paid to the dairy, the milk-coolers are used larger in winter, when it is desirable to retard the cooling down and increase the creamy deposit, and smaller in summer, to hasten it; the temperature required being from 55 deg. to 50 deg., In summer it is sometimes expedient, in very sultry weather, to keep the dairy fresh and cool by suspending cloths dipped in chloride of lime across the room.

In some dairies it is usual to churn twice, and in others three times a week: the former produces the best butter, the other the greatest quantity. With three cows, the produce should be 27 to 30 quarts a day. The dairy-maid should churn every day when very hot, if they are in full milk, and every second day in more temperate weather; besides supplying the milk and cream required for a large establishment. The churning should always be done in the morning: the dairy-maid will find it advantageous in being at work on churning mornings by five o'clock. The operation occupies from 20 minutes to half an hour in summer, and considerably longer in winter. A steady uniform motion is necessary to produce sweet butter; neither too quick nor too slow. Rapid motion causes the cream to heave and swell, from too much air being forced into it: the result is a tedious churning, and soft, bad-coloured butter.

In spring and summer, when the cow has her natural food, no artificial colour is required; but in winter, under stall-feeding, the colour is white and tallowy, and some persons prefer a higher colour. This is communicated by mixing a little finely-powdered arnotto with the cream before putting it into the churn; a still more, natural and delicate colour is communicated by scraping a red carrot into a clean piece of linen cloth, dipping it into water, and squeezing it into the cream.

As soon as the butter comes, the milk is poured off, and the butter put into a shallow wooden tub or bowl, full of pure spring water, in which it is washed and kneaded, pouring off the water, and renewing it until it comes away perfectly free from milk. Imperfect washing is the frequent cause of bad butter, and in nothing is the skill of the dairy-maid tested more than in this process; moreover, it is one in which cleanliness of habits and person are most necessary. In this operation we want the aid of Phyllis's neat, soft, and perfectly clean hand; for no mechanical operation can so well squeeze out the sour particles of milk or curd.

The operations of churning and butter-making over, the butter-milk is disposed of: usually, in England, it goes to the pigs; but it is a, very wholesome beverage when fresh, and some persons like it; the disposal, therefore, will rest with the mistress: the dairy-maid's duty is to get rid of it. She must then scald with boiling water and scrub out every utensil she has used; brush out the churn, clean out the cream-jars, which will probably require the use of a little common soda to purify; wipe all dry, and place them in a position where the sun can reach them for a short time, to sweeten them.

In Devonshire, celebrated for its dairy system, the milk is always scalded. The milk-pans, which are of tin, and contain from 10 to 12 quarts, after standing 10 or 12 hours, are placed on a hot plate of iron, over a stove, until the cream has formed on the surface, which is indicated by the air-bubbles rising through the milk, and producing blisters on the surface-coating of cream. This indicates its approach to the boiling point: and the vessel is now removed to cool. When sufficiently, that is, quite cool, the cream is skimmed off with the slice: it is now the clouted cream for which Devonshire is so famous. It is now placed in the churn, and churned until the butter comes, which it generally does in a much shorter time than by the other process. The butter so made contains more *caseine than butter made in the usual way, but does not keep so long.
(*Produced when milk is curdled by rennet, is the chief constituent of cheese. Rennin is found in the gastric juice of the fourth stomach of young ruminants and is used in making cheese.)

It is a question frequently discussed, how far it is economical for families to keep cows and make their own butter. It is calculated that a good cow costs from May 1 to October 1, when well but economically kept, £5. 16s. 6d; and from October 1 to April 30, £10. 2s. 6d. During that time she should produce 227 lbs. of butter, besides the skimmed milk. Of course, if new milk and cream are required, that will diminish the quantity of butter.

Besides churning and keeping her dairy in order, the dairy-maid has charge of the whole produce, handing it over to the cook, butler, or housemaid as required; and she will do well to keep an exact account both of what she receives and how and when she disposes of it.
The Book of Household Management, by Mrs. Isabella Beeton, 1861, 1907

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Dog-Powered Churn, 1881. H. M. Childs of Utica, New York, patented this dog-powered churn in 1871, with improvements patented in 1881. A dog, tied or strapped into the pen, ran forward and so moved the slats of the treadmill which in turn rotated a flywheel. Attached to the flywheel is a pitman rod which raises and lowers a churn dasher. Devices of this sort had appeared earlier for use in the farm-dairy industry. The change of direction effected by the pitman rod caused some loss of energy; in any case, a revolving barrel-churn proved more efficient in the long run. Source: Smithsonian Studies in History and Technology; Agricultural Implements and Machines.