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Journal of the Nelson and Marlborough Historical Societies, Volume 2, Issue 4, 1990



The farms were small in our district, so there was a variety of activities. Most folk hand milked a small herd of cows and provision of fresh milk and butter was an aid to the rearing of healthy families. My own folk owned a small, hand-turned Alpha Laval cream separator, but some neighbours used the wide milk pans to set the milk and then skimmed the thick cream, when it rose to the surface. We also had a small steel chum, which rotated at speed when turned with a handle. There was a beater inside, but I do not remember whether it turned in the opposite direction to the chum, or stood still. We used to like to have a drink of fresh buttermilk, when this was drained off the butter. The fresh butter had to be worked, to get all the buttermilk out, and then the right amount of salt worked into it.

The butter would be weighed either in single pounds (.454kg), or in a lump of greater amount, say ten pounds (4.536kg) or more. The pounds were wrapped in paper, while the larger lumps were wrapped in muslin. I well remember my mother being very hurt when the store owners sent out a letter to their suppliers, to say that some butter was under weight. My poor mother was scrupulously honest and always put a little extra on the pat as she weighed the butter out. The return for all this work was only a few pence per pound, but it was done to counter the cost of our household requirements.

Sometimes butter had to be kept for use through the winter. There was no refrigeration and extra salt was added, which enabled it to keep for some months.