The English Housekeeper/Chapter 29

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This, of all the departments of country house-keeping, is the one which most quickly suffers from neglect; and of all the appendages to a country dwelling, there is nothing which so successfully rivals the flower garden, in exciting admiration, as a nice dairy. From the show-dairy, with its painted glass windows, marble fountains and china bowls, to that of the common farm house, with its red brick floor, deal shelves, and brown milk-pans, the dairy is always an object of interest, and is associated with every idea of real comfort, as well as of imaginary enjoyment, attendant upon a country life.

The management of this important department in a country establishment, from the milking of the cows, to the making of the butter and the cheese, must necessarily be almost wholly intrusted to a dairy maid, who ought to be experienced in the various duties of her office, or she cannot be skilful in the performance of them. Those persons who have excelled in dairy work, have generally learnt their business when quite young, as a knowledge of it is not to be hastily acquired. The great art of butter and cheese-making, consists in extreme care and scrupulous cleanliness; and an experienced dairy maid knows, that when her butter has a bad taste, some of the dairy utensils, the churn, the pail, or the pans, have been neglected in the scalding, or, the butter itself not well made: unless, indeed, as is sometimes the case, the fault lies in the food provided for the cows.

Note.Cobbett's "Cottage Economy" contains directions for the keeping and feeding of cows.

The utmost care and diligence, on the part of the dairy maid, may, however, prove ineffectual, if the dairy itself be not convenient, and provided with the proper utensils. The principal requisites of a dairy are, coolness in summer, and a temperature warmer than the external air, in very cold weather. The building should, therefore, be so constructed, as to exclude the sun in summer, and the cold in winter. The windows should never front the South, South East, or South West. They should be latticed, or, which is preferable, wired, to admit a free circulation of air, with glazed frames, to be shut and opened, at pleasure. The room should be lofty, and the walls thick, as nothing more effectually preserves an even temperature, or excludes extremes of cold and heat. It should be paved with brick or stone, and laid with a proper descent, so that all water may be drained off. The floor should be washed every day in summer, and three or four times a week in the winter.

The utensils should not be scalded in the dairy, as the steam from hot water is injurious to milk. Neither rennet, cheese, or cheese-press, should be kept in it, as they diffuse an acidity. The dairy should not be used as a larder; it cannot be too scrupulously devoted to its own proper purposes.

The cows should be milked twice a day, and as nearly at the same hour as possible; and they should be milked quite clean: this is a matter of great consequence, not only as being conducive to the health of the animals, but if neglected, very much diminishes the value of their produce; for that which is milked last, is much richer than that which is first milked.

Some persons when they strain the milk into pans, for creaming, pour into each one, a little boiling hot water (in the proportion of 1 quart of water to 3 pails of milk); this was never done in our dairy in Hampshire, but I believe the effect is, to destroy the taste of turnip. It is very good, for this purpose, to keep a piece of saltpetre in the cream pot. This latter should have a stick in it, and be well stirred up twice a day, or, every time the dairy maid goes into the dairy. The cream should not be kept longer than four days, before it is made into butter. If twice a week be too often to churn, it ought not to be less frequent than three times in a fortnight. In private families the milk is generally skimmed only once, and this leaves the milk very good; but where butter is made for sale, and quantity rather than quality, is the object, a second skimming is generally resorted to. Some dairy maids object to the second skimming, on account of the bitter taste, which they say the cream so skimmed is sure to give the butter.

To Make Butter.

In summer the churn should be filled with cold spring water, and in winter scalded with hot water, preparatory to churning; then pour the cream in, through a straining cloth. In warm weather the churning should be performed in a cool place; and, in a general way, the butter will come in an hour; but it often does come in half the time, though it is not the better for coming so quickly. In very cold weather the churning must be done in a warm place; indeed, it is sometimes necessary to bring the churn near the fire, but this should never be allowed but in extreme cold weather, when the butter will sometimes be five or six hours in coming: when this is the case, it is almost always of a white colour and a poor taste. The butter being come, pour off the buttermilk, leaving the butter in the churn, pour in a pailful of cold water, wash the butter about, pour off the water, and pour in a fresh pailful; let the butter stand in this ten minutes. Scald a milk-pan, and stand it half an hour or more in cold water, lift the butter out of the churn into it, pour fresh water over, and wash the butter about well, drain the water off as dry as possible, and then proceed to work the buttermilk out of the butter. Some persons do this with the hands (which should first be dipped in hot water), others with a straining-cloth: if the latter, scald and wring it dry; then work the butter by squeezing it, by degrees, from one side of the pan to the other, pour cold water over to rinse, and pour that off; then work the butter back again, and rinse again; repeat this till the rinsing water is no longer coloured with milk, and then you may be sure that the buttermilk is all worked out; for, if there be any of it left, the butter will have streaks of white when cut, and will not be sweet. Having worked out the milk, the next thing is, to put in the salt. The quantity must depend, in some measure, on taste; some persons like their butter very much salted, while others think that the flavour of salt should not be distinguishable in fresh butter. Roll it quite fine, and you may allow ½ lb. to 5 lbs. butter: press the butter out thin, sprinkle over it some salt, fold up the butter, press it out again, strew over more salt, fold it up again, and so on, till all the salt is in, work the butter about well, to mix the salt with it, and pour off whatever liquid there may be in the pan. Take the butter out, a piece at a time (if the quantity be great), on a square wooden trencher (previously scalded and dipped into cold water), and, either with the hand, a fresh cloth, or a flat, thin piece of wood (made for the purpose), beat the butter out thin, fold it up, beat it out again, and repeat this several times, till the water is all beaten out. By the time it has arrived at this latter stage, it ought to be quite firm, except in extreme hot weather, when no pains are sufficient to make it so. When the water is all out, make up the butter, in what form and size you choose; place it on a board, or a marble slab, in a cool place, but not before a window, as too much air will not benefit it; spread over it a cheese-cloth, first scalded, then dipped in cold water, and it will harden in a few hours.

Different parts of England vary so much in the butter they produce, that what is considered very good in one county would be regarded as inferior in another. This is caused by difference in the pasturage, and not by variation in the mode of preparing the cream or making the butter; except, indeed, in some parts of the West of England. In Devonshire the cream is always, I believe, prepared according to the following directions, which were written for me by a Devonshire lady.

To make Butter without a Churn.

Spread a linen cloth in a large bason, pour in the cream, tie it up like a pudding, fold another cloth over it, and bury it in a hole two feet deep, in light earth, put all the earth lightly in, lay a turf on the top, and leave it twenty-four hours; take it up, and it will be found in the state that butter is when it is just come. The buttermilk is lost, but this method answers very well in hot weather. We tried it in America.

Clouted Cream.

Strain the milk, from the cow, into glazed earthenware vessels, and let it stand twelve hours in summer, and twenty-four, or thirty-six, in winter, before you scald it. Then place the vessels over a very small fire or hearth, for half or three-quarters of an hour, until the surface begins to swell, and the shape of the bottom of the pan appears on it (but if made hot enough to simmer, it will be spoiled); then set it to cool, and in twelve hours' time in summer, and eighteen or twenty-four in winter, the cream may be taken off with a skimmer which has holes.

Butter from Clouted Cream.

Scald well a large wooden bowl, then rinse it with cold water, but do not wipe it dry. Put in the cream, work it well with the hand (in one direction only), until the milk comes from it, which should be drained off, and will serve for making cakes and puddings; when the milk is all beaten out, wash the butter with cold water to cleanse it from the milk, then salt it, thus: spread it out on the bottom of the bowl, sprinkle salt over, roll it up, wash it again with cold water, beat out again, then shape and print it, as you please. The hands should be well washed in hot water, before you begin to work the butter. In winter and in weather of a moderate temperature the butter is speedily made, but in very hot weather it will take nearly or quite an hour of stirring round, and working with the hand, before it will come into butter.

To Pot Butter for Winter use.

In the summer, when there is plenty of butter, care should be taken to preserve enough for winter use. But observe, that none but good butter, well made, and quite free from buttermilk, will pot well. Have potting pans, to hold from 6 to 10 lbs. of butter. Put a thick layer of butter in the pan, press it down hard, then a layer of salt, press that down, then more butter, and so on: allowing 1 oz. of salt to every lb. of butter. If too salt, it can be freshened by being washed in cold water, before it is sent to table. Always keep the top well covered with salt, and as that turns to brine, more salt may be required. Tie paper over, and keep the pan in the dairy, or cellar. Some persons use one quarter part of lump sugar, and the same of saltpetre, to two parts of common salt.

To Make Cheese.

The milk should be just lukewarm, whether skimmed or not. To a pailful put 2 table-spoonsful of rennet, cover the milk, and let it stand, to turn: strike down the curd with the skimming dish, or break it with the hand, pour off the whey, put the curd into a cheese-cloth, and let two persons hold the four corners, and move it about, from side to side, to extract the whey: lay it into the vat, fold the cloth smoothly over the cheese, cover it with the lid of the vat, and put a weight of 10 or 12 lbs. on the top. Let it stand twelve hours; then take it carefully out, put it on a wooden trencher, or a clean hanging shelf, and sprinkle salt thickly over the top. The next day, wipe it dry all over, turn it the other side upwards, sprinkle salt on the top, and repeat this every day, for a week: after that, turn it every day, and occasionally wipe it.—Another: to 6 quarts new milk, add 2 quarts lukewarm water, and sufficient rennet to turn it: when the curd is settled put it into a small vat, about a foot square, and 1½ inch deep, with holes in the bottom; place a lid on it, and put on that a lb. weight, for a day.—Another: put 5 quarts of the last of the milking into a pan, with 2 table-spoonsful of rennet; when the curd is come, strike it down with the skimming dish two or three times, to break it: let it stand two hours. Spread a cheese-cloth on a sieve, put the curd on it, and let the whey drain; break the curd with the hand, put it into a vat, and a 2 lbs. weight on the top. When it has stood twelve hours, take it out and bind a cloth round it. Turn it every day, from one board to another. Cover the cheese with nettle leaves, and put it between 2 pewter plates, to ripen. It will be ready in three weeks.