The butter making activity is an interactive education resource available through costumed visits to schools (Outreach) - within 150 kms of Auckland, New Zealand in the support of the Social Studies and Technology curriculums. The Tinder Box School butter making activity is also available as a demonstration for the public in Historical Houses and Museums. The history of butter making available through the anecdotal records of the pioneers show butter was an important source of income, diaries and letters inform us about the dairy and tell us how butter was stored and transported and the churns and equipment used in butter making.
History of pioneer butter making.
From the anecdotal evidence available to us through letters and diaries, whether it be a from Sarah Higgins a 12 year old girl who looked after her family in 1842, or a man of property such as Constantine Dillon who invested in several land-orders of the New Zealand Company and had a farm in the Waimea, Nelson in 1850, or Jane Oates writing in 1881, butter making had a place in the lives of the early pioneers.
"I only had 2 shillings a week and I wanted to learn to milk so that I could milk our own cow when we could get one. I made butter and cheese, learned cooking baking and housework. I had been there for only three months when Mrs Otterson gave me 4 shillings a week. After a few months she gave me 6 shillings then I bought myself some nice things."Sarah Higgins was 12 when she emigrated to Nelson with her family. Sarah arrived on The "Bolton" in 1842, her sister had died before they reached New Zealand. Sarah was responsible for the family's housekeeping and also went into domestic service.
From: " The Lives of Pioneer Women in New Zealand."
"The Dairy is well managed. Brydon and his wife are very active and good servants, and as Cautly lives here he is able to see whether they do justice or not, and he says they do ample justice to the cows, indeed I have seen so myself the last ten days. The cattle, of which there will soon be 100 head, are disgustingly fat, indeed the cows too much so for milking. I shall bring back with me a keg of 56 lbs of butter. There is no fresh butter made here. It is all made salt and put into kegs at once."
From a letter by Constantine Dillon to his Wife Fanny, Saturday 6 December 1850
"We are going to thresh tomorrow, it is wheat. He has sold 25 bushels at 4 shillings a bushel, butter has been selling at 4 pence a lb this summer and now it is 6 pence a lb so you can see that does not make much."
From a letter by Jane Oates living in the Wairarapa, to her sister in April 1881.
From: "The lives of Pioneer Women in New Zealand."
Sarah Higgins writing in 1842, Constantine Dillon in 1850 and Jane Oates in 1881, all had different expectations of their butter making activity.
Sarah Higgins wanted to buy a cow so she could milk it and make butter for her family.
Constantine Dillon had 100 head of cattle - his butter was not fresh, 'it was all made salt and put into kegs at once." probably being butter made for export.
Jane Oates bemoaned the small amount of income generated by butter making.
Butter making promised different things to different people, but one can imagine the pleasure Blanche Lush must have had in August 1851 as recounted by the Reverend Vicesimus Lush in his diary.
August 1st to 7th. Showery every day : remained at home pursuing the even tenor of our ways. Blanche churned on Monday --- butter came in 10 minutes and the cream produced 71/2 lbs. We have plenty of new laid eggs, good butter sweet milk and pure bread --- soon we shall have plenty of fine young fowls and an abundance I trust of vegetables, so we shall live luxuriously on the first planted potatoes.
The butter making undertaken by Sarah Higgins, Jane Oates and Blanche Lush was small scale. An example of small scale butter making can be had through the School butter making activity.
Butter made for ExportBrett’s Colonists Guide and Cyclopaedia of useful knowledge published in 1883 had this to say of butter: “With all civilised nations butter is used not only as a luxury but as a necessity.” Brett’s went onto to say: “England imports butter to the value of ten to twelve millions pounds sterling annually. With the market there and in the neighbouring colonies which are not so well suited to butter making, there will be no difficulty in disposing of all the surplus this Colony can produce, but it must be of good quality to command a good market price.”
The advice to make butter for export had already been taken as the figures below demonstrate.
Imports (hundredweight) Exports (hundredweight) Export Value
1879 1999.5 359 £1732
1881 412 2775 £8789
Source: Brett’s Colonists Guide and Cyclopaedia of Useful Knowledge.
Salted kegs of butter - Storage and transportation of Butter.
Butter , to be used fresh, requires salting to suit the palate, about half-an-ounce of salt to one pound of butter; but for keeping any length of time it should be salted at the rate of one pound of fine salt to twelve or fourteen pounds of butter, with which it should be evenly incorporated, then left a few hours for the salt to dissolve, and afterwards thoroughly worked again. The keg should be well soaked with hot brine to remove sap or gum likely to affect the flavour of the butter.
Some people put a circular piece of fine bleached muslin or calico in the bottom of the keg, but it is far better to line the keg all round, it prevents direct contact with the wood, and loss; as in the ordinary way there is more butter injured by, or sticking to, the keg than the value of the calico. Kegs holding from 60 to 80 pounds of butter are generally used.
Source: Brett’s Colonists Guide and Cyclopaedia of Useful Knowledge.
Tinder Box provides the resources and equipment required to fulfill a hands on presentation in your location.
Students will participate in the butter making process, using a glass butter churn, butter hands and butter stamp.
If you wish your students to taste the butter that is made, crackers, bread or biscuits will need to be made available. Tinder Box are not able to supply these items.
Butter making was a common household task in the 19th Century. Using cream from the house cow the pioneer housewife made a product that could be a saleable commodity, or used on the meal table. The money made from the sale of butter and eggs was a valuable addition to the housekeeping.
Fulfilling curriculum objectives; students should gain a practical understanding of the butter making process.
A clear explanation of the stages of butter making will enable students to appreciate how this activity relates to the particular strand they are studying.Questions are encouraged at the end of the activity The activity takes approximately 40 minutes.
This activity is also available as a demonstration for Historical Houses and Museums.
There are many ways of making butter in a dairy. A butter churn is not essential, but it is easier to make butter with a churn. Butter can be made with a jug and paddle. But as Brett's Colonists guide said: " use only the best cream if you want to make good butter."
Early churns were made of wood; it is essential to use wood that will not taint the butter. In New Zealand Kahikatea was the preferred wood for making churns and butter making utensils. Early churns, like modern churns have the paddles on the inside of the churn and these are rotated by a handle on the side of the churn. Cream was introduced at the top of the churn, butter and butter milk were removed through the same aperture. Some of these churns were round, others box shaped as in the example below.
A box churn used for making butter.
Some churns were of the plunger type, these too were constructed of wood. Plunger churns, sometimes called "Irish churns"do not have paddles but work by the vertical raising and lowering of a dasher (a perforated disc attached to a pole) inside the coopered churn. Plunger churns came in large and small sizes, the larger chruns being used for commerical production, the small - for household butter making.
Plunger churn for butter making
The plunger is also known as a dasher
For large scale butter production a swing churn was used. The use of the swing churn was described thus:
"The american swing churn"- a rectangular box with rounded ends, swung by iron rods on an ordinary double x frame; the interior is clear of dashers - the oscillating motions causes the cream to be thrown against the circular ends of the box; it has no rotary motion, but is gently moved backwards and forwards.
Source: Brett’s Colonists Guide and Cyclopaedia of Useful Knowledge 1883
Swing Churn .
Large Swing churns could make up to 40 lbs
of butter at a time at a time.
Later churns used for small scale production were made of glass as in the example below which Pru uses for the Tinder Box School butter making activity (see background image on this page).
Copyright RPL 11/2/2007
SOCIAL STUDIES - BUTTER MAKING Level Achievement objective
Culture and Heritage 1 & 3 Identifying features of cultural groups,
similarities and differences.
Time Continuity and Change 1,2 & 3 How time & change affect people.
How past events changed aspects
of community life.
Place and Environment 1,2 & 3 Why places are important.
How peoples activities influence the
use of particular places.
Resources & Economic Activities 1,2,& 3 How different resources are used.
How people participate in the
TECHNOLOGY BUTTER MAKING Level Achievement objective
Technological Knowledge and Understanding 1,2 & 3 Uses of technology use of e.g.
the butter churn.
Technology and Society 3 Technological advances.
Technological Capability 1 & 3 Identifying the process used to change
cream to butter.