19th Century Dairying: A Cottage Industry
Before the Civil War, the Machen women and a slave named Sally made butter for the family in this room every week. By 1880 the farm was making butter for commercial sale and men did the work.
In the room to your left, several keelers
filled with milk probably sat on work tables in the center of the room. Keelers were shallow so cream could rise to the top of the container within 24 hours. Cream was collected from the keelers in the morning with a skimmer
and held in cans in the brick vat until ready for buttermaking. The Machen's probably used a box or barrel churn
. After about 30 minutes of hard work, tiny bits of butterfat would stick together and separate from the "buttermilk." The butter was then rinsed and worked with a paddle to remove more buttermilk. Finally, it was salted, pressed into a container, and decorated with a print from a buttermold
The room on your right was crowded with cheesemaking tools. Sitting against one wall was probably a cheese vat
, a container used to process the milk. A heater or stovepipe under the vat heated the milk to make it curdle. As it curdled, the milk separated into solid curd and liquid whey. Curd knives
cut the solid curd to release more whey. The Machen's probably drained the excess whey from the vat and used it for animal feed.
After a second chopping to remove more whey, the curd was pressed into cheese hoops
. These hoops, lined with cloth to absorb whey, gave the cheese shape. The hoops were placed in the four-station cheese press
. This device applied equal and increased pressure to the cheese hoops and squeezed out more whey. When pressing was complete, the cheese wheels were removed from the hoops and stored and aged before going to market.