Page 1 of 1

Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:47 pm
by Jansheff
Please can someone help. I have just received 3 new spruce butter churns from a well known re-enactors suppliers. It is obvious that they are going to leak as we can see daylight through some of the joints. I am a butter making virgin, so don't really know how to solve this problem. We have also purchased some specialist oil to treat it with, as recommended on their website. We have just rung the firm asking how to make the churns waterproof and all they can suggest is that we purchase wood filler from a DIY shop to seal the joints. Not terribly authentic - and I worry about smoothing it off properly inside so we don't get bits in the butter, as you can't get your hand inside easily. The supplier suggested on the phone that they don't really expect people to make butter in them!!

Is there any known way of soaking them to swell the wood and seal the gaps? I would be really grateful as we need to use them this weekend. Thanks.
Jan

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 1:50 pm
by sally
have you soaked them in water for a few hours? A lot of wooden stave built items need regular soaking to keep the joints tight.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:06 pm
by Jansheff
I haven't, although I had a feeling they needed soaking. When I rang the supplier I asked about that and she said she didn't want to advise anything she didn't really know about. Should it be hot/warm/cold water? Thanks for your help.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:20 pm
by sally
I would use cold, just chuck em in the bath and let them have a good wallow. Assuming that closes everything up ok, in future soak them the night before you want to use them then scald them well with boiling water just before using them to ensure the inside is clean.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 2:37 pm
by Jansheff
Thank you. Brilliant advice. If only the suppliers had been so helpful. Cheers.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 3:21 pm
by Sophia
If you can avoid it don't store them in the house unless of course you don't have central heating. We store our barrel and tuns in the trailer which lives outside and this stops them from drying out too much. (Useful tip with barrels at the end of an event ensure they still have some water in and pop in a Milton tablet. At next event empty and rinse thoroughly, no nasty taste and well disinfected.)

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 6:45 pm
by hazyma
Sorry to but(!!) in but you really need to check if your butter churn is dry or wet coopered. I am reliably informed by the people that made my churn that soaking a dry coopered churn will make no difference to its water tightness.
If you nee more info, pm me and I'll tell you who made mine and you maybe could talk to them - as re enactors themselves they use their churns to make butter, which is always a good recommendation! :)

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:10 pm
by Lady Cecily
Sorry, but this reminded me of this song that never made sense as a child - but does now. It does sound like you need to soak the churns to expand the wood to seal the holes. Enjoy your butter - don't forget the pats and if you can get a board with some runnels in so the butter milk is easier to separate. I use double cream.

-------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, dear Liza.
There's a hole in my bucket, dear Liza, a hole

Go fix it, dear Henry, dear Henry
Go fix it, dear Henry, fix it

With what shall I fix it, deat Liza . . . with what
With a straw, dear Henry . . . with a straw

But the straw is too long . . . too long
Well cut it . . . cut it

With what shall I cut it . . . with what
With an axe . . . with an axe

The axe is too dull . . . too dull
Well sharpen it . . . hone it

On what shall I sharpen it
on what shal I hone it . . . on what

Whit a stone . . . with a stone
The stone is too dry . . . too dry

Well wet it . . . wet it
with what shall I wet it . . . with what

Try water . . . use water
In wath shall I fetch it . . . in what

With a bucket . . . with a bucket
There's a hole in my bucket . . . a hole . . .

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 7:36 pm
by Grania
I've just started to learn butter making :) Soaking the churn is definitely a good idea, and don't let it get too dry in future or it may not be usable - we soaked one that hadn't been used for a few years for the whole of a 2 day event, and although it did improve, it still leaked.

When you've used it too, give it a good clean with really boiling water, but I've been very clearly told DON'T use washing up liquid :wtf:

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 07, 2010 9:56 pm
by Loaflady
On a similar subject, can anyone please point me to 14th/15th century references to butter pats/hands?
Cheers.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 1:36 pm
by Grymm
Loaflady wrote:On a similar subject, can anyone please point me to 14th/15th century references to butter pats/hands?
Cheers.

Can't find refs for them being use even as late as the mid 18thC let alone earlier! Good luck.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 7:59 pm
by Lady Cecily
Grymm wrote:
Loaflady wrote:On a similar subject, can anyone please point me to 14th/15th century references to butter pats/hands?
Cheers.

Can't find refs for them being use even as late as the mid 18thC let alone earlier! Good luck.
Um - very interesting - it's difficult to make non sloppy butter without them - but you are right Grymm a cursory look doesn't provide any evidence. Which means I have potentially been miss informing people (or at the very least using things I shouldn't). They would be a rare survival in the archaeology and I can't see any in the illustrations that are readily available on-line. Wet butter - what a weird idea.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Thu Sep 09, 2010 10:37 pm
by Grymm
Washing your freshly churned stuff in a wide pancheon of cold water (It'll take several changes of water) takes out a lot of the remaining buttermilk dregs and firms it up a treat, which is handy as it seems to be the remaining buttermilk that contributes towards your butter turning rancid.
From the, mostly 16thC, table pics I've seen that include butter it's served as a ball or double ball stuck on a plate, sort of a mini greasy version of a snowman.

Myself and some of the ladies of the 18thC civy group I'm part of have been scouring the books for any refs to pre 1800 Scotch Hands, Dutch hands, Butter pats, Butter paddles, Butter bats since 2006 even in the 18thC books on dairying they don't show, the minutia of how different counties make butter (Like the folks of the west country still using the outmoded method of scalding the milk in a brass pan to make butter in 1733!) but nada on the pats, heigh ho don't mean they weren't there but it's looking like if they were they ent common or mebbe not British.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Fri Sep 10, 2010 12:24 am
by Jansheff
Thanks for your help, everyone. Now got one watertight and the other two with slow drips, so it looks like they're usable.

I love the idea about leaving a bit of water in each churn with some Milton, but unfortunately, unless they're completely leakproof I'll just make a mess! At least I can store them in a cool cellar.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 12:31 am
by Jansheff
Just to say again, thanks for everyone's help. I used the butter churns today and they worked a treat. 2 are not leaking at all, 1 has a bit of a leak, but the children using them were slopping more over the top anyway, so it didn't really matter. Just another little problem to sort out - after soaking them they have swollen so the tops don't fit in the holes now, so had to keep a tea towel wrapped around to minimise mess. A carpenter/handyman should be able to sort that out quite easily though.

It was lovely to see the reaction of children (and adults for that matter) who previously hadn't a clue how butter was made or what it was made from.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 2:27 pm
by Loaflady
Thanks from me too. At least I'm not going mad and missing something obvious! Strange no-one thought "My hands are a bit warm, a nice flat bit of wood would do the job nicely!" I have used the blade of a knife, but you can't get a good squeeze as it's a bit narrow.
I must have warm hands as things get a bit melty even in cold water if the weather's hot! :sweat:
Jansheff, I made butter this weekend too. I thought of you, glad you didn't leak much!

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Mon Sep 13, 2010 4:10 pm
by Grymm
Knew I'd remember where I seed it.... Earliest ref I've found to anything like pats,bats,paddles etc is 1750 in The Country Housewife's Family Companion by William Ellis
(Prospect books do a reprint ISBN 1903018005)

....The more it is washed in different waters before it is made up into pounds, and the more it is beaten between two trenchers to clear it of milk, the sweeter will be the butter, and the longer it will keep so:

The dairy section in the book is fairly big and that info only turns up once in a section on how to make good butter from cows fed on clover, trefoil, raygrass or lucern grasses.

Re: Preparing a new wooden butter churn for use

Posted: Tue Sep 14, 2010 10:56 pm
by Loaflady
Thanks Grymm!
By the way, making butter with clotted (scalded) cream was still done by the small holding/self-sufficiency community in the 1970's. I know my Mum tried it. 'The Backyard Dairy' Prism Press 1972. (I accidently made some this summer during a failed clotted cream ice cream experiment!! It was sweet and vanilla-ey! :$ )