Susan and an attendant girl, whose inferior appearance informed Fanny, to her great surprise, that she had previously seen the upper servant, brought in everything necessary for the meal; Susan looking, as she put the kettle on the fire and glanced at her sister, as if divided between the agreeable triumph of shewing her activity and usefulness, and the
dread of being thought to demean herself by such an office. “She had been into the kitchen,” she said, “to hurry Sally and help make the toast, and spread the bread and butter, or she did not know when they should have got tea, and she was sure her sister must want something after her journey.”
What is more traditional at tea time than bread and butter? Butter, that all essential ingredient to the rich sauces and pastries enjoyed during the Regency was a kitchen staple. Common in the country, its expense was lamented in the city, where fresh cream was harder to obtain. While living at Steventon, the Austen ladies would have been intimately familiar with the management of the family’s dairy and with all aspects of milking, cream separating and butter making. Wealthier families, like the Lefroys, at Ashe, could leave the dairy to trained dairy maids, but Mrs. Austen took a very hands on approach to feeding her family.
Who knows but what the traditional view of Dairy Maids as having rosy cheeks and a sweet temperment may not be true. There is a story told of Sir Harry Fetherstonhaugh who, “lived a prodigal life at Uppark entertaining lavishly and included the Prince Regent among his frequent guests. In 1810, however, he withdrew from society and devoted his attentions to discussing improvements to the house and grounds with Humphry Repton.
When passing by his newly renovated dairy one day, he heard the dairymaid’s assistant, Mary Ann Bullock, singing. Sir Harry presented himself and asked for her hand in marriage. Mary Ann Bullock, aged twenty-one, was sent to Paris to be educated before being married to Sir Harry in September 1825.
After taking this extraordinary step (he was well over 70!) he left the entire estate to her on his death in 1846. She, in turn, left it to her unmarried sister and together they made provision for the estate to pass, after the life tenancy of a neighbour, to the second surviving son of another friend and neighbour, the fourth Earl of Clanwilliam, on the condition that he should assume the name of Fetherstonhaugh.*
So…who’s to say that butter making was not the way to fame and fortune!! Still, it was a back breaking job. Cows needed to be milked (by hand) twice a day. Milk was then set out in cold “dairies”, often lined in stone. Once cooled, the cream would rise to the top to be skimmed off. The resulting milk could be drunk or used in baking. The Cream would be taken to be used as cream or made into butter in one of the many churns available at the time.
Once made (all churns used the concept of agitating the cream until the milk solids congeled into butter and separated from the resulting “butter milk”) the butter would be washed in cool water and salted, to preserve it.
Butter is very easily procured at any grocery store or market, but there is charm in making it on your own, and eating it fresh, as Jane Austen would have done. It is undeniably quicker to make your butter using an electric mixer, but you will never get a good feel for the life of a dairy maid until you’ve made it yourself.
This may take half an hour to an hour.
Things You’ll Need
- Regular (not heavy) whipping cream – 1 pint
- approximately 1 tsp. of salt
- medium-sized sealable plastic container (such as Tupperware), or a Mason Jar with a lid
- 1 cup or bowl
- paper towel/cheese cloth
- Gather your ingredients (below).
- Pour the cream into your container and seal the lid. Make sure that there is as little air inside aspossible.
- Start shaking at a steady pace – about one shake per second.(It is very important to shake at a steady pace.Changes in speed will ruin your butter.)
- When the cream thickens to a paste, add a pinch of salt.
- Keep shaking, but do not open the container. This is a crucial time for the butter fats.
- When a liquid is formed, you should keep shaking steadily, about 100 more times.
- Place paper towel/cheese cloth over cup, and make a well.
- Slowly pour the liquid into the paper towel, and let the liquid drain into the cup below.
- Remove the butter from the cheese cloth or paper towel.
- Gently knead the butter, while running under very cold water to wash the butter, work the butter with yourhand or utensil until all the milk is washed out and any liquid is clear,any milk left in will spoil the butter.
- Add salt to taste. (Do not open after adding salt unless you want sour buttermilk.)
- Let cool and set overnight.
- Enjoy on crackers, toast, etc.
How to Make Butter using an Electric Mixer
- Purchase a container or more of heavy cream. Try to find plain cream without added sugar.You will want to buy a lotof heavy cream because the amount of butter is smaller than the amount of cream used. One gallon of cream will produce approximately three pounds of butter
- Chill your bowl in the refrigerator prior to butter making.
- Pour the cream into a bowl. Whip it using an electric mixer until it gets stiff. It won’t be as stiff as astick of butter yet.
- It will go through different stages- the first two are pretty self-explanatory.
- Frothy Milk Stage.
- Whipped Cream Stage.
- Break Stage(This is where the whipped cream appears very dry looking)
- Break Down Stage-Continuous whipping will cause the air cells to collapse into, BUTTER.
- It might get stuck to the whisk. Drain some liquid and repeat. The liquid you drain off is buttermilk. Addback an equal amount of clean water to the forming butter
- Chill the butter in the refrigerator for an hour. If it is not hard, drain more liquid out and refrigerate again. Taste the butter and if it doesn’t taste like butter but like cream, whip it some more.
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