Getting the cream proves hard work

Last updated 13:00 18/02/2014

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New Zealand may be living off the fat of the land at the moment but at the Dovedale Country Affair, spectators got a reminder that cranking out the cream is hard work.

Jeff Oldham had to switch tiring hands as he was winding the handle on a Lister Ball Bearing Cream Separator that was producing a dribble of cream from a heavy spinning bowl of cow's milk.

"It's pretty hard work," he said. And that was before he turned to the harder, and ultimately fruitless work of churning cream to produce butter.

The elegant mid-century machine had not been used in about 20 years, said its owner, Steve Johnson, who was monitoring the operation while Mr Oldham provided the muscle at the Dovedale Domain on Sunday.

Mr Johnson said when his children were younger he would use the separator most days but it had been in storage for a couple of decades.

The demonstration attracted a crowd of onlookers, intrigued to see what it had once taken to extract the precious fat from milk.

Mr Johnson filled the bowl on top with friesian milk and Mr Oldham started cranking. He said it took a lot of work to get the spinning bowl up to speed but that once he did, momentum made his job easier.

A bell on the side of the machine pealed when the rotations fell below 56 per minute, the optimum speed to generate the centrifugal force the device relied on. Once the bell stopped pealing, a trickle of cream came out of one spout while a heavier stream of separated milk came out of another spout.

Below the bowl, a stack of 40 spinning funnels threw the heavier cream to the edges while the lighter milk ran down a series of holes in the middle.

Several minutes after Mr Oldham had finished cranking, Mr Johnson took the top off the centrifuge and the funnels were still spinning rapidly, a testament to the smooth ball bearings below them.

As he pulled the stack of funnels apart, he pointed out the residue of cream stuck to them, which he said was because the milk had come straight out of a fridge and the day was cooler than expected. He said that when he used to separate milk fresh from his cows, the warmer cream would leave the funnels clean.

From 16 litres of milk, the machine separated out 1.5 litres of cream. Mr Johnson said jersey milk would have produced more cream.

The pair then tried to churn the cream into butter but gave up after about 10 minutes when it became clear the cream was not solidifying. Mr Johnson said he had doubted if the churn would work with fresh cream, as it was best to leave it for a couple of days.

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He said there was a lot of interest in the demonstration, driven by people's renewed desire to take control of their own food production.

- Nelson

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