Preserving Butter ~1827

Three Options for Saving Butter.

Nostalgic for Creameries.

The word creamery conjures images of black and white Holstein dairy cows grazing on green fields of wavy grassland dotted with white daisies and yellow clover under azure blue skies filled with happy, puffy white clouds.

My hometown. Gardnerville, NV. Idyllic, rural USA.

Growing up in a rural town surrounded by pasturelands, our class field trips often included visits to the local dairy/creamery where the children would line up to try milking a nonplussed brown Jersey cow, who, good natured as she was, put up with the tickling fingers of inexperience. I recall anguish over getting milk on my new shoes,  not in the metal bucket – shoes which were further soiled by cow muck and muddy ditches surrounding the barn which had a particular clinging odor of sour milk. Those smelly details were quickly glossed over when the owners passed out small, individualized cups of ice cream to our immense glee. We had helped to make ice cream! Or so we convinced ourselves with Ikea-effect levels of satisfaction.

Fast forward several decades and I now realize that the small-town creamery was probably as close as it gets to my romanticized image of grazing cows content in their symbiotic relationship with man.

Today, our local travels occasionally take us by industrial feedlots where the cows stand on massive mounds of waste. The supreme irony here is that we all secretly hold onto the idyllic image of dairies and creameries, a by-product of our jarring disconnect with an industrial food chain. What is the evidence, you ask? The myriad distribution trucks sporting black and white cows grazing in those emerald fields with yellow clover under blue skies and happy white clouds. Indeed.


Holstein Cows, 1890.

But if you had a milk cow and access to fresh milk and cream, you would want to know how to go about certain creamery-related functions. Which leads us to today’s very practical post

Three Methods for Preserving Butter.

Method 1. Of note, saltpetre is potassium nitrate, used for gunpowder and preserving meat. And butter, evidently.How-To-Preserve-ButterMethod 2. Salt, sugar, and eliminating air. How-to-preserve-butter-3how-to-preserve-butter-4Method 3. Salting Butter.How-To-Preserve-Butter-2Interestingly, salted and unsalted butter, if wrapped well in layered foil, can keep in the refrigerator for up to three weeks and still taste fresh. Salt, as we read above, acts as a preservative.

Butter also freezes well. Of the three methods listed, this last method is probably the closest to actually working. Assuming that the household was physically located in a place where it dropped below freezing – and likewise stored the butter in a place that dropped below freezing, it would last several months.

Salted butter wrapped well in foil can last up to 1 year in the freezer, while unsalted butter will stay fresh for about 3 months when frozen. If you have space in your freezer, butter is a useful product to tuck away when you find it on sale.

One more idyllic scene for the road, contemporary to the preservation recipes above.


View from Fishkill looking to West Point / painted by W.G. Wall ; engraved by I. Hill.
View from Fishkill looking to West Point / painted by W.G. Wall ; engraved by I. Hill, 1821.

Source: New London Cookery, By A Lady, 1827.

More Fun Discoveries from Antique Cookbooks


4 thoughts on “Preserving Butter ~1827

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  1. There are people who can butter today. You can find the process on you tube. It is not approved by the FDA but this has been done since there was jars with lids that could be used to can. I remember it being done when I was a kid so I know it works.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Huh – good memory. I’ve heard of canning apple butter, but not regular butter. It makes sense if you’re looking at long months ahead in winter without access to fresh dairy. I’ll stick with the freezer method!


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