Monday, 20 October 2008

Cheesemaking in the late 19th Century

Image © and collection of Brett Payne

This cabinet card shows three women proudly displaying the fruits of their labours, namely the two large round cheeses which sit on a wooden block at the left. Unfortunately, I have no idea where it was taken, although I presume that since it was purchased from there, it is somewhere in England. Although I have had a couple of moderately successful attempts at making cheese myself - indeed, that's what first piqued my interest in this cabinet card - I'm not particularly familiar with the equipment that might have have been used to produce cheese in the 19th Century.

The photograph was taken in a cobbled yard adjacent to what is presumably a cottage or farm building, in a semi-rural setting. The ladies are wearing clothing that suggests to me a date of approximately the late 1880s or early 1890s. Two of them have bonnets.

I can see at least two wooden tubs. The larger of the two appears to be mounted on wheels and in a screw press. I suspect the two oval-shaped boards leaning against the wall on the right, one with holes in it, and the wire cage hanging on the wall, were also part of the cheese press. The two cheeses appear to be approximately the same diameter as the smaller of the two tubs. Perhaps the small tub, placed inside the larger one, was filled with curds and then pressed to squeeze out the whey? What, then, are the other two contraptions? Perhaps some more knowledgeable readers might be able to identify the various items on display with a greater degree of certainty than I can?

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