Statistical Survey of the County of Clare, 1808

By Hely Dutton

Chapter III - Section 10

Dairies - their produce and management

EXCEPT near the town of Ennis, few regular dairies are kept, such as may be found in many parts of Leinster; but a few farmers and cottiers supply the neighbouring villages with milk and butter. A good quantity of butter is sent to Limerick from Ennis, it is mostly produced near Clare and Barrentick; lately a good quantity has been sent from Kilrush. In Ennis the new milk is usually from 8d. to ls. 1d. per pottle of eight quarts, and fourteen quarts per pottle of thick milk, from which the cream has been skimmed, for 8d*. In this county they churn only the cream, by which means what they call buttermilk (but it is only thick skimmed milk) is not so good as in Leinster. From the general goodness of the pasture and the breed of cattle, the milk gives a large portion of butter: there is nothing particular in the method of making butter; they have the vile practice, in common with the rest of Ireland, of putting too much hot water to the milk, whilst churning in winter, to hasten the process; instead of this, the churn should be placed in a vessel of warm water some time before churning, which would not injure the colour of the butter. In summer, when the mistress is not too fine a lady to pay attention to her dairy, the butter is usually very good; but I have met some ladies, who, so as their butter was made very pale-coloured, seemed to overlook the bad flavour proceeding from dirty vessels, and praised it highly! It is produced in such various quantities, depending so much on breed, food, good milking, and dairy management, that any guess at the quantity would be ridiculous. A few farmers near towns hire their cows to their tenants, whose wives retail the milk; they usually receive five or six guineas per annum for each, and it is said the retailer, with the black cow’s milk, (water,) is able to make 12l. per annum of the compound, if the cow is tolerably good. Farmers generally have from four to eight; scarcely a cottier without a cow, some two, besides their succession. 

Almost every farmer has some butter to spare; it is sent to Ennis, and from thence to Limerick for exportation; it is packed in tubs of twenty-one and nineteen inches, and in firkins.

Considerable quantities of sheep’s milk are mixed with that of cows for the Ennis market, and those, who practise this deception, will not purchase any ewes but those, that are likely to help the pail. 

The filthy custom of permitting the calf to suck two teats, whilst the dairy-maid is emptying the other two, prevails here as well as in the county of Galway; this delicate custom has certainly economy to plead in its favour, as the dribbling milk from the calf’s mouth is caught in the milk-pail; in some places the calf gets the fore milk, in the others he gets the last, or the strippings**.

Very little cheese is made in this county, and that little very indifferent; cream-cheese is sometimes made, but, as the butter is the perquisite of the lady, it is only on state days this luxury makes its appearance, and then it generally wants ripeness.

Butter may be preserved sweet for several years by the following receipt; it never gets hard or brittle, but still looks like butter just taken from the churn; it must not be used for a month after making.

10 ounces of common salt, made very fine.
2 do. salt-petre.
2 do. best brown sugar.

They must be well mixed together; to each pound of butter add one ounce of this mixture; it must be well worked up, packed close, and well kept.

* Strange as it may appear, this is the usual measure.

** The diffeence between cream or butter produced from strippings or last-milk, and that from the fore-milk, is from sixteen to one, and at the lowest eight to one, according to the goodness of the cow.

Back to Statistical Survey of the County of Clare - Chapter 3