Saturday, October 19, 2019

Sharing Memories – The Cream Separator

The cream separator stood around the corner at the bottom of the basement stairs in the old house. Metal gray and dully shining it was used every day.

Cream SeparatorDad would milk the cows and give the barn cats each a squirt.  When he was finished he’d bring the big pails of warm milk into the house to have the cream separated off.

If you were to leave the milk to set, the cream would rise to the top of the pail in a thick rich layer ideal for making butter or serving on freshly picked strawberries.  I still remember the taste of freshly clotted thick cream and warm milk straight from the cow. There is nothing like it.

Nowadays I chuckle when our son exclaims “Fresh Milk!” as he opens a 4 litre milk jug.

He delights in the fresh taste but he has no idea how fresh milk truly tastes.  I’d love to take him back to that time and place in rural Saskatchewan of my childhood.

Of course these days, milk and cream in the stores isn’t the same. Safer perhaps with its pasteurized goodness and added Vitamin D, but definitely not the same.

But I digress…back to cream separator…

At one time we would have had to turn the crank to separate the cream by centrifugal force, but by the time the separator was on my radar we had gone upscale and bought the electric model.

I had a love-hate relationship with that cream separator.

I enjoyed watching over the basement stairs rail as my Dad poured the big pail of milk into the top. I eagerly awaited the first flow of separated milk which we collected into bottles to store in the fridge.

Cream Separator DisksOn the other hand, I hated the cream separator.  It was my job to wash the darn thing and its many innards.

The stack of disks used to separate the milk had to be pulled apart and every disk washed in hot sudsy water with a brush which had to touch every inch in order to clean the surface.

I used to know how many disks there were.  I don’t recall now.  In my youthful eyes with a chore at hand, there seemed to be hundreds but there were likely less than 20.   Does anyone recall?  I counted 17 in the picture but I don’t know if that model is the same as our old cream separator.  Perhaps Mom remembers.

How many of you have memories of an old cream separator? Or perhaps you are still using one now, if you are fortunate enough to be living on the farm.

Please share your comments below.



Sharing Memories is a regular blog prompt from Lorine at Olive Tree Genealogy



18 Responses to “Sharing Memories – The Cream Separator”
  1. Would you still hate the cleaning job now at the present time? I’ve found that it’s not so bad to do those old ‘nasty’ jobs when (1) I know the benefits gained, and (2) there’s no one else that’s going to do it. ;)
    Carol Yates Wilkerson´s last [type] ..Bean Family Civil War Veterans – Iowa

  2. That’s very cool Joan! We didn’t have anything like that as we lived in a small village, not on a farm. But I do remember the milkman coming around and leaving the glass bottles of milk. Each bottle had a nice thick layer of cream on top and of course we kids aways wanted to scoop that off!
    Lorine McGinnis Schulze´s last [type] ..The Peer Family in North America Press Release

  3. Hi Carol,
    As a kid, any chore seemed like a big deal :) Today, those disks would go very nicely into the dishwasher!

    Thanks for stopping by.


  4. Hi Lorine,
    Our cream was often shipped off in a ‘cream can’ to a creamery. I don’t recall shipping milk as we didn’t have that many milking cows.

    It was your wringer washer post that inspired this post. Thanks for the trip down memory lane :)


  5. Betty says:

    Hi Everyone
    Cleaning the separator was a chore .
    Most of our cows came with milkers that had 4 legs

  6. Bill Kerr says:

    We were mainly a cow/calf operation as Mom points out above but we always had one milk cow. The benefits of a daily supply of fresh milk and cream were offset by the need to milk the cow every morning and evening, 7 days a week, 365 days a year. In the latter years we had a headstrong Holstein cow who did not like it if you were the least bit late on the evening milking. She would head butt or kick at the milker.

    The fresh cream was the real treat once it was chilled and served with berries or cocao. As my younger sister remembers:

    “Strawberries – yes but also Saskatoon’s and “guck” . The thick scum (of cream) off the top of the milk mixed with sugar and cocao (later Nestle’s quick) , stirred up smooth and then chilled for gooey chocolate goodness.”

  7. Maylyn says:

    Hello Joan,
    How well I remember the cream separator (and all the memories surrounding it!) I don’t remember how many discs there were either, but I remember that they all had to go back in a certain order (I think). I remember having to scoop the foam off the pails of milk that had gone through the separator, before giving it to the calves. If they got any of the foam, they would get severe stomach aches.

    I also remember the cream rising to the top of the milk and scooping it off and plopping it in the centre of a bowl of hot oatmeal (with brown sugar) or in the middle of a bowl of home made chocolate pudding!! Oh, there’s nothing out there that is now as good as that was!

    Thanks for sharing the memories!

  8. Jo Graham says:

    We had a beef/arable farm, so no cream separator, but I would regularly visit a local dairy farm with my Dad, so he could chat with his friend while I went looking for kittens. His pal would often dunk an old enamel mug into the tank where the milk was swirling round and give us a drink. Dad loved it, but I didn’t like it much – I was used to the thin pasteurised stuff. I bet I’d like it now though! Jo :-)

  9. Hi Joan, This brought back memories. We started with the hand crank model. I did not have to put the discs back. I only had to wash them in a dishpan and then rinse and dry well. I never liked milk much, except in cocoa or coffee. We were allowed coffee once in a while but it was a quarter cup coffee and the rest was milk. We would have either cream or fresh whipped cream on berries. The second was sweeter because it had sugar. It was whipped by hand. No fancy electric mixer. I really liked the sour cream we made to go on dumplings. It was a mixture of vinegar or, if we were lucky, pickle juice and cream. Also my grandmother made the best cottage cheese. Way better than the store bought stuff that has no taste. I often had to make butter using a hand crank butter churn. I thought my arms would fall off before the butter would form. Freshly made butter on fresh from the oven bread – now that was heaven!

  10. Hi Mom Betty,
    Those 4 legged milkers were the best kind.

    Thanks for commenting.


  11. Hi Bill,
    Ahh…I managed to escape the milking team. I remember the “guck” too. Good stuff :)

    Thanks for commenting!


  12. Hi Maylyn,
    You are very welcome. I remember the disks having to go in a certain order too as they got smaller (?) towards the top.

    Thanks for stopping by.


  13. Hi Jo,
    The kittens! Yes, we always had a barn full of kittens with a mother cat who would move them around if we discovered them.

    Thanks for visiting.

  14. Hi Xenia,
    Fresh butter…and butter milk! I have my Granny’s old butter churn sitting in our kitchen.

    Thanks for your comments.


  15. Rob says:

    Wow, I grew up around farms but everything was fairly automated by that point in time (early 90′s). This is a cool look back. Cheers from NS!
    Rob´s last [type] ..Bodum Bistro Electric Burr Coffee Grinder Review

  16. Hi Rob,
    Thanks for dropping by and commenting.


  17. Liz says:

    Cows paid my way through college. :) Well, a scholarship helped, so cows probably paid for textbooks. Dad did try having a milk cow in the backyard pasture (in small-town Louisiana) for a while. I don’t remember why we didn’t keep it up, will have to ask Mom. But I DEFINITELY remember the baby calf we kept in the utility (laundry) room one cold winter that Dad bottle fed because it wasn’t nursing. How many people have a calf in the laundry room story?! A blog post idea! Thanks!


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