Cream of the crop

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SCOTSBURN — Those who can remember how cream was separated from fresh milk manually are in for a treat on Saturday.

Jane Morrigan, curator at the Walk Through Time Museum in Scotsburn will host cream separation demonstrations of a hand-cranked separator at 11 a.m. and 2 p.m. at the museum.

The museum is located on the second floor of the former Scotsburn Co-operative dairy industry.

It features many separators of varying vintages, but the demonstrations will be done using fresh milk brought in to be processed on a separator that is still in use.

“We are borrowing a working separator from Dan Sellers of River John to demonstrate the process of separating the cream and skim milk,” she said.

Morrigan can trace the process to the 1800s when a Swedish engineer named Gustav de Laval invented a centrifugal cream separator. Before that, people had to skim the cream off the top of the liquid.

“There was no way to measure the butter fat content,” she said.

Separator bowls were first made of tin and later made of stainless steel, like the one being used on Saturday. They had two outlet pipes, one for the cream and the other for the milk. They were operated with a hand crank but separators powered electrically became available in the 1950s.

“It was a chore that many children had, so it touched the lives of many in Nova Scotia,” Morrigan said.

The de Laval separator is a prominent model name. The museum offers a tribute to de Laval and his separator.

Beside it is a display honouring Anderson MacDonald, who passed away in January, a week before his 90th birthday. He delivered the last can of farm-separated cream in the province to the Scotburn Creamery.

“The tractor purring around the fields was like music to my ears,” he said in a quote included in the display. “I enjoyed milking the cows … the spring of the year … plowing and sewing the fields … the sound of milk going in the buckets.”

Developing separators coincided with what was called a Babcock tester that used a centrifuge mechanism to measure the cream’s fat content. The museum has several examples of the Babcock tester.


Jane Morrigan stands beside a treasured milk separator owned by the late Anderson MacDonald that is among those displayed at the Walk Through Time Museum in Scotsburn. (Goodwin photo)