New bread and fresh butter was something worth travelling for in the Fraser River gold rush. How rare was butter?
On July 3, 1858 the Daily Alta California reported:
“At Fort Yale there is little or nothing to be had for love or money. Mining and cooking utensils are very scarce, and enormous prices are obtained for them. The Hudson’s Bay Company had seized the mining implements of some miners on Hill’s Bar, for violating the law in regard to trafficking, which excited considerable indignation among the miners.”
For those who could afford the luxury of butter it was imported by ship in cases from California and Minnesota.
By the time gold miners were heading north to the Cariboo, roadhouses began advertising butter.
Peter Dunlevy and Jim Sellers bought a roadhouse in 1861 from two packers who had built it a year before near Horsefly. Generous meals of fresh beef, mutton, lake trout, churned butter, and locally grown vegetables earned their roadhouse a reputation as the best stopping house in the Cariboo.
Many gold miners made their own bread and some even attempted to make their own butter. When they got together many discussed bush cookery and shared tips with each other.
Occasionally, the British Colonist printed “receipts” based on the old French word for recipes.
Here is one printed in February 1860 on how to make butter without a churn:
“After straining the milk, set it away for about twelve hours, for the cream to rise. (Milk dishes ought to have good strong handles to lift them by.) After standing as above, set the milk without disturbing it, on the stove, let it remain until you observe the coating of cream on the surface assume a wrinkled appearance, but be careful it does not boil, as should this be the case, the cream will mix with the milk and cannot again be collected.”
“Now set it away till quite cold, and then skim off the cream, mixing it with as little milk as possible. When sufficient cream is collected proceed to make it into butter as follows:
Take a wooden bowl or any suitable vessel, and having first scalded and then rinsed it with cold spring water, place the cream into it.
Now let the operator hold his hand in water as hot as can be borne for a few seconds, then plunge it into cold water for about a minute, and at once commence to agitate the cream by a gentle circular motion.In five minutes, or less, the butter will have come, when of course, it must be washed and salted according to taste, and our correspondent guarantees that no better butter can be made by the best churn invented.”
George Blair wrote in his diary that his friend “Bill rolled up his sleeves and went at making bread and Kelsie Oregon Butter which I mean to teach the Canadian Ladies to make when I go home as it tasted first rate.”