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Butter House, Ahakista

This attractive little house, newly painted in fresh blues and whites, is situated near the pier in Ahakista. It was once the Butter House, where a weekly butter market was held, on a Friday.

By the 18C Ireland had a thriving trade in butter and exported mainly to northern Europe and America. Many places had a weekly butter market where locally produced butter was sold. The market in Ahakista was held every Friday here at the Butter House. There were also markets in Kilcrohane and Durrus. Every household tended to make their own butter and surplus was brought for sale.  Churning took place once a week . The churns were first filled with boiling water to disinfect them, the cream poured in, the churn covered and then turned by hand - a long and laborious task. The buttermilk was drained off from a bung at the bottom of the churn. Once the butter was made it was patted into rounds then shaped with butter 'spaids'. Wrapped in damp cotton clothes, it was then taken to the butter market to be sold. Some may well have found itself at the main butter market in Cork, held at the Firkin Crane. A firkin was approximately 56lbs or 26kg.

This entry for the Folklore Commission for 1938, submitted by a pupil at St James National School Durrus, explains very clearly how churning used to be done:

Churning
At present there are no churns at home as there was a creamery built adjacent to Durrus four or five years ago.; therefore the majority of the farmers of this locality take their milk there. The churn was of a circular shape resembling a barrel. This was placed on a stand regularly, on Thursday when the churning was performed. Once a week in summer and once a fortnight in winter.
When churning operations are being performed strangers who are passing by usually come in and help at the work or if this is not done it is considered very unlucky. There is a story told in this district about an old woman who is now dead. One day she was churning and a stranger came and went to the fire and put a coal on his pipe to light it. He then proceeded to go out again. The woman stopped him and told him to put the coal back in its place, as it was unlucky to take anything out of the house without helping with the churning.
It is by hand churning is done and it takes about an hour to do so. People who had but a few cows used a smaller churn than the one commonly used. When churning they used to beat the cream with a churn-dash which was worked upwards and downwards and from time to time it was given a rolling motion.
DDuring the process water was poured in to wash the butter. This water was then released by removing a cork while the butter was fall out another way into a 'keeler'. The butter was then made into rolls and placed in a basket in which it was taken to market. Buttermilk was used for making cakes, and it was also regarded as a wholemeal drink.

Townland: 
Reenacapall: headland of the horses
Location: 
Directly opposite the pier at Ahakista