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Oh we are so spoiled in this twenty first century, and you know even in the twentieth it was heads up toward cruisy with a constant stream of new ideas and inventions making life easier, at least for the western world. So easy in fact that complaints were being made to the suppliers of milk and cream in New Zealand about the variation in taste of butter! Appalling! How could this be?

It seems that the uncaring, deviant bovine population had no ethical awareness or consistency when eating their meals, they were eating a variety of grasses interspersed with weeds various and assorted and the adage that “we are what we eat” is revealed in the taste of the butter! Can you imagine onion weed and ginger butter! On second thoughts there’s probably a delicatessen opportunity in that.

Buuut!!! Rewind to 1923 before the ubiquitous ryegrass grazing. Back then cream was often contaminated with outside flavours when the cow ate strong-flavoured weeds or grass. The flavour would find its way into the milk. As New Zealand was fast becoming an international favourite for milk exports a New Zealand inventor, one Mr H. Lamont Murray and his partner Mr Frank S. Board were trying to export to the United States. So they biffed their piles of mythical number eight wire and did some real engineering.

In 1923 Lamont and Board were about to open their own butter factory in Te Aroha and were unhappy about the method that was being used to pasteurise the cream for the butter. They designed and developed a very sophisticated machine which removed unwanted flavours leaving only the glorious pure taste of Anchor Butter. Of course, as usual there followed claims from the other side of the ditch as to who was first, but we place that alongside the Pavlova and Crowded House arguments. The undisputed winner was Mr H. Lamont, end of discussion…

It was thought back then that there's nothing worse than oniony, grass-flavoured cream! Who Knows? The established method of pasteurisation (basically boiling the cream and cooling it again) may have killed all the bad things in the cream like 99% of household germs, but it didn't help it to smell or taste better - it was not uncommon for cream to come out of the process tasting cooked, or of dandelions and burdock, or worst of all even burnt, all costly and time consuming to remedy.

The VACREATOR process involves mixing the Vacreator’s pre heated steam directly with the

cream in a vacuum which pasteurises and deodorises AND at the same time removes the unpleasant smell thus standardising taste and bouncing the evil no-good micro-organisms out into the ether making sure that T.B. and other dangers were eliminated from the end product. Clever eh?

We are so fortunate at MOTAT to have our very own Vacreator on display (albeit rather shyly) behind the print shop in M1. The Vacreator has been sectioned allowing the process to be visible but basically this is how it works - the cream is pressure driven through a pre-heater to the first of four vacuum chambers where it is mixed with steam each at 98C. Each chamber is at a slightly different vacuum, negative pressure, and the final chamber at a lower temperature. The processed fluid arrives at the vacuum vessel where it is cooled rapidly to around 55C and from there into the retaining vessel the steam is cooled in a condenser before being recycled and reheated to recirculate.

If you can find time do go and have a look at this vacuum/pasteuriser – THE VACREATOR. It looks so 21st century and yet its basic design is getting close to a hundred years ago, take a moment to pause and think about the millions of people who have benefitted from that design, including me and you, and reflect briefly that it all started here in NZ and there are plenty more inventions from here to reveal. Don’t blink.

-by Henry Swan

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