Curd Vat, “Ceres III”, wood, steel and cast iron, made by Fa C. Can’t Riet, Utre...


Bega Cheese Heritage Centre


Curd Vat, “Ceres III”, wood, steel and cast iron, made by Fa C. Can’t Riet, Utrecht, Holland

About this object

The use of a cheese vat was an essential component to the process of cheese production. It was used to hold the coagulating curds while they were being heated and was also important for the process of cutting the curds. Many styles of vats were in use in the early Australian dairy industry. The crudest models were constructed from wood or copper with a tap located at the base. Later improvements on the vat design were jacketed models that were connected to a boiler. The boiler produced steam that would circulate around but not touch the sides of the vat. The reason for this type of arrangement was that if the steam came into direct contact with the vat’s sides than it would rapidly and unevenly cook the curd, producing an undesirable texture and taste.

The unsatisfactory elements of this design were overcome with an innovation whereby two vats were used with a pump installed to transfer the curd between them. The contents of the larger vat was continuously pumped into a smaller tub that heated the contents before pouring it back into the large vat. This design was not only a more stable means to heat the coagulating curd, it was also vastly more efficient.

[History Notes]

The earliest designs of cheese vats were typically constructed from a wood such as oak or from copper. In later decades they were made from a tinned metal or steel. Common to most vat designs was the inclusion of a tap fixture located at the lower base that would be opened to drain away any excess whey during the process of coagulation.

The cheese vat collected by the Bega Cheese Heritage Centre was manufactured in Holland by Fa C. Can’t Riet. The sides of the vat were constructed from oak staves with three steel bands securing the structure. Hoisted above the vat was a cast iron rig that held and rotated two steel curd knives- one with rectangular teeth and the other with vertical ones. This type of vat was a late innovation that improved on the previous method of cutting the curd by hand with the aid of wooden rakes.
Particularly for large batches of curd, this design with self moving knives was remarkably more efficient and had the benefit of an even treatment of the contents. As the output of cheese produced by individual factories increased over time, the size of the vats similar enlarged. Over time, the type of curd vat hat is displayed in the collection at Bega Cheese Heritage Centre was replaced by newer models with larger vats constructed from stainless steel.

The curd vat has a high level of technological significance for its illustration of the machines in use in the twentieth century in Australian cheese factories. The movement of the knives within the vat were powered by a small engine located on top of the cast iron rig, an innovation that transformed the processing capabilities of cheese factories. The machine enabled the cheese maker to observe the machine in motion and to make necessary recordings of the quality of the product as it passed through different processing stages with little need for physical intervention. Despite the technological improvements represented by the vat, it is still quite an early model of its kind because it has been constructed from a wood that appears to be oak. This material, though relatively inexpensive to make, was difficult to clean and if not properly treated could result in an intrusion of a foul taste into the curd batch.

[Production Notes]

Fa C. Can’t Riet was established in Holland by Cornelis van 't Riet in 1888. It manufactured many machines in use in the dairy industry but specialised in machines used in cheese production. In particular the company was a popular supplier of cheese vats with integrated curd knives. The company was based in Aarlanderveen which was located within a prominent dairying region in the Netherlands.

[Physical Description]

Large wooden curd vat that narrows at the base with three bands wrapped around the outer walls. The vat sites on a cast iron frame base that has four wheels enabling it to be moved. At the upper end of the frame base, on both sides of the vat, are cast iron arcs with small holes near to the end. A rod attached to a chain is positioned in one of the holes to hold the vat upright. This feature enabled the entire vat to be tipped over once the product had been prepared, by removing the rod and tilting it forward before replacing the rod in another position while it spilled out. The bands wrapped around the vat are threaded through the opposite sides of the iron base.

Hoisted above the vat is a cast iron rig that extends along the length and protrudes out at each end. A rig of steel lengths with curving feet that fit over the edge of the vat are located at the two opposite ends of the vat to hold the cast iron rig above the upper height of the vat. Two small metal platforms are threaded through the upwards standing steel pieces with screws tightened down the metal thread to secure it in place. The rig consists of a small platform holding the engine just off centre. A cast iron arm that has been painted yellow hangs below the centre of the rig and is turned on its axis by a motor. As it turns, the steel curd knives that are hung perpendicular from the end of the arms are rotated throughout the vat to cut the curd contained therein. The curd knives have metal threaded rods that protrude from the upper end. This is threaded through the ends of the centre arm and secured with butterfly screws. At the four corners of the rig there are carved wooden handles that enabled the rig to be brought away from the vat when it needed to be drained and later cleaned.


Fa C. Can’t Riet

Maker Role


Place Made


Inscription and Marks

"Fa C. van'T RIET
OCTR. 29043
AARLANDERVEEN" [copper plate on side of cast iron frame]

TYPE N 537854
1/8 pK W VA
110/220V 2/1 A
omw/min 2000 50Hz
cos" [copper plate on attached engine]

Object Type

Curd Vat

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