Showing posts with label Cork Heritage Day. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Cork Heritage Day. Show all posts

Sunday, August 21, 2016

Iron Age Bread. And Butter. Boats & Bones too.

Iron Age Bread. And Butter.
Boats & Bones too.
Prehistoric picnic.

The Medieval Loaf from Declan Ryan’s Arbutus Bread has long been a favourite of mine. Last Saturday, at the Cork Public Museum, Declan introduced me, and quite a few others, to Iron Age Bread. And there was freshly made butter to go with it, all part of Cork Heritage Day.



The event focussed on Life, Farming and Food in South-East Ireland (Waterford and Wexford) in the Iron Age (c. 2500-1600 years ago). Excavations during the Celtic Tiger years and since have revealed important information about where people lived, the crops they grew and the food they ate.

Basket of iron age bread

For instance, the recovery of charred plant components tell us that people ate barley, emmer and spelt wheat and foraged wild food such as hazelnuts and berries. Kilns are a new development of the Iron Age and were used for the drying and malting of grain. Wonder if they made beer?
Cattle and pig bones were also found. The animals were kept for their meat but finds demonstrate that the farmers also practised dairying, hence the butter demo. I have quoted extensively from the leaflet handed out to visitors to the museum.
A young Spaniard checks out these Irish bones

The challenge for Declan Ryan and Arbutus was to reproduce a bread that might have been baked by an Iron Age baker. Declan knew they had barley and some spelt. He used barley mainly and a little spelt. He baked the loaves on the lowest shelf of his oven, a step or two up on what was available to his ancient predecessors.
Crusty, and soft in the middle, the bread had a spicy flavour and possibly tasted better with a bit of the freshly made butter. A very small churn was used to separate the butter from the buttermilk and water and even more of the latter two was squeezed out with a pair of butter paddles before we had the real thing. Young and old got a chance to handle the churn.
A neat little churn

And speaking of hands on, there was a table full of bones of prehistoric animals and the remains of ancient crops and they were popular and there was also the possibility of grinding corn on a prehistoric hand mill, examples too of bog butter (a story in itself) and a replica of an Iron Age vessel (a small boat), the original excavated in County Meath.
The event was presented by the Heritage Council INSTAR funded project ‘Seeing beyond the site - Landscape and Settlement in Later Prehistoric Ireland, in collaboration with the Cork Public Museum and the Cork Butter Museum, each worth a visit at any time.
You can also follow the South-East project on Twitter at https://twitter.com/Beyond_the_site
Starting to turn - the butter emerges


The new butter and the discarded buttermilk

A pair of paddles is used to squeeze out any excess moisture;
the more solids that remain the better the butter