Sunday, August 2, 2009
Bog butter and cheese
I remember reading a few years ago about a 1400 year old piece of cheese being found in Ireland, and wondered if anyone had actually tasted it.. I started researching and learned a little bit about old cheese, but i learned far more about "Bog Butter" , which was made and stored in Scotland,and Ireland from about 2000 years ago until the eighteenth century.
Peat bogs, due to their acidity, cold temperatures,and anaerobic conditions,are excellent for preserving, not only butter and cheese, but also human remains. i will have a post on "bog people" at some point,
It turned out that the cheese may actually have been butter; no one is really sure. Helen Lucy Burke tasted the cheese at the Roscrea Heritage Center, located in an old castle in Tipperary, which stores old cheeses. She described it as cheesy, having an unpleasant but not revolting taste, granular, and like a dried out Wensleydale cheese. I've never had a Wensleydale cheese, but they are described as crumbly, and only good when moist. The aftertaste was described as a "sour cloying,sensation".
Bog butter is waxy,hard, and yellow-white. It's described as rancid tasting - not very surprising.
Approximate dates of burial are determined by the container the butter is buried in. Analysis of the 'butter has shown that while some"butters' are made from dairy products, others are made from animal fats.
There are several theories as to why the butter was buried. Theories include general food preservation, preservation as a means of enhancing flavor, and protecting valued food supplies from invaders. Much of the butter was flavored with garlic, and garlic butter was a special food, usually eaten during Lent.
Here are some students at the Barnderg National School in Ireland with a keg of 300 year old butter.
The article on the cheese tasting is at the bottom of the page.