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bog butter - storing butter in peat bogs 3,500 years ago

 
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This is amazing. Even the experts weren't sure if dairy milk was used much by the Irish and Scottish 3,500 years ago.

Study finds people in Ireland and Scotland made “bog butter” for millennia



 
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I read about this in a different article and I wondered what it would taste like.  Now, after reading one of the other pieces linked in the above article, I wonder if it would be worth recreating and selling as an upscale niche thing.  Not that I have cows *or* a bog, but somebody might.
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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This article mentions the taste.

And yes, there have been modern experiments in making bog butter, most notably samples presented at the 2012 Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery. Reade headed the project and was pleased to find that his homemade bog butter did not go rancid during its three months underground. (A second stash has been allowed to age for seven years.) However, the result was something of an acquired taste, "causing disgust in some and enjoyment in others," he wrote. "The fat absorbs a considerable amount of flavor from its surroundings, gaining flavor notes which were described primarily as ‘animal,’ or ‘gamey,’ ‘moss,' ‘funky,’ ‘pungent,’ and ‘salami.’"


(In this paragraph in the article there are links to more sources for these comments that I didn't include in the quote here.)

 
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So would you try it Jocelyn?  I would, but I'm scared...but in a good way :)  Is a bog the ultimate food storage system from a permies perspective?  Can it be easily recreated on a small scale?  Hmm....off for some homework doing!
 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Greg Martin wrote:So would you try it Jocelyn?  I would, but I'm scared...but in a good way :)  Is a bog the ultimate food storage system from a permies perspective?  Can it be easily recreated on a small scale?  Hmm....off for some homework doing!


I think for those in areas that have natural peat bogs it might make sense to try it. We do not have peat bogs and I don't plan on trying to create one here. For our location and food storage, I think I'd rather use a wofati freezer (which we have yet to try/test) or a root cellar.

Along these lines, I like the idea of trying potted beef or rillettes which uses fat in it (along with spices) and over the top to preserve meats without canning or refrigeration or freezing. There was some mention of clarified butter, which can be stored for longer periods of time (and without refrigeration) without going rancid, so there's that, too.
 
Greg Martin
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Oops, I wasn't super clear Jocelyn....I meant to ask would you eat it if you ran across the opportunity of tasting some already made stuff?  I don't expect we're likely to run across it so you're answer is perfect.  I'm pretty sure I could build a bog here in my lower garden, but I'm not sure I want to :).  If I started bringing in food I stored in the bog I'm not sure I could get anyone to try it with me!  I admit, whenever I think about it the first thing that comes to mind are the bog bodies in Europe and the marsh scene from Lord of the Rings.  Forgive me everyone for posting these pics!


2300 year old Tollund man from Denmark's Bjaeldskovdal bog....perhaps the inspiration for JRR Tolkien's Dead Marshes?
 
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I would definitely try bog butter!
I'm now sitting here thinking of how to do something similar with no bog. I can see what the bog was doing, how else could I do that? hmmm.... Need a good acidic medium, I'm thinking about a cedar tree I cut down the other day, it's fairly acidic. Wonder if you packed a barrel with chopped cedar branches and clay to make a slurry then put butter in it if you'd get the same aging process?
And yeah, reading the article, it would be more a cheese than a butter. It's similar to some cheese aging styles.


 
Jocelyn Campbell
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Ohhh! I would try tasting it!

And wow, I had not seen a picture of a bog body before. That's....quite preserved.

Good on you Pearl for thinking of how to do similar with your own resources.
 
Greg Martin
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According to Wikipedia, "The anaerobic environment and presence of tannic acids within bogs can result in the remarkable preservation of organic material."  

and also "They are frequently covered in ericaceous shrubs rooted in the sphagnum moss and peat. The gradual accumulation of decayed plant material in a bog functions as a carbon sink." as well as "Bogs have distinctive assemblages of animal, fungal and plant species, and are of high importance for biodiversity, particularly in landscapes that are otherwise settled and farmed."  

So why don't I want a bog again???

According to the site Bogology.org in their article Food and bogs   the peatland larder "species such as Vaccinium oxycoccus, Vaccinium myrtillus, Empetrum nigrum or Rubus chamaemorus" are good fruits growing in bogs and "for those people living close to the peatlands in the past, they could have represented breakfast, lunch or dinner (well, probably pudding). The cranberry, bilberry, crowberry and cloudberry (or bake apple if you’re reading this in Canada) as the four species above are more commonly known are among many other berries that grow naturally on peatlands."


crowberry
 
Greg Martin
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I wonder how much tannic acid gets into the foods?  That bog guy did look a lot like leather, didn't he?  Probably a fatty food like butter would be less infused, right?
 
Pearl Sutton
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Greg Martin wrote:I wonder how much tannic acid gets into the foods?  That bog guy did look a lot like leather, didn't he?  Probably a fatty food like butter would be less infused, right?


The butter was in wooden casks. The dead guy was not. He is basically cured meat all the way through. The butter was more protected, but butter is notorious for picking up flavors it's stored by. So I suspect it would be flavored, but not as highly as he would be :D

Oak leaves are high in tannic acid, maybe they would be better than cedar in the slurry. or a mix. hmm. Don't have time or butter right now, but I'll think on this.

And Greg, you SO need a bog. You are in that climate, you could grow those berries, you could do some interesting plant experiments. Do it, do it, do it!! :D


 
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There's a nice walkthrough in one of the linked articles about how some people made some a few years ago.  They actually wrapped some of the butter in moss before putting it in a birch (or pine) bark container and submerging it.  They did another big lump (12.5kg/ 27lbs) wrapped in linen and just placed in a basket.  

On the same site (nordicfoodlab.org), there's another article that goes into the science of cultured and aged butters.  They even give recipes for butters made with seaweed and tea, which got me to thinking that tea might be a viable liquid/ substrate for a mini-bog.  It's got the tannins, at least.  (I'd like to try it myself, but can't really get farm-fresh cultured butter to start off with and don't have a living environment conducive to science experiments anyway.)
 
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heavy cream placed in a container then beat to death with a whisk or place heavy cream in a mason jar, screw on lid, shake till the cows come home or the butter forms, which ever comes first.  that is all there is to making butter.
If you have a food processor, that is the lazyman's way to whip up a batch of butter, takes only 10 -12 minutes that way.
Once you have the butter made you can flavor it with what ever you like.
 
Bryant RedHawk
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There are several folks I know that study the Celts and they seem to think that the butter found in the bogs was meant to be a sacrificial item so that prayers would be answered.
I can easily see this as the reason since my nation pours milk and honey into the soil as an offering to the spirits for the purpose of securing a good hunt.

It would be really great to find a butter stash somewhere else because that would fairly well show their theory was right.
But it is interesting that even back then, there were ice houses or caves for storing foods.
 
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