Have you ever tried making your own bog butter?
Bog butter in Ireland is a tradition that dates back many centuries but could be just as useful today as it was back then.
What is bog butter?
Researchers believe that people in ancient Ireland used to bury butter and other goods in Irish bogs as a form of food preservation since the acidity of the soil and a lack of oxygen prevented things from spoiling.
Aside from butter, a plethora of other materials have been discovered in Ireland’s bogs: jewelry, machinery, tools, coins, and yes, even bodies.
Different deposits of bog butter have been unearthed all around Ireland, some in small quantities, others in massive casks. However, no matter how long the butter was buried for, it was mostly still edible, though the taste may not be what we associate with modern butter - it's certainly no Kerrygold!
On his blog ‘Restoring Mayberry,’ Brian Kaller, an American journalist who lives in Ireland exploring some of the lost traditions of the past, wrote that butter was buried “probably because decomposers are slow to take apart fats anyway, and meat or vegetables would be more readily consumed.”
He added: “Also, butter makes a valuable and high-calorie food for poor agrarian people; with it, you can fry food or preserve things like potted meats. It was also taxed in medieval times, so burying it could have been a kind of tax evasion.”
“Finally, some authors have pointed out that preserving it this way would give the butter an earthy taste that some might have liked; recently unearthed butter, taste-tested by Irish schoolchildren, was reported to taste like well-aged cheese.”
How to make bog butter
If you know how to make regular butter, have a bog nearby, as well as plenty of time of your hands, you can make bog butter!
In his blog, Kaller explained how he made his own bog butter: “We poured milk into a jar until it was half full and shook it. At some point the sound of the sloshing changes, and you have a solid clump of butter in the middle of the liquid.
“In olden days many people would pat the butter dry of any milk-liquids, but we heated the solids off, not-quite clarifying it. Then we solidified it, wrapped it in cloth, and set off from our house.”
Kaller explains how he ventured to the Bog of Allen which is nearby to his Co Kildare home. There, he dug a hole a half meter deep, tied one end of a rope to the mound of butter that was wrapped in cloth and the other end to a nearby tree for easy locating.
Speaking with Atlas Obscura, Kaller said his bog butter was "quite edible" after digging it up 17 months later.
“It has a distinctive flavor," Kaller said. "I describe it as a kind of parmesan flavor. It’s still recognizably butter. It tastes a little different. My friend described it as ‘earthy.’”
“It’s not something I think most people would eat regularly,” he adds, “but if you were hungry, I think you’d happily eat it.”
Watch Stephen Colbert hilariously react to a bog butter discovery back in 2016 (skip ahead to :30):
Would you ever try making your own bog butter? Let us know in the comments!