The Place for real traditions.Irish Culture begins in prehistory. First was a paleolithic mindset-based on hunting. The spirits of animals aid in this. Groups had totems- birds, boar,for identity. Next came a Neolithic awareness- crops, agriculture,farm animals. Villages and lineages. Multiple gods became single gods with many powers. Chieftains by birth ruled. Next the Bronze age with rule by heroes. We got cookbooks and recipes left the mind. How do we know what to do? That's our purpose.

Irish Chieftain's feast

Friday, May 16, 2008

Leekie Manglam

Leeks have always occupied a favored place in Irish cooking-and with
good reason. Their popularity dates back to the days of St. Patrick.
One day, so the story goes, a chieftain who was being driven out of his
mind by his pregnant wife's demands for leeks (then out of season),
implored the saint's help. St. Patrick took a few juicy rushes, blessed
them, and turned them into leeks which immediately cured the unfortunate
woman's "longing sickness" and brought peace to her harassed husband.
There and then St. Patrick ordained that any woman suffering from the
"longing sickness" (modern doctors call it "pica" or "morbid craving")
shoudl be cured if she ate any member of the onion family.

Leekie Manglam (leek pasty) is well worth trying even if one is not in
an interesting condition.

Ingredients: 1/3 recipe for Lardy Cakes, (see this blog) ,3 large leeks,
4 slices streaky bacon, 1/2 cup breadcrumbs, 1/4 cup milk, pepper and
salt to taste, 1 egg.

Method: Parboil the leeks, drain, and cut them into very thin slices,
add the diced bacon, mix in crumbs, milk, and seasoning. Divide the
pastry in two. Use half to line a pie plate. Fill with the leek
mixture. Brush edges with water. Cover with a lid of pastry. Press
edges firmly together and flute. Brush with beaten egg and bake in a
425 degree oven.

-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore.

Johnny McGorey Jelly

"Johnny McGoreys" is one name for rose hips, the seed pods of the wild
rose. "Sticky-backs" is another name which derives from the fact that
children who arefull of devilment liketo crush the pods and push them
down the back of an unsuspecting victim; the prickly fibers can be very

Ingredients: Take equal parts of Johnny McGoreys, crab apples,
blackberries, and damsons. Cut up the crab apples (including peels and
cores) comb ine with blackberries nad damsons and add water to cover.
Simmer until tender and strain through a jelly bag. Simmer the rose
hips separately in cider to cover. Strain through flannel to insure
that none of the fibers get into the jelly. Combine juices, measure,
and place in preserving pan. Add 1 cup heated sugar for each cup of
juice. Boil until the jelly will set when tested.

-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore

Crab Apple and Bramble Jelly

Use 2 parts of blackberries to one of crab apples. Wash and cut up the
crab apples. Cook the fruits separately, with just enough water to
cover. When tender, strain through a jelly bag. Combine juices and
measure. Allow 1 cup sugar to each cup of juice. Bring the juice to a
boil, stir in the heated sugar, stir until dissolved. Bring again to a
boil and boil rapidly until the jelly will set when tested. Skim and
pour into heated jars.

-Marura Laverty, Feasting Galore

Wednesday, May 14, 2008

Nested Eggs

For each person allow 3/4 cup potato mashed with butter and cream, 1
tablespoon cooked peas, 1 egg, 2 teaspoons butter.

Method: Place the potatoes in mounds on a greased baking sheet. Press a
cup into each to make a hollow. Place a tablespoon of cooked peas in
each "nest," carefully break a raw egg over the peas. Season with
pepper and salt and dot with butter. brush with beaten egg and bake 20
minutes in a 375 degree oven. Serve with buttered par sliced carrots.

-Feasting Galore, Maura Laverty

Mealie Greachie

On fast days this is served as an accompaniment to the fried breakfast
eggs. Melt a tablespoon butter or bacon fat in frying pan. Add as much
flake oatmeal as will absorb the fat, and fry until the meal is toasted.
Some people like to include a little chopped onion.

-Feasting Galore, Maura Laverty.

Saturday, March 15, 2008

Don't play with your food but play during the meal!

When I talk of games to mind will come all of the famous board games-
endless sessions of monopoly, then the endless sessions of card
games....for the non player tedious as they can do nothing else but run
errands for the players. Nothing wrong with a games evening if everyone
is on board for the game but not for general feasts and celebrations
where a diverse audience is present. For this you need to consult the
solutions brought about through centuries of cultural adaptation.

The Irish tradition is filled with many many games. These were developed
by families waiting for others to reach them over the poor roads of the
time on foot or slow horse. It took several days for people to get to
their wakes and weddings. While the prepares and keeners were busy with
their work the children and others needed to be entertained. So out came
the short energetic and often violent games.

The games specialize in being short. They also were filled with
surprises. Acting and counting skills were required but no boards or
cards. Today one is amazed at the ability of participants to withstand
the penalties- being stuffed in the dung heap, hit on the
shins....covered with mucky ash.

Today we must be more careful or else risk being locked up-such is
freedom! However, all is not lost. The games can be modified with the
muck being substituted with allergy free powder etc....

Games of recitation can be done around the table between courses. The
food will settle better and the minds will be working. The host will get
a break and the energy of the children otherwise spent in causing
destruction and chaos will be burned off.

The dramatic games will take place between courses. Another way to add
to the event. A bit of high drama, acting and fun. Laughter is the best
medicine and the best course of the good feast as well!

For Great games go to the Wake Page where they are kept!

Watch this space as I provide all manner of diversion through games. Put
the instructions on cards and have someone select the game of the moment
from the deck. Let that person set it up and be the judge. Soon there
will be more room for that wondrous dessert!

Stories - the between course for the feast

Some oft complain that they do hours of cooking for only a short period
of time used for eating. Well that can happen but it is their own fault-
savoring food takes time. If you have nothing to entertain you whilst
savoring the food or letting it settle then you will move on to the next
course too quickly! Your body will not appreciate it. As a host you need
to have a break. Draw out the meal. Draw out expression, creativity,
have your guests show off.

But beware! Demons will try to raise their ugly heads. By this I mean
Politics, Religion, Family, Money and the lead demon Sports. We no
longer have an oral tradition. The only things in peoples heads are the
demons. You know this though after having perfectly good feasts erupt
into arguments and fights or into score reports and stock tickers. And
then there is the frequent case of loosing them to the television
entirely. To avoid prying them from the tube cut the cord, unplug it or
tape a nice picture on the screen for the evening.

Now what to put in place of the demons. Well not hard to say....Go find
cards- print short traditional stories on them and hand them out. Have
guests read stories and get the bones of them then tell them to each
other. This works. Go to this web page to find loads of five minute stories. Some are very very short others longer. Have guests pick them but if they are too long they can exchange. The point is not to read or memorize but just to read through and get the bones of the story and tell it in their own words-

It will be music to the ears with a room full of people telling
traditional stories and wondering with the century old spark of ancient
time lighting the space.

In addition to stories the Irish are famed for their short knowledge- that is, ranns, proverbs, sayings and triads and jokes... you will find loads of these here. But remember you have to print out the texts for them but that is easy enough

Another thing to do is to invite your guests to bring stories of their
own. Banish the deamons and let the ancient sun shine! The meal will
take its proper pace, the host will be entertained and rested- a
treasure worth the time of preparation and clean up.

The Musical Dimension of Food-

Of course there is a musical dimension of food and you don't have to
have a cake dance either! Food and music go together and depend on each
other as foundations of the larger cultural experience-music is the
window that you open to get fresh air. As the palate and the stomach
work it is their accompaniment. It frees the mind to wander and provides
dance to work it off! In this spot recommendations for music will be
posted from time to time. Stop in frequently.

While music which is recorded is fine and good the best music is that
which comes out of the guests themselves. In order to avoid having the
music of bodily functions alone one must take a few steps.

The first thing to do is to get rid of any concept of quality. It simply
does not matter. The human mind is able to straighten out the bumps of
any performance. Traditional music is a music that is known- you will
know the tune so if played a bit off you can still follow it in your
mind. Yes there are pros but if you wait till you can afford them you
may wait for a longtime.

Second- you must make everyone welcome. Especially those learning. No
preasure...just sit in the corner and play. No one has to study you. You
just play. This is the essence of all good traditional gatherings.
Always let people know that they can bring whatever they wish. From food
and drink to music to whatever. You just coordinate.

Once everyone is welcome and tolerated you need only provide a few
resources. Most people today have not been brought up in the oral
tradition. That means that they do not have the songs in their heads
that they would have had had they grown up say for 10 or 15 years within
a culture singing regularly.

There is no way that you will have a singing crowd when you assume that
they know the words. But, all is not lost. You will have a singing crowd
immediately after providing song sheets or little booklets made up of
the songs you expect your guests to play. A little work done every so
often will see you prepared.

Another thing to keep in mind is that the tradition is growing every
day. Find a few ancient songs-the Grand Airs of Connemara but then
include others which have been added right down to the present day. You
want all generations to be welcome so mix it up for them. I am sure
that the younger folk will tolerate the Clancys and the Dubliners a lot
better with a bit of the Pogues and Flogging Molly thrown in.

Here are a few musical resources- enjoy!

So....add the musical ingredient to your cookery. Put a spring in your
step and song in your heart.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Nun's Cake

Ingredients: 3/4 cup butter, 1 cup sugar, 3 eggs, 2 tablespoons corn
starch, 4 cups sifted flour, 1 teaspoon vanilla, 1/2 teaspoon salt, 3
teaspoons baking powder, 1/2 cup mil. 1 strip citron peel.

Method- Sift flour with cornstarch and baking powder. Cream butter. Add
sugar, one tablespoon at a time, beating well. Add beaten eggs one at a
time, beating well after each addition. Just before beating in the last
egg, sprinkle a little of the flour mixture. Add vanilla. Fold in dry
ingredients alternately with milk. Place strip of citron peel on top.
Bake in a greased lined tin for one hour in a moderate (350 degree)
oven. When done let stand 5 minutes in the tin before turning out onto
a rack

-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore

Lenten Cake

Ingredients: 4 cups sifted flour, 1/2 cup (1/4 pound) butter, 3
tablespoons molasses, 1 cup milk, 3/4 cup sugar, 3 teaspoons allspice,
1/2 cup raisins, 2 teaspoons baking powder, 1 teaspoon baking soda, 1/2
teaspoon salt.

Method: Melt butter, add molasses and milk and cool. Sift flour, spice,
baking powder, baking soda, and salt. Stir butter mixture into dry
ingredients. Add raisins and mix well. Pour into buttered tin and bake
1 1/2 hours in 350 degree oven.

-Feasting Galore, Maura Laverty

Sunday, March 9, 2008

Gur (or Chester) Cake

I imagine this cake owes its name to the fact that tuppence worth of
inferior baker's Chester Cake is the usual provender of boys who are "on
gur," i.e., playing hookey. But a grand way to use up stale bread or
cake is in making good homemade gur.

Ingredients: 1/2 recipe for Lardy Cakes, 2 cups sifted flour, 2 cups
fine cake or bread crumbs, 2 teaspoons baking poweder, 1/2 cup corn
syrup (about) 1 cup currants, 1 teaspoon ground ginger, a little beaten egg.

Method: Divide the pastry in two and roll thin. Use half to line the
bottom of agreased jelly-roll pan (shallow baking pan about 112'' x
9""). Now sieve flour, baking powder, and ginger. Mix in currantws nad
crumbs. Add corn syrup to make a stiff paste. Mix thoroughly and
spread evenly in tin. Cover with remaining pastry. Brush with beaten
egg nad mark in squares. Bake 40 minutes in a 375 degree oven. When
cold, cut into squares.- Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore

Lardy Cakes

These are a delicacy associated with pig-killing time when the "flead"
or leaf lard is plentiful,

Ingredients: 3 cups sifted flour, 1 1/2 cups (2/3 pound) leaf lard, 1
teaspoon salt, 1 egg, cold water to mix.

Method: Sieve flour and salt together. Scrape 1/3 of the flead and rub
lightly in. Mix to a dough with cold water and roll out on a floured
board. Scrape another third of the lard and spread it over the paste in
flakes. Fold in three and beat out with the rolling pin. Repeat with
remaining lard and beat again. Roll out 1/4- inch thickness, cut in
small rounds, brush with beaten egg, and bake 12 minutes in a 450 degree
oven. Eat hot with butter.

N.B.: This makes good shortcrust pastry for pies.

-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore.

Nettle Soup

For many a long year nettles were to the Irish what spinach is to other
peoples. And many of us still feel that young tender nettles more than
equal the best of spinach. "One feed of nettes in the spring will keep
you healthy for the year" is a belief which persists in country parts
where the blood purifying qualities of nettles are still appreciated.

Ingredients: 6 cups (tightly packed) chopped nettle leaves, 2 medium
onions, 4 tablespoons butter, 3 cups white stock, 3 cups milk, 4
tablespoons flake oatmeal, 1 leek (chopped). For seasoning: a teaspoon
salt, 1 teaspoon pepper, 1/2 teaspoon grated nutmeg. For binding: 1 egg
yolk and 1/2 cup medium cream.

Method: Melt butter in a heavy stewpan over moderate heat. Saut/e the
chopped onion in the fat (without browning), add nettles and chopped
leek. Stir in flake oatmeal. Add combined stock and milk and simmer 50
minutes. Remove from heat and stir in egg yolk beaten with cream. Add
seasoning reheat but do not allow the soup to boil.-
Maura Laverty,
Feasting Galore.

Consomm/e Befinn

This soup can be nothing but ancient. Simple foods but with the alspice
flavour of the middle ages....A great use for bones.

Maybe consomm/e by any other name would taste as good, but this clear
soup is rather special. It is full of the zest of ham and beef and
vegetable juices. This particular soup inherits its name from a famous
heroine in Irish mythology. The reason we connect the lady with ham is
this: When King Midir was cajoling her to accompany him to Tir na n-/Og,
the Land of the Young, he promised her, among other things, that she
should feed on unlimited supplies of pork.

O lady, if thou comest to my valiant people,
A diadem of gold shall be on thy head;
Flesh of swine, all fresh, banquets of new milk and all
Shalt thou have with me there.

-O'Curry: Book of the Dun Cow)

Ingredients: For stock: 1 ham bone, 1 beef shin bone, 2 medium onions, 4
outside stalks of celery, two medium carrots 1 teaspoon allspice. For
garnish: 6 tablespoons each of ham, carrots, and celery cut in julienne
strips; 1 tablespoon chopped parsley. Salt and pepper to taste.

Method: Place all stock ingredients in pot, cover with water and simmer
three hours. Season to taste with salt and pepper. Garnish each bowl
with strips of ham, carrots, and celery just before serving sprinkle
with parsley.
-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore.

Saturday, March 8, 2008

Brothch/an Buidhe

This is pronounced "Brohawn Bwee" and it means Yellow Broth. A savory
concoction of vegetable stock, thickened with oatmeal and enriched with
milk, Brothch/an Buide was the favorite pottage of St. Columba.

There is a story that when Lent came around the saint decided to mortify
himself with ersatz broth, so he instructed his cook to put nothing into
the broth except water and nettles, with a taste of salt on Sundays.

"Is nothing else to go into it, your Reverence?" asked the cook in
horror. "Nothing except what comes out of the pot stick," the saint
replied sternly.

This went on for two weeks. The saint grew thinner and weaker, and the
cook grew more and more worried. And then, all of a sudden, St. Columba
started to put on weight again and the worried look left the cook's
face. The devoted lay brother had made himself a hollow pot stick down
which he poured milk and oatmeal. Thus he was able to preserve his
master from starvation and himself from the horrible sins of
disobedience and lies.

When questioned by the saint he was able to assure him honestly that
nothing went into the broth save what came out of the pot stick.

Ingredients: 45 cups chicken stock, 4 tablespoons butter, 1/2 cup flour,
2 tablespoons flake oatmeal, ,1 medium onion, 1 stick celery, 1 small
carrot, 1 3/4 cups spinach, 2 tablespoons cream, pepper and salt to
taste, 1 tablespoon parsley.

Method: To stock add chopped celery, onion, carrot and salt and pepper
to taste. Cook 30 minutes. Knead butter and flour together and add to
stock. Sprinkle in oatmeal and add chopped spinach. simmer 15 minutes.
Pass through a sieve, correct seasoning, stir in cream. Sprinkle with
minced parsley.-Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore., 1952/61.

Brigid's Broth

Ingredients: 2 pounds lean mutton, 4 tablespoons barley (soaked
overnight in cold water), 4 tablespoons each chopped carrot, turnip,
onion, celery and cabbage; 2 chopped leeks, 2 tablespoons butter, pepper
and salt to taste, 1 tablespoon chopped parsley, 5 cups cold water.

Method: Cut the mutton in 1/2 inch cubes, season and cover with cold
water, bring quickly to boiling point, skim, and add the barley; simmer
1 1/2 hours or until the meat is tender. Fry the diced vegetables in
butter for five minutes without browning. Add to soup with salt and
pepper to taste and continue cooking until vegetables are tender.
Finally, add the parsley. Shin of beef may be treated this way , too, to
make a very good broth known as Hough Soup. Use 6 tablespoons of rice
instead of the barley.-
Maura Laverty, Feasting Galore, 1952/61.

Irish Bacon-Boiling Bacon that is....the Wiltshire Cure

Corned beef found in the USA is not something which has a long tradition
in Ireland- certainly it has made its way there as with everything else
but not a long tradition. If you wish to work with beef then use the
spiced beef recipe- much more flavour but similar to a corned beef. If
you wish to cook something with cabbage you should use boiling bacon
generally available from web based importers of which there are several.
This is not generally pork belly but a joint, boned above the ham or
collar. This is nothing at all like American bacon. It has a sweet
rather than a salty flavour and is in texture slightly like corned beef
but not as rough or fatty as when brisket is used.

The process of making the ham is not all that complex. The process is
known as a "wet cure" or Wiltshire Cure. The steps are laid out below.
You can purchase cure mixes ready made. The essence of it all is being
very clean, measuring out the ingredients properly to create a proper
brine and then watching the time and controlling the storage temps.

Generally sugar is added-treacle-or molasses and at times beer. All must
be thoroughly boiled first. Spices seem to vary. Spices noted are
nutmeg, juniper berries etc...

The meat can be smoked but is generally not smoked. In Wiltshire- a pork
producing region of England they also do a salt dry cure but this is not
what you want for boiling bacon. Recipes are often closely guarded. Farm
workers on holiday would bring their own prized bacon with them.
Although they used a common pot each man would tie his bacon with a
special identifiable string.

Some recipes and sources to get you thinking-
Steps for performing a Wiltshire Cure

1. Start with pork sides

2. Brine injection

2.. NaC3 placed in scapula

3. cover brine 3-5 days 4-5 degrees C.

4. Drain

5. Maturation 5 days 4-5 degrees C

-A Colour Atlas of Food Quality Control
By Jane P. Sutherland, A. H. Varnam
1986 (see Google Books)

A typical cure follows:

250 gms salt

150 gms Molasses or Demerara sugar

10 gms Saltpetre (Potassium Nitrate) – Anti bacterial, provides pink colour.


Use 40 gms of cure mix per ½ Kg of pork hind leg. Add the mix to enough
liquid to totally cover the meat. The liquid typically can consist of 3
parts water and 1 part ale.

Pickle the meat for 4 days. Remove the meat from the pickle and hang for
a further 2 weeks in a cool room.

Traditionally, the Wiltshire cure does not require smoking.

Jane Grigson's English Brine Ingredients:
7 pt Water
1 1/2 lb Sea or coarse salt
1 lb Dark brown sugar
2 oz Saltpeter
1 Bayleaf
1 Sprig thyme
10 Juniper berries; crushed
10 Peppercorns; crushed
Jane Grigson's English Brine Instructions:

Boil hard for 5 minutes.
Leave to cool.
Clean crock or bucket and lid with soda dissolved in boiling water,
rinse well, and leave to DRAIN dry.
Pour in cold brine, though a muslin lined strainer.
Immerse the meat (duck, pork, beef, mutton) and keep it below the
surface by laying a piece of boiled wood, or scrupulously clean plate on
Cover and keep in a dry place at a temperature below 60°F Salting time.

This depends on the thickness of the meat.
Trotters, 24 hrs, a leg of pork can take 10 days.
Joints required for roasting rather than boiling will be improved by a
12 hour soak in brine, without tasting too salty afterwards.
In home conditions, in a cool larder, meat can be kept in brine for up
to a fortnight or three weeks, sometimes longer.
The moments islands of white mould begin to float on the surface, remove
meat and throw away the brine.
The crock will need washing in boiling soda again.
The meat will be OK.
Recipe Charcuterie and French Pork Cookery - Jane Grigson

And another.....

2kg course salt
50g saltpetre (You can get this at the pharmacy)
6 ltr water.

Bring all of above to the boil and then boil for 10 mins.

Allow to cool completely and then place in a container which can be
glass, plastic or earthenware but definately not metal. Put the meat
into the liquid and make sure it is fully submersed in the brine by
placing a board on top of it. Allow to cure for 12 hours per kilo.

When you take them out dry them with a cotton cloth and hang them in a
cool place to dry. ( I hang mine in the fridge) They must be hanging and
not touching anything else. Dry for at least 24 hours and then they can
be stored in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.

There are further recipes for Wiltshire cure which involves molasses,
beer and is lovely or a Suffolk cure which involves vinegar, cloves and
brown sugar.

And another....

Wiltshire Ham Cure

Course : Pork
Serves: 1
Amount Measure Ingredient -- Preparation Method
-------- ------------ --------------------------------
1 1/2 pounds cooking salt
4 ounces saltpeter
2 ounces prunella
1/2 ounce juniper berries
2 pounds treacle
1/2 pound bay salt
1 ounce black pepper
2 quarts beer
Mix together 1 1/2 lbs cooking salt, 4 oz saltpeter, 2 oz sale prunella,
1/2 oz juniper berries, 2 lbs treacle, 1/2 lb bay salt, 1 oz black
pepper, 2 qts beer. Boil together, cool slightly & pour over ham, which
has been sprinkled with cooking salt, left 12 hours and wiped dry. Turn
& rub pickle in each day for 1 month. Dry well before storing. I said
some time back that I would post these ham & bacon cures. They are all
traditional methods, and assume for the most part that you have a whole
pig to deal with. I have not used all of them, but have based cures on
some. If you need any further info, let me know. Some scaling will be
needed, and some modification. I have not bothered to update units or
nomenclature, but that will add to the fun :-)

Cure sources:

I have found the greatest difficulty with available recipes is that they
tend to assume that you know how to make the cure brine and adjust it
properly for the cut of meat you are using. Perhaps the best way to go
is to select a prepared mix which will have proportions laid out
correctly. Enloy!

Friday, March 7, 2008

Convent Loaf

Convent Loaf

Ingredients: 4 cups sifted flour, 1 cup (1/2 pound) butter, 3/4 cup
sugar, 3 teaspoons baking powder, 2 teaspoon caraway seeds, 2/3 cup
candied peel, 2 eggs, a little milk, 1/2 teaspoon salt.

Method: Sift together flour, baking powder, and salt. Rub in butter;
add sugar, seeds, and thinly sliced peel. Add beaten eggs with enough
milk to make light dough. Place in a well-greased tin and bake 1 1/2
hours in a moderate (375 degree) oven.

-Feasting Galore., Recipes and Food Lore from Ireland., Maura Laverty,

Oaten Health Bread

A concept dating well back into ancient times:

Oaten Health Bread

Ingredients: 4 cups each flour, whole meal, and flake oatmeal; 1
tablespoon salt, 2 cups milk, 1 cup boiling water.

Method: Sift together flour, whole meal, flake oatmeal, and salt. Mix
the yeast with the sugar. Dissolve the butter in the boiling water and
add to the milk. Add a cupful of the tepid milk and water to the yeast
sugar mixture. Make a well in the center of the flour and pour in the
yeast. Sprinkle a little flour on top and set in a warm place until the
yeast honeycombs. Add the remainder of the tepid milk and water, mix
well, turn out onto a floured board, and knead well for at least 10
minutes. Return to the bowl, cover with a cloth, and leave in a warm
place until the dough doubles its bulk. Cook 50 minutes in a hot (475
degree ) oven.

-Feasting Galore., Recipes and Food Lore from Ireland., Maura Laverty,

Sunday Tea Cakes from Maura Laverty

Always good to be prepared for a traditional tea-time.

Sunday Tea Cakes

Ingredients: 4 cups sifted flour, 2 teaspoons salt, 1 package dry yeast,
2 teaspoons sugar, 4 tablespoons lard, 1/2 cup boiling water, 1/2 cup
milk, 1/2 cup currants, 1/3 cup candied peel, 1 cup white seedless
raisins, milk and sugar for glaze.

Method: Sift flour with salt. Mix yeast with 2 teaspoons sugar, add 1/2
cup lukewarm milk. Make a well in center of four, pour in yeast mixture,
sprinkle a little flour on top, and leave to honeycomb in a warm place
about 20 minutes. Dissolve lard in boiling water, add milk mixture.
Leave until lukewarm. Add this mixture to flour and mix to a smooth
dough. Turn onto floured board, sprinkle with fruit, and knead well.
Divide the dough into 6 balls, flatten, and pierce with fork. Place on
greased and floured baking sheet, cover, and leave to rise 30 minutes in
warm place. Bake 20 minutes in hot (450 degree) oven Five minutes
before the cakes are done, brush with milk and sprinkle with sugar.

-Feasting Galore., Recipes and Food Lore from Ireland., Maura Laverty,

Monday, February 25, 2008

Irish Soda Cake

SODA CAKE.— Take one pound of flour. half a pound of moist sugar and rub
in half a pound of butter, lard, or dripping. Then take four eggs well
beaten, a teacup- full of milk a little warm, and half a tea- spoonful
of soda dissolved in the milk. Mix all together, and put It Into the
oven immediately.

Flour, 1lb. ; sugar, 1/2 lb. ; butter, lard, or dripping, 1/2lb. ;
eggs, 4 ; milk, 1 teacup full soda 1/2. • teaspoon full. . Two hours will bake it In a quick oven.

-Source:The Dictionary of Daily Wants.,Robert Kemp Philip, 1861

Recipes from Maura Laverty

Recipes from Maura Laverty

Source: Maura Laverty's Cookery Book.,Longmans, 1946-48.

Maura Laverty was an Irish author and playwright who brought wonderful
descriptions of life in Ireland and her experiences to her recipes. The
cook book has modern or one might say internationally inspired recipes
but also contains a number of Irish standards.

Every time Ireland is put in the dock, I feel our diplomats are sadly
lacking as a counsel for the defense that they don't bring forward in
mitigation of our crimes the fact that we have given a four-leaved
shamrock to the world. One leaf is W. B. Yeats, another is boiled
potatoes in their jackets, another Barry Fitzgerald. The fourth is
Soda-bread. And the greatest of these is soda-bread. Spongy white
soda-bread with a floury, brown crossed crust…flat sweet griddle-bread
with an inch-and-a-half of tender well baked dough sandwiched between
thin crisp crusts…wholesome brown bread with growth and health and
energy in its pleasantly rough nuttiness…dark spicy treacle bread that
has been left for twenty-four hours to become firm and mellow and is
then sliced thinly and spread with good country butter---current bread
and buns, Indian meal bread, "spotted dog" rich with raisins, seedy
bread- there seems to be no end at all to them. The queer thing is that
in its native habitat soda-bread is never so called. We call it "cake"
or "cake bread." A loaf of bread comes out of the baker's van, but a
cake of bread comes out of the pot-oven. The secret of good cake-bread
is 3-day old buttermilk, a light hand for mixing and kneading and a
brisk oven. Buttermilk is not always easy to come by. In the winter
when the cows are not milking some people use instead the water in which
potatoes have been boiled. Far better is the "winter buttermilk" which
they used in Cork and Meath and this is how it is made.

Winter Buttermilk

Mix 1/4 lb flour to a smooth paste with 1 cup cold water. Put this in
the bottom of a large jug or crock. Add 2 grated raw potatoes and 2
mashed cooked potatoes. Now mix in 7 cups cold water. Cover and leave
it on the kitchen mantelpiece or in some such warm place for 2 days.
When you are baking pour off carefully, and without disturbing the
sediment, as much liquid as you require. This can be used in exactly the
same way as buttermilk and will give you lovely light bread. Add fresh
water to make up for what you have3 used. Stir up the contents of the
vessel, cover it and put it by for the next baking. The one lot of
potatoes and flour will give you a fortnight's supply of winter buttermilk.

Buttermilk Plant

There is another way of making sure of a constant supply of buttermilk.
You can start a buttermilk plant with yeast, sugar and skim milk, or
milk and water. The buttermilk plant is a kind of fungus like the
vinegar plant. After a few weeks it will grow and grow and you'll be
able to supply all your friends with a cutting. The milk it produces is
very good for the blood, particularly in rheumatic cases. It is
pleasant to drink too. (I first heard about this miraculous plant form
Miss Florence Irwin, of Belfast who is the best cook in Ireland). To
start the plant, you'll need:--
1 oz. sugar,
1 oz, yeast
1 quart tepid milk and water.

Cream the yeast with the sugar, gradually add the tepid milk and water.
Put the mixture in some vessel that may easily be washed and scalded,
cover it, and leave it in a warm place for a couple of days or until the
milk smells and tastes like butter-milk. When you want to use the
buttermilk, put a piece of muslin in the bottom of a strainer and strain
the milk through this. The funny-looking thing like lumpy corn flour
which remains will be the plant. Rinse every drop of milk off it, by
pouring a cup of tepid water over it. Let the water run through the
strainer into the buttermilk- it will all make excellent liquid for
mixing cake-bread. To start a new lot of buttermilk, scrape the plant
off them muslin and put it back into the scalded and well-rinsed vessel.
Add another quart of tepid milk and water, cover it and leave it as
before to increase and multiply.

That first ounce of yeast will go on growing and multiplying giving you
buttermilk until the end of time. But the plant needs a certain amount
of care.

1.--It must be strained at least every five days. If you don'
t want the milk for baking, you can always drink it. I knew a woman so
crippled with rheumatics that she couldn't kneel down to say the Rosary.
After six months of drinking this buttermilk, she was able to do the
Lough Derg Pilgrimage on her knees.

2.--Make sure the milk-and-water is never more than lukewarm. Strong
heat kills yeast.

3.--Cleanliness is very important. That careful rinsing after
straining, and the scalding of th container must be done if the plant is
to live.

Basic Recipe for Soda Bread

1 lb flour
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon sugar
1 teaspoon bread-soda
Buttermilk to mix.

Sift the dry ingredients several times through your fingers. Make a
well in the centre. Pour in the buttermilk gradually, mixing in the
flour from the sides. Don't have the mixture too dry. Turn it out on a
floured board, knead lightly for a few minutes, pat the dough to a round
and cut a cross on it to keep it from cracking in the baking. Let the
cuts go over the sides of the cake to make sure of this. Brush with
milk and bake at once in a hot oven (450 degs.--Regulo 7-8) for 45 mins.
If you have any doubts about doneness, tap the bottom of the cake. If
it sounds hollow it is cooked. (When using milk from the buttermilk
plant, it doesn't hurt the bread to let it stand 15 mins. before baking).
Some people like to add 1/4 teasp. of cream of tartar or 1/2 teasp.
baking powder. I think this is unnecessary. The teaspoon of bread-soda
and good buttermilk provide all the leaven needed for a pound of flour.

Yalla Male Bread
Add 1/4 lb. of Indian meal.

Treacle Bread
Increase the sugar to 1 tablesp. and add to the milk 1/2 cup of treacle.
A beaten egg may bge added as well, in which case you may as well go
the whole hog and rub 2 oz of butter into the flour. Raisins, Currants
and chopped nuts make this a party cake.

Brown Bread
Use 1/2 lb. whole meal and 1/2 lb., flour. Increase the sugar to one
desseertsp, and rub in, if you like 1 dessertsp. of dripping. I always
add as well a handful of flakemeal. It gives a lovely nutty texture.

Friday, February 22, 2008

The Proper Irish Tea

It is said that the mixture of Asam and Ceylon teas that go into an
"Irish Blend" tea is designed to give one strength to ward of the cold.
It is strong medicine. One needs to make sure that it steeps for at lest
five minutes and that you use about 1/3 good real cream. Put cream and
sugar in first...Here is an interesting must have been
strong indeed at times!

Nearly twenty times as much tea must be drunk now in
Kerry as in the early sixties, and so far as I can recollect tea
was unknown, not only in the cabins but among the farmers
until after the famine. Fairly good tea is obtained, for the Irish will never buy
tea unless they are asked a high price, and for that price
they usually, owing to competition, obtain an article not too
perniciously adulterated. What is highly injurious is the method of making
the tea. A lot is thrown into the pot on the fire in the cabin in
the morning, and there it stands simmering all day long, that
those who want it may help themselves. This is in sharp contrast to the method employed by
Dr. Barter, the famous hydropathic physician at Cork, one
of the cleverest men I ever met and one of the very few
who never permitted medicine under any circumstances, relying
on water, packing, and Turkish baths, with strict attention
to diet. He used to make tea by putting half a teaspoonful into
a wire strainer which he held over his cup, and pouring
boiling water upon the leaves, the contents of his cup became
a pale yellow, to which he added a little milk and
instantly drank it off, the whole process lasting but a few
seconds. I remember he equally disapproved of the Russian
method of drinking tea in a glass with lemon, of the fashionable
way of letting the water ' stand off the boil' upon the
leaves in a teapot, and of the Hibernian stewing arrangement
alluded to above.

-From: The Reminiscences of an Irish Land Agent., Samuel Murray Hussey, 1904

Friday, February 8, 2008


The snipes intended to be used for this purpose must
be perfectly fresh. After being plucked, their logs and
wings are to be cut off; merely remove the gizzard
with the point of a knife, leaving all the inside or trail
undisturbed; the snipes should be split in halves, and
placed on a dish. Next, take what is called an earthenware
oval pie-pan, suc]i as is commonly used for potting
meats. >fcc.; line the bottom and sides of this with very
thin layers of fat bacon ; arrange therein the prepared
snipes in neat rows; season between each row with
coarsely ground black pepper and salt; and when the pan
is nearly filled, pour in sufficient clarified fresh butter
to cover the surface of the snipes ; put the lid of the pan
on; lute all round the edge of the pan with slack flour-
aud-water paste to confine the steam which arises from
the snipes, &c., while baking, and which, by being thus
prevented from escap ng entirely, not only improves the
flavour of the pie by condensation, but also tends to
dissolve the bones sufficiently to render them edible:
there being a hole on the top of the lid, it acts as a
safetyalve. These pies must be baked in an oven of
moderate heat, and are intended to be eaten when quire '-
old only. The snipes shot in Ireland are the finest flavoured known, and
are or were prepared in a very simple yet excellent fashion, which
renders them a great delicacy for the breakfast-table. In order to
enable you to indulge in this delectable bonne-bouche, I will at once
furnish you with the necessary instructions to solve the mystery and
gratify your longing. Note.—Woodcocks, fieldfares, plovers, young
partridges, or grouse, larks, wheatears, and especially
ortolans and becafioos, are most excellent when dressed
as indicated in this number.

.-From:The Cook's Guide, and LHouskeeper's &Butler's Assistant. Charles
Elme Francatelli, 1867.

Irish Sandwhiches

Between slices of very thin crisp toast place alternate
layers of very thin slices of roast game, shred celery,
and Tartar sauce; dish up on a napkin.
Note.—This pasts- serves also for potato croquets.

.-From: The Cook's Guide, and LHouskeeper's &Butler's Assistant. Charles
Elme Francatelli, 1867.

Work house cookery pre-famine

As among most classes in Ireland and England, the day is divided into
three acts or meals, breakfast, lunch, and dinner. By the_ last is not
to be understood the noonday meal» but the chief meal of the day. The
lunch is participated in only by the children and invalids. The healthy
and full-grown are excluded from it. The hours at which these meals are
taken are later than with us in Germany. Nine o'clock is the hour for
breakfast, and four in the afternoon for dinner. The breakfast, as
inmost parts of Ireland, among those who have the means of decent
maintenance, consists of new milk and stirabout, a kind of porridge of
oatmeal ; the dinner is composed of potatoes and buttermilk. The
children, for their lunch, receive bread and milk. On Sundays, holidays,
and on every Thursday, a little brose, or soup, is given, in addition to
the customary diet. An adult receives seven ounces of oatmeal and half a
pint of new milk for breakfast, and four pounds of potatoes and a pint
of buttermilk for dinner. The board of an adult is calculated to- cost
one shilling and fourpence three-farthings weekly. That of the children
is more expensive, on account of the bread, and the more liberal supply
of milk. The most costly of all is the board" of the children under two
year» old, who cost one shilling and sixpence three- farthings a week,
for which they receive one pint of new milk and a pound of bread daily.
There is therefore a potato diet for adults, л bread diet for children,
a rice and meat diet for the sick, and lastly, a fever diet for the
class of patients always most numerous in an Irish
workhouse-From:Ireland:Dublin, the Shannon, Limerick, Cork, and te
Kilkenny Races…,,Johann Georg Kohl, 1844.

I was astonished by the appearance of the potato-kettle at this house.
No less than 167» pounds of potatoes are boiled at once. This enormous
quantity is all divided into portions of three and a half and four
pounds, and eacli portion is enclosed in a small net. All these nets are
laid together in a large basket, and. this basket, with its nets and
potatoes, is deposited in the boiler. When the potatoes are supposed to
have been sufficiently boiled, the basket is wound up again by a
machinery^ constructed for the purpose, and the poor are then marched up
in military order, when each receives his net and marches away with it.-

-From:Ireland:Dublin, the Shannon, Limerick, Cork, and te Kilkenny
Races…,,Johann Georg Kohl, 1844.

Stirabout and Skilly

Stirabout a wonderful word for a staple. It can also be made using other
grains such as barley. You can also call it porridge. It can be thin and
is called Skilly. Most put things into it other than oats and hot water
however the Irish tended to keep it simple despite availablity of fresh
greens growing wild.

For instance, in the matter of food, Dr. O'Donovan renders a very
ancient commentary on the first clause of the law of fosterage as
follows: "What are their victuals? They are all fed on stirabout : but
the materials of which it is made, and the flavoring with it, vary
according to the rank of the parents of the children. The children of
the inferior grades are fed to bare sufficiency on stirabout made of
oatmeal on buttermilk or water, and it is taken with stale (salt)
butter. The sons of the chieftain grades are fed to satiety on stirabout
made of barley-meal upon new milk. taken with fresh butter. The sons of
kings are fed on stirabout made of wheat- en meal upon new milk, taken
with honey." According to one authority, every 641 foster-child should
be provided with two suits of clothing,-From: New Catholic World, 1871

The owner of the cast dries the corn himself, and supplies the turf.
In the time of the old kilns, the corn was sometimes dried at the
townlund kiln.
In this country up to sixty or seventy years ago, the first few
sheaves'of oats cut by the reapers used to be scutched and winnowed,
and the corn put in a pot over the fire, and dried. It was then ground
in a quern, and stirabout made from it for the breakfast of the reapers
and the family. The same was done in the case of any other meal at
which stirabout was used during reaping time. This shows the speed
with which food could be dressed by means of a quern. '
Phapin.' In Munster up to forty years ago, and perhaps yet in
remote parts of the province, the gleaning of the wheat crop was made
into stuff called ' prapin.' The grain was shed by rustling the ears in
the hands. The husks were removed by blowing, or by the wind. The
wheat was then put in a pot, or on a griddle, and dried over a fire. "
When dried it was ground in a quern, mixed with new milk or cream,
and eaten without more ado. ' Praupeen' was a great favourite with
children, and was their standard of comparison. Any nice cereal food
was said to be nearly as nice as praupeen.
To prepare food with a quern is easier than most people imagine,
and the system is marvellously economical, besides getting the best
out of cereals. Everyone knows the difference between freshly-
ground and old-ground coffee.- From: Proceedings of the Royal Irish
Academy, 1907.

Skilly (common), water-gruel, in
the workhouse and prisons.
So much the better for you, I say,
So much the better for you.
If you never act silly, you'll keep off the
That's so much the better for you. —
Music Hall Song, A Lincolnshire term, skillg, oatmeal - gruel, from
obsolete English skellg, thin and light, applied to thin, poor food ;
also sailor's soup of many ingredients. Skilly and toke (popular),
applied to anything mild, insipid. The mugs and the jugs never joke,
never gag, never work in a wheeze; no, their talk is all skilly and
toke.—Punch.-From:A Dictionary of Slang, Jargton&Cant.,Albert Barere, 1890

Thursday, February 7, 2008

The Irish and their Stew-One basic foundation

You should eventualy see more on this here....important to note that Irish stew
is never associated in the literature with beef....lamb or mutton. Note
also that there is the usual variety of interpretation. So go for it and
find your mode....enjoy!
Take a couple of pounds of small thick mutton cutlets with or without
fat according to the taste of the persons to whom the stew is to be
served ; take also four pounds of good potatoes, weighed after they are
pared, slice them thick, and put a portion of them, in a flat layer, into
a large thick saucepan or stewpan ; season the mutton well with pepper,
and place some of it on the potatoes, cover it with another layer,
and proceed in the same manner with all, reserving plenty of the vegetable
for the top; pour in three quarters of a pint of cold water, and
add, when the stew begins to boil, an ounce of salt; let it simmer
gently for two hours, and serve it very hot. When the addition of
onion is liked, strew in two or three minced ones with the potatoes.
Mutton cutlets, 2 Ibs.; potatoes, 4 Ibs.; pepper, 1/2 oz.; salt, 1 oz.;
water, f3/4pint: 2 hours.
Obs.—For a real Irish stew the potatoes should be boiled to a mash:
an additional quarter-hour may be necessary for the full quantity here,
but for half of it two hours are quite sufficient.-From: Modern Cookery,
in All It's Branches:reduced to a System of Easy Practice.,Eliza Action,

if Irish stew is put upon
the bill of fare it will be gone long before any other dish
on the list ; and what is Irish stew but one of the forms
of Scotch broth ? The Irish have nothing to do with it. -
The misnomer came from the French, who also call the
Scotch barley broth Orge a l'Irlandaise. The principle of Scotch broth
is to make a pot-au-feu of mutton, to 'work up the liquor into soup with
various assortments of vegetables, and to present the mutton to be eaten
along with it. Therefore it is a mistake to confine the name of
Scotch or mutton broth to barley broth. It is a name which equally
belongs to the thick potato-and-onion soup known as Irish stew, to the
pea soup which Soyer has called "the inimitable hotch potch." and to
various other assortments. It is not any particular soup, but a system
of soups set up in contrast to the French system of bouillon and bouilli
in homely life. Perhaps the best example of the Scotch or mutton broth
is the Hotch Potch, which will be found described under its own name.
Here we give the receipt only for what is especially in England called
Scotch broth. Take about six pounds of the neck or breast of mutton cut
as for Irish stew, and carefully trimmed of fat. Put it into the pot
with six quarts of cold water, six ounces of barley, and some salt. Boil
it, remove the scum, and then let it simmer for an hour; after which put
into it two carrots, two turnips, three onions, and three heads of
celery, all cut into dice or sliced, with a faggot of sweet- herbs and a
pinch of pepper. Let the simmering go on for another hour, and the soup
is ready. The cutlets can be served ei
ther with it or apart-From:Kettnere's Book of the Tabgle: A Manual of
Cookery, Practical, theoretical…, Eneas Sweetland, 1877.

Cut up about four pounds of either neck or loin of mutton into
eight or ten neatly trimmed chops, paring away all excess of m
and rough bone; season plentifully with pepper, and moderately
with salt; place the chops in a deep stewpan or saucepan, with
sufficient water to cover in their surface, add eight good sizeo
onions, put the lid on and set the whole on the fire to stew gently
for half an hour; the stew must then be removed from the fire,
the liquor poured into a basin, and after being freed from «11
grease, is to be poured back to the chops ; add a dozen pt«l«d
potatoes, and a pint of good stock or gravy, if handy, or failing
that, (in case that the moisture has been reduced to half its original
quantity) a like quantity of water will do. The whole i-<
then to be placed on the fire to boil gently for about three qnarten
of an hour, due care being taken that the moisture docs not K-
come wholly absorbed by the stew, or burnt at the bottom of t: -
etewpan, as this latter accident would entirely spoil the dish.
As soon as the Irish stew is done, let it be dished up as follows,
viz.: first remove the potatoes carefully on to a plate, and tlx:.
use a fork and spoon to place the cutlets or chops neatly round
the dish, add the potatoes in their centre, and pour the gravy acd
onions, &c., over the whole, and serve hot.
NOTE.—A less expensive method of making Irish stew, is to
use the scrag end of a neck of mutton, or indeed any infcr\r
pieces of meat most convenient, as well as the remains ol •
cooked joint of beef, mutton, or veal.-From:The Cook's Guide, and
LHouskeeper's &Butler's Assistant. Charles Elme Francatelli, 1867.

183. Good Plain Family Irish Stew. — Take about two
pounds of scrag or neck of mutton; divide it into ten pieces,
lay them in the pan; cut eight large potatoes and four onions
hi slices, season with one teaspoonful and a half of pepper, and
three of salt; cover all with water; put it into a slow oven for
two hours, then stir it all up well, and dish up in deep dishes.
If you add a little more water at the commencement, you can
take out when half done, a nice cup of broth.
The same simplified.—Put in a pan two pounds of meat
as before, which lay at the bottom; cover them with eight whole
onions, and these with twelve whole potatoes; season as before;
cover over with water, and send to the oven for two hours.
Almost any part of the sheep can be used lor Irish stew.
A gallon pan is required for this and the preceding receipt.-From: A
Shilling cookery for the people., Alexis Benoit Soyer, 1854.

STEW, Irish.
Ingredients.—3 Ibs. of the loin or neck
of mutton, 5 Ibs. of potatoes, 5 large
onions, pepper and salt to taste, rather
more than 1 pint of water. Mode.—
Trim off some of the fat of the above
quantity of loin or neck of mutton, and
cut it into chops of a moderate thickness. Stilton Cheese Pare and halve
the potatoes, and cut the onions into thick slices. Put a layer of
potatoes at the bottom of a stewpan, then a layer of mutton and onions,
and season with pepper and salt ; proceed in this manner until the
stewpan is full, taking care to have plenty of vegetables at the top.
Pour in the water, and let it stew very gently for 2A hours, keeping the
lid of the stewpan" closely shut the ,ikole time, and occasionally
shaking the preparation to prevent its burning;. Time. —2i, hours. A
rerage cost, for th,s quantity, 2л. S,/. ¿Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Sea,unable.—Suitable for a winter dish. I STEW, Irish. Ingredieoti.—2 or
3 Ibs. of the breast I of mutton, Ц pint of water, salt and pepper to
taste, 4 Ibs. of potatoes, 4 large onions. Mod,.—Put the mutton into a ,
stewpan with the water and a little salt, and let it stew gently for an
hour ; cut the meat into small pieces, skim the fat from the gravy, and
pare and slice the potatoes and onions. Put all the ingredients into the
stewpan, in layers, first a layer of vegetables, then one of meat, and
sprinkle seasoning of pepper and salt between each layer ; cover
closely, and let the whole stew very gently for 1 hour, or rather more,
shaking it frequently to prevent its burning. -Time. —Rather more than 2
hours. Average cost, ls. 6d. Sufficient for 5 or 6 persons.
Seasonable,—Suitable for a winter dish. -Note.—Irish stew may be
prepared in the samo manner as above, but baked in a jar instead of
boiled. About 2 hours or rather more in a moderate oven will be
sufficient time to bake it.-From:Mrs. Beeton's Dictionary of Every-Day
Cookery., Isabella Mary Beeton.

The Mysteries of Colcannon

Sometimes the quest for roots locates multiple rootlets. Colcannon is
one of those. Just so it has something to do with potatoes and
greens...a good example of local and personal variation in which folks
often speak of as a unified foodway. So there are choices...

At dinner they had a dish, which we believe is, like the Boxty,
peculiarly Irish in its composition: we mean what is called stjilk. This
consists of potatoes and beans, pounded up together in such a manner
that the beans are not broken, and on this account the potatoes are well
champed before the beans are put into them. This is dished in a large
bowl, and a hole made in the middle of it, into which a miscaun or roll
of butter is thrust, and then covered up until it is melted. After this,
every one takes a spoon and digs away with the utmost rigour, dipping
every morsel into the well of butter in the middle, before he puts it
into his mouth. Indeed, from the strong competition which goes forward,
and the rapid motion of each right hand, no spectator could be mistaken
in ascribing the motive of their proceedings to the principle of the old
proverb, devil take the hindmost. Sthilk differs from another dish made
of potatoes in much the same way, called colcannon. If there were beans,
for instance, in colcannon, it would be sthilk. This practice of many
persons eating out of the same dish, though Irish, and not cleanly, is
of very old antiquity. Christ himself mentions it at the Last Supper.
Let us hope, however, that, like the old custom which once prevailed in
Ireland, of several persons drinking at meals out of the same mether,
the usage we speak of will soon be replaced by one of more cleanliness
and individual comfort.--From: The Irish Penny Journal, 1841.

Boil separately an equal amount of potatoes and
of fresh cabbage ; about half the amount of onions.
Mash all very finely, mix in a little butter or drip-
ping, with salt and pepper, put in a buttered bowl,
and bake, well covered up. Serve very hot.
-May Byron's Vegetable Book, May Clarissa Gillikngton Byron,k 1916

colcannon night : almost universal in St. Johns, Nfld., for Hallowe'en. [
The name is used by those who eat colcannon on that night Others speak
of it a» " snap-apple night." The term Hallowe'en is not generally
used.]-Dialect Notes.,The American Dialect Society, 1896.

Mix in about equal proportions some well-
mashed potatoes and some young sprouts, or greens
of any kind, first boiled till quite tender and chopped
up. Mash up all thoroughly together ; add a seasoning
of pepper and salt, a small bit of butter, and
a spoonful or two of cream or milk ; put a raw
onion in the middle of all, and stir over a clear
fire till very hot and sufficiently dry to be moulded
and turned out. The onion must be taken out
before the dish is served.
Turnips and carrots are often chopped up with
the greens and potatoes.
This can also be made with parsnips and
Colcannon. (Another way. )
Boil and mash greens, cabbage, carrots, turnips,
a shred onion with mashed potatoes — half the quantity
should consist of the latter ; add two eggs,
pepper and salt, and a good piece of butter ; put
it into a plain mould or pudding-basin, boil for an
hour, and turn out.-Dressed Vegetables a la Mode.De Salis,Hariet,Anne, 1888

9. Colcannon.—Boil potatoes and greens, or
spinage, separately; mash the potatoes, squeeze
the greens dry, chop them quite fine, and mix
them with the potatoes with a little butter, pepper
and salt; put it into a mould, greasing it well first;
let it slant! in a hot oven for ten minutes.-Mackenzie's Five Thousand
Receipts:In All the Useful and Domestic Arts.,Colin Mackenzie, 1854

Colcannon. — (No. 108*.)
Boil Potatoes and Greens, or Spinage — separately —
Mash the Potatoes — squeeze the Greens dry,
chop them quite fine, and mix them with the Potatoes
with a little butter, pepper and salt — put it into a
mould, greasing it well first; let it stand in a hot oven
for ten minutes. ,-From: The Cook's Oracle:Containing Receipts for Plain
Cookery.,William Kitchiner, 1822.

It is not common in the West to see a field of
turnips, and a field of turnips is an object of great
attraction to the peasant. The women, especially,
are very fond of them; and, all the world over, what
the women require the men must endeavour to procure.
The chief use that is made of this vegetable
is in the manufacture of colquit, or colcannon, otherwise
turnips, or cabbage, mashed up with potatoes—
a cottage delicacy, for the attainment of which many hundred felonies
have been committed;-From: Letters from the Irish Highlands.,J. Murray,

Colcannon.—Provide for this : One pound of cold
boiled potatoes, one pound of cold boiled turnip, one
ounce of butter, one tablespoonful of bread crumbs, one
saltspoonful of salt, one saltspoonful of pepper.
The bread crumbs must first be put upon a tin or
plate, and into the oven and browned to a light brown.
Grease slightly a plain mould holding about three pints,
and sprinkle around the sides and over the bottom of this,
the browned bread crumbs. Put into a bowl the potato
and with it the turnip, which must first be pressed down
and drained of any water that it may have gathered in
standing to cool. Mix these thoroughly together and season
them with the pepper and salt, adding also the butter,
and when all is stirred together, pack the mixture into the
mould, pressing it down with the blade of a knife, place
the mould in a moderate oven where it must remain until
its contents be thoroughly heated, then turn the form
carefully out into a vegetable dish and serve steaming hot.
-From:The Art of Cooking:A Series of Practical Lessons,Matilda Lees,
Dods, 1880.a

COLCANNON.—This popular Irish dish is usually made with cabbages and
potatoes, but cauliflower will make a more delicate dish. Take half as
much cauliflower as potato, both of which must have been boiled
previously and completely cooled. Chop them separately and very "fine.
Put a little milk and butter into a saucepan, and when boiling hot, turn
in the potatoes and cauliflower well mixed together. Place a flat tin or
dish over them, and let them warm through. Then remove the cover, and
add salt and pepper to the taste ;ake the dish boiling hot, and serve.
Another way is to prepare it with strips of salt pork. Cut the pork into
strips an inch long and as narrow as possible, and fry it to a crisped
brown ; then turn in the chopped cauliflower and potatoes, and mix well
with the pork strip and fat. Heat very hot, and serve on a platter. It
is a delicious dish ; and a little vinegar ia considered an improvement
to it.-From: To--day: The Popular Illustrated Magazine, Dio Lewis, 1872.

COLCANNON. How to Buy. — Purchase potatoes and greens or cabbage, in the
proportion of one-third greens to two-thirds of potatoes — usually,
however, col- cannon is prepared from cold vegetables. This is a good,
economical, and nourishing dish if well prepared, otherwise it is
indigestible and disagreeable. How to Cook.—Boil and then mash the
potatoes with salt and pepper; boil the greens or cabbage very tender,
and press very dry, and chop it finely; mix both together, and season to
taste with pepper, salt, and nutmeg; moisten with a little gravy; cover
with bread-crumbs, and on them lay either little bits of butter or
congealed butter; sprinkle a little fine salt over, and brown with a
salamander, or in the oven; this is the best mode, though it is
frequently fried in fat left in the pan from bacon rashers that have
been fried to serve with it ; in this way it is very apt to be strong.
How to Serve.-—Hot and quite plain, or garnished with fried bacon.
Note.—If cold vegetables are used, press the potatoes through a
colander, and chop the cabbage very fine, taking care it is not watery.-
From: Handbook of domestic cookery., Handbook, 1882.

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

O'Curry Reveals Foodways of the Ancient Celts

In the case of Irish Foodways we have the unique opportunity of going
back to the earliest literature of Europe. But what is it....good
question. It is a mixed bag of written works derived from a large
variety of sources both domestic and foreign. Some could have been
fiction others mystical.....O'Curry does an heroic job of pulling things
all together. Elsewhere in this Blog you will find a link direct to the
book. Below is text without footnotes which are significant so nothing
relpaces the book itself but, this may be useful for those in search of
their Celtic dimension....


The food of a people is so intimately connected with their
agriculture, that in order to give a satisfactory account of the
former, it would be necessary to enter into some detail as to
the state of the latter. This, however, I cannot do here, and I
must content myself with referring to the subject as occasion
may arise in the following brief account of the food of the
ancient Irish.
The ancient Irish were more a pastoral than an agricultural
people ; every occupier of a homestead, however, ploughed
annually a certain amount of land, and sowed corn, the
general name for which was Arba, plural Orbainn. Under
this term mention is made of eight kinds of corn or seed,
Cruittiecht, Eorna, Corca, Seoul, Ruadan, Seruan. Maetan, and
Fidbach. Cruitnecht, one of the names of wheat, Triticum
Sativum, appears to contain the same root as the Greek K....,
barley. Tarai, sometimes written Tuirnd or Tuirnn, was
another name for wheat, which M. A. Pictet compares with
Sanskrit Trna, herb in its general sense ; he also mentions the
curious fact that the Mongolian name of wheat is Taràn. Eorna
and Corca are still the names of barley and oats respectively.
It is very difficult to determine now to what plants the remaining
names were applied. Secul is probably a loan-word from
the Latin Secale, rye ; but was it applied to the same plant in
Ireland as in Italy ? If so, what was Ruadan ? This is certainly
an older word than Secul, and if we could venture to compare
it with the Lettish Rudzi, rye, may have been the true ancient
name for that kind of corn, which in Ireland as elsewhere
seems to have been gradually displaced by wheat. If the
spelt wheat (Triticum spelta was) cultivated in Ireland, it may
have been known by either of the names in question, perhaps
by that of Secul. Seruan may not have been a variety of corn
at all. Pliny has the term Saurian for mustard, which is
very close to the Sanskrit Suri, Sinapis nigra, and may be
Celtic rather than Greek. It is, no doubt, very dangerous to
make comparisons between words merely because of similarity
of form, yet it is hardly possible to avoid doing so in this case,
especially as the only other Aryan name of corn like it with
which I am acquainted, belongs to a species which we have no
evidence for supposing was ever cultivated in Ireland, namely, /
Soru (plural Soros), the Lithuanian name of millet. Maelan
was, 1 believe, a leguminous plant, and not a cereal one, as
is shown by the name Maelan rnilce, being applied to the
tuberous bitter vetch, Orobus tuberosus, the tuberous roots of
which were formerly much prized for making a kind of drink
by the Highlanders, and used in times of scarcity as food. The
Oiobus niger, or black bitter vetch, which is said by some
to have supported the Britons when driven into the forests and
fastnesses by the Empeior Severus, was also called Maelan.
Fidbach is literally wood-gland, bach being cognate with
Sanskrit bhag, Greek ..., and may have been applied to
the hazel nut or the acorn, both of which were used as food.
From the frequent reference to oatmeal and porridge, there
can be little doubt that the kind of corn most generally grown grown.
was oats. Barley was also cultivated, not only for making
bread, but also for making malt. Frequent mention is also
made of wheat, but wheaten bread must have been used
almost exclusively by the higher classes. I have not met with
any direct evidence of the use of leaven or of yeast in early
times in Ireland, but I infer from incidental circumstances that
the yeast of Citirm, or beer, was used in the making of wheaten
bread. Oatmeal and barleymeal cakes appear to have

been unleavened, and to have been prepared as now by mixing
the meal with sweet milk or buttermilk, so as to make a
stiff dough, which was fashioned into flat cakes. The wheat-
meal and barley-meal cakes were baked upon a griddle, but
the oatmeal cakes, called Bocaire and Bletliacli. were always
baked by being supported in an upright position before the
fire by means of a three-pronged forked stick, still called
Maide an Bliocaire or the Bocaire stick, or the Cranachan,
which, however, included also the three-legged stool upon
which the cake was supported by the stick. From the latter
name the Bocaire is sometimes called Ciste cranachain, or the
cake of the Cranachan. The cakes of bread were called
Bairgins, a name still preserved in the " bairn breac", or cake
spotted with currants, of confectioners in Ireland. There were
different sizes of these cakes, but three are mentioned in the
laws: the Bairgin Ferfuine and the Bairgin Banfuine, the
former double the size of the latter—the larger representing
the ration of a man, and the smaller that of a
woman; the third was called the Bairgin iudriuc or whole
cake. This was a large cake which the mistress of a house
kept whole for guests, before whom no cut-loaf should be
placed. Any whole cake was, properly speaking, a Bairgin
Iudriuc, but the term was usually restricted to such large
cakes as those which Bricriu had had made, each of which
required a quarter of a Miach. Honey was sometimes mixed

with the dough of bread, as appears from a curious account
of the " champion s share at the feast given by Briciru one
of the heroic personages contemporary with Citchulaind.
Meal prepared from highly kiln-dried oats, mixed with new
milk or sweet thick milk, or boiled with water into stirabout,
was also much used. Coarsely ground meal of this kind
was called Grus and Gruth, and the food prepared from it
Gruiten ; the second form of the words is almost identical
with the Anglo-Saxon Grut. In discussing the names of
the different kinds of com grown in Ireland in former
times, I mentioned that filberts and acorns were used as
food. These were crushed, so as to form a kind of meal
to which the name Maothal was given. In early Christian
times those who devoted themselves to a religious life, built
their cells in remote woody districts or waste lands, which
seem to have been generally covered with a scrub of hazel,
judging from the quantity of hazel twigs found in turf
bogs. Nutmeal naturally formed a valuable resource to these
early monks, so important indeed that the word Maothal came
in process of time to mean the meal taken on fast days, and
which consisted at first of nutmeal and milk, and afterwards of
oatmeal, milk, cheese, etc. Thus a Lenten dinner mentioned in
the life of St. Moling consisted of Maolhla acus Loim. The

use of Maotlial was not, however, confined to monks and nuns,
but formed part of the food of even the higher classes, as is
proved by the finding of tlie nutshells in the neighbourhood of
forts, and by the occurrence of the word in combination with
Cathair and Lie in topographical names, such as Cathair
Moathal, now Cathermoyle, in the county of Limerick, where
full evidence was obtained of the use of nutmeal, and Lis-
maothal now Moyhill, near Maurice's Mills, in the county
of Clare.
Oatmeal formed also an important constituent of the porridge
which was one of the chief articles of food in Ireland. When
this porridge was made with water in which meat was boiled, it
was the Bruth or broth which was distributed or served out in
Dabachs or tubs to the retainers and servants at feasts and the
eyres or circuits of kings and Flaths. The simple porridge as well
as the broth were seasoned with leeks. Large quantities of leeks
and onions were grown around the houses, and served as a substitute
for pepper and other spices, introduced at a later period
into Europe. Some other culinary vegetables were also cultivated
in the Murathaig or enclosed Gort or garden, for we find
Lns Lubgort, or garden vegetables, mentioned as part of the
Imglaice or opsonia of the Oc Aire. The Birur or Water Cress

was also used at feasts as a salad with meat. Dulesc (i.e.,
water leaf), the Rhodymenia palmata of botanists, was gathered
on the sea shore, dried, and sold throughout the country. It is
mentioned in the Crith Gablach as an accompaniment of the
seasoned fowl to which the Aithech ar a Threba was entitled.
Sluican, sloke, or laver prepared from Porphyra laciniata and
P. vulgaris, as well as other marine vegetables, were also used
along the sea coast.
As the principal wealth of the Irish was in cattle, flesh-meat
and milk formed the most important part of the food of the
Aire class, milk, besides being taken in its natural fresh
state, and as skimmed milk, furnished butter, curds, and
cheese. Butter, while abundant in summer, was preserved Batter ;
in small firkins or barrels for winter use, and for expeditions
and feasts. Many of these vessels filled with butter are found
in peat bogs, the butter being altered into a hard crystalline
fat, free from salt. If salt was used in the curing of the original
butter, it must have been gradually removed along with the
products of the alteration of the glycerine. As butter
is still made without salt in some parts of Ireland, it is
probable that it was sometimes similarly prepared in ancient
times. The terms t-Saland, applied to salted meat and butter,
show that the method of curing provisions with salt was practised
at a comparatively early period in Ireland. The Privileges of the lower
grades of Bo Aire, as regards maintenance when wounded, absence from
home attending
absence from home attending their Flath, etc., as given in the Crith
Gablach, show that
the use of meat and butter was not universal. Thus the Oc
Aire, when on visitation to persons of his own rank, was
not entitled to butter; and only on stated days when on
Folach. An Aire Desa or Flath was, however, entitled
to butter at every meal in his own territory, while an Aire
Ard was not only entitled to butter at every meal for himself, but also
for his Foleithe, that is, the suitors of his Court Leet. A wounded
person on Foluch, of whatever rank, appears
to have been entitled to butter only on stated days. This legal
provision was, no doubt, adopted to prevent a defendant from
being ruined by the expense of the maintenance of a complainant who was
wounded. Curds was a favourite article of food of the ancient Irish. It
was made both from skimmed
milk, and Binnit, or rennet was used in its preparation. The
curds of fresh new milk was not unlike our modern cream
cheese. cheese. True cheese was also made, and seems to have formed
an important element in the food of the wealthier armers, specimens
of it from early Christian times have been found in
bogs impressed with a cross. From a passage in the tale of
the " Navigation of Maelduin's Curach, it would seem that
even different kinds of cheese were prepared, and especially a
rich kind from beestings milk.
Judging by the description of the " Champion's Share"
of Bricrius house, and other passages in Irish manuscripts, the
rearing and fattening of oxen and pigs for food was well understood
by the ancient Irish. Beef naturally took the first place
among the flesh meats : veal, lamb, mutton, and goat's flesh were
also eaten. Mutton was boiled, and the water in which it was
cooked constituted the basis of the Bruth or broth already
mentioned, which was so freely served out to strangers off the
road, that the word became almost synonymous with hospitality.
Part of the beef was eaten fresh, but a larger part was
cured with salt. The cattle intended for curing were fattened
in autumn, and then driven in from the Boulaglis on the approach of
winter and slaughtered. The carcass was cut up,
salted, and hung up to dry on hooks in the smoky air of the
kitchen. Flesh-meat of all kinds was called Saill, or when
salted, Saillti, or Saill t-salnd, the Sialfaeti of the Norse. Fresh
pork was considered a great delicacy, as is evident from the
curious poem in which Midir promises Befind a banquet of
fresh pork, new milk, and ale." Young sucking pigs were
roasted and were especially esteemed. Like the beef, the
pork was first salted in a Caire, or meat vessel, which
was usually kept in the Cull Tech, or store-house, or in
some recess used for the purpose, or when there was no special
store-house in any convenient place. It was left to season for
some weeks, and then hung up in the smoke. The meat of a
Muc Forais, or house-fed pig, appears, however, to have been
specially smoke-dried in the smoke of green wood, such as
beech, ash, and white thorn. The general name for bacon was
Tini, but smoke-cured hams and flitches were called Tineiccas.
This is almost identical in form with the Gallo-Roman word
Taniaccae or Tanacae, used by Varro for hams imported from
Transalpine Gaul into Rome and other parts of Italy.
Puddings prepared from the blood of pigs also formed an
article of export from Gaul to Italy, as we learn from Varro,
Puddings of the same kind were also made by the Irish. The
Mucriucht, or Caelana, Tona, bottom, or belly pudding, appears
to have been a black pudding of this kind, into which a
little tansy (Tanucetum vulgare) and onions, salt, etc., were introduced
as seasoning. Moroga was another term for puddings,
and, perhaps, included those prepared with liver. Saussages
were also made of different kinds of flesh. The word Tarsun
appears to have included regular saussages and seasoned mincemeats
of all kinds, and melted lard, and in this way was sometimes
applied to seasoned fowl and other birds. The name
Drisechan caorach, or as it is called in Cork, Drisheen, given
to a kind of pudding made of sheep's blood, seems to be a corruption
of the Irish Tarsun; the pudding itself probably affords
an example of one of the ancient Irish puddings. The Cisalpine
Gallo-Roman Tuceta mentioned by Persius and other
Latin writers is perhaps a Latinized form of the Gaulish representative
of the Irish Tarsun.
The Irish Aìre class were expert hunters, and trained several
kinds of hunting dogs, among which the wolf dog attained to
even a foreign reputation, and was much sought after. The
wild boar, the red deer, and other game must have also contributed
to the supply of animal food. I do not know whether
in early times the Irish, like the Britons, avoided eating the
hare, the goose, and the common domestic fowl. The curious
legend of Einglan, king of the birds, and Mesbuachala, the
mother of Conaire Mor, king of Eriu, shows that although birds
were killed as game, there must have been a tradition that at
some earlier period they were considered sacred. In many
of the transformations recorded in Irish legends, birds appear
to have been the favourite forms into which the personages of
the story were changed. Fish seems to have formed an important
article of the food of the ancient Irish. Tales and
poems are full of references to rivers abounding in fish ; and
we have distinct mention of the use of the commoner kinds of
fresh-water fish in the life of St. Brigit, and the ancient life of
St Patrick, known as the Tripartite Life. The salmon was
considered food for kings and nobles; king Cormac Mac Airt
is said to have been choked by a bone of one which he swallowed.
The ancient Britons are also said to have had a prejudice
against eating fish, but I do not know whether in very
ancient times this was shared by the Irish. But whatever

use the Irish may have made of game, fish, etc., the chief part Erin rich in
of their animal food was obtained from their cattle ; and
there can be little doubt that Caesar's observations regarding
the Britons, that they possessed " pecoris magnus nu-
rnerus might be equally well applied to the Irish.
The chief intoxicating drink of the ancient Irish, as of all
northern European peoples, was beer, which was called in old
Irish Cuirm, genitive Chorma, as in the Crith Gablach, where
we are told that the Brnghfer has always two vats in his
house—Ian Ais ocus Ian Chorma,—a vat of new milk and a vat
of beer. The Irish genitive is almost identical with ..... The name
the form of the word in Athenaeus, as amended by Casaubon. kno«m to
As Athenaeus quotes Posidonios, we may look upon the Greek
Korma as a pre-Christian, and, no doubt, genitive form of the
Celtic name of beer, corresponding to the Irish Chorma.
Dioscorides has the form .......The banqueting hall of
the Rig Tuatha, in which the Sabaid or councillors sat, was
called the Citirmtech or Ale house, which corresponded to a
certain extent to the Tech Midchuarda of the Ard Righ
Erind. In the fragment of the ancient tale of Tocmarc Emere,
or Courtship of Emer by Cuchulaind, preserved in the vellum
manuscript Lebor na h-Uidhri, beer is called ol n-guala. The
passage is as follows: "One time as the Ultonians were with
Conchabar in Emain Macha drinking in the Iernguali, one
hundred Brotha of ale used to be put into it for each evening.
This was the ol n-guala, which used to test the Ultonians, all
sitting on the one bank" The " one bank" here spoken of is evidently
the long bank
near the fire, which was called by the Norse the Brugge. In

the words ol n-guala the ol is evidently the same as the Old
Norse ol, Anglo-Saxon Ealu, modern English Ale. Ol and
Cuirm were probably synonymous, the former being perhaps
a borrowed name Possibly ol was a simple fermented, slightly
sour decoction of malt, as it is said to have been in England
before the introduction of hops, and that the wort of the Cuirm
was boiled with some bitter aromatic herbs.
The second part of the name has been explained in different ways.
According to one gloss, the word Guala is the genitive
case of Gual, that is, coal,—ól n-Guala, or "ale of the
coal ", and was so called because the wort was boiled over a
charcoal fire :and Conchabar Mac Nessa and his warriors sat
around the fire and quaffed their ale. Another gloss derived
the name from the pot itself; and a third from the son of the
first owner of the boiler. It must have been a difficult task
in those early times to procure a boiler sufficiently large to
make the ale necessary to regale the household of a king.
Even the Norse gods were on one occasion in the unhappy
plight of not having enough of ale, and to prevent so great a
misfortune in future, it is mentioned that Thor carried off the
giant Hymir's big boiler Conchabar Mac Nessa also went on an
expedition the secret motive of which may have been a great bronze
boiler which a petty chieftain named Gerg possessed. He succeeded in
carrying off the pot and killing Gercf himself. Conchabar had a
celebrated brewing vat, the proportions of

which befitted his wort-boiler. This brewing-vat was called
Daradach because it was made of oak, that is, of oak staves
bound by great hoops. The vat, or Dabach, appears to have
been always placed in the principal hall, which was hence
called the ale house or Cuinn Tech. The ale was doubtless
drunk fresh from the vat as in the old breweries of Germany.
The word Lin is sometimes used for ale, but it is rather a
general term for liquor than a special name for beer. Barley beer,
appears to have been the grain chiefly used for preparing the
malt for beer in Ireland, though there is reason to believe that
spelt wheat was also cultivated in Ireland, and also used for the
same purpose. As oats was the corn crop most usually grown,
it also must have been frequently used for malting, at least in
the more mountainous districts not adapted for barley. The Malt.
Irish name of malt was Brack, genitive Braich, or Bracha, corresponding
to the Welsh and Cornish Brag, whence Welsh
Bragaud, Old English Bragot, modern English Bracket, a kind
of sweetened ale. These words contain the same root as
the Anglo-Saxon Breovan, Gothic Briggvan, Old Norse
Brugga, Old High German Bracvan, whence modern German
Brauen, English Brew. As in other northern countries,
beer at first consisted of a simple fermented infusion of the
malt. Before the introduction of hops, attempts were made used.
to flavour the beer with aromatic and bitter astringent
plants — oak bark, it is said, among other things, having
been employed for this purpose. The Cimbri used the
Tamarix Germanica, the old Scandinavians the fruit of
the sweet gale, Myrica gale, the Cauchi the Iruit and twigs of
the chaste tree, Vitex agnus castus. In Iceland, where hops
do not grow, the yarrow, Achillea millefolium, was used for
this purpose, and was even called Valhumall, or field hops.

Even as late as the last century, the yarrow was still used
for giving a bitter flavour to beer in a district of Sweden65'
From the large quantities of the pressed and exhausted leaves
and stems of the marsh plant, the buck-bean, Menyanthes
trifoliata, which have been found in the neighbourhood of some
Raths, that plant was probably used in Ireland at an early
period to flavour beer. That some plant was used by the
ancient Irish to flavour beer, there can be no doubt. In a
curious legendary life of prince Cano, son of Gartnan, and
Ireland. grand-nephew of the celebrated Oedan Mac Gabhrain, king of
the Gaedhelic kingdom of Scotland, to escape whose hostility
Cano fled into Ireland, there is a poem in praise of the various
celebrated ales of Ircland. We have no means of fixing the

exact date at which the poem was composed. According to
Tighernachi Cano was killed A.D. 687, and the manuscript in
which the poem is found was compiled about the year 1390.
That the compiler of the manuscript was not the author of the
poem is certain ; and judging by the language, and by the general
character of the contents of the book, the poem in its present
form belongs to a period anterior to the twelfth century, and
the original materials out of which the tale was worked up, to a
period three or four centuries earlier. We may safely assume that
in the twelfth century at least, there were many places in Ireland
which enjoyed the reputation of making good ales, some, if
not all, of which were red, or " red like wine". Most of those
places have long since ceased to brew beer, but Caatlebelling-
ham still maintains the reputation of the ales of Muirthemne,
and until within the last few years beer of some local reputation
was brewed in Bray, which may have been the seat of the original
breweries of Cualawi, or of one of them. Among the ales mentioned in the
poem is " the Saxon ale of bitterness".
which deserves some attention, because it proves that England
had begun to make bitter beer at a much earlier period than is
usually supposed. Was the " ale of bitterness" flavoured with
hops? and if not, what was the flavouring plant? These are
questions which the poem of Cano Mac Gartnain does not help
us to solve, but it certainly suggests a doubt as to the correctness
of the date, 1524, assigned by Beckmann, Houghton,
Anderson, and indeed most wiiters on the subject, as that of
the introduction of hops into England. The ancient Gauls and Germans,
as Weinhold tells us,
mixed honey with the wort from which they brewed their beer.
The ancient Irish also mixed honey with their Cuirm, or ale,
and with other drinks included under the term Lin ; but I.
cannot say whether it was before or after the fermentation. If
added before, it would make the beer stronger and more intoxicating
The brewing of beer appears to have been the privilege of
Flaths. The Fer Fothlai, or wealthy middleman who had
Ceiles to whom he gave cattle, received his rent in corn, " for
he is not entitled to malt until he is a Flath". The Brughfer
must have had the privilege of brewing, in virtue of his
functions as public hospitaller, as he was bound to have a vat
of ale always ready for the refreshment of a Rig, a bishop, a
poet, a judge, or other person, and their respective suites entitled »
mi in to public entertainment. In Germany also the brewing of beer
appears to have been in the middle ages a privilege of the

nobility, and in some parts this privilege came down to
comparatively modern times.
Another drink of the ancient Irish, which was only second
in importance to, though perhaps considered a nobler drink
than, Cuirm or beer, was Mede, or metheglin, the Metu of the
Germans, the Medu or Meodu of the Anglo-Saxons, and the
Mjoor (?) of the Norwegians. The great banqueting hall of
Tara was called the Tech Mid ckuarda, or " mead circling
house". The great attention paid to the culture of bees, as is
proved by the numerous laws and legal decisions concerning
them which have come down to us, and the large quantities
of honey supplied as rents and tributes to the Kings and
other Flaths, show that mead was a general and favourite
drink of the ancient Irish; for although, as we have seen
from the account of the " champion's share " of Bricrius
house, honey was sometimes used in the making of sweet
cakes, there can be little doubt that the greater part of the
honey produced in ancient times was fermented into mead.
This drink is perhaps older than beer ; but, so far as I know, not
there is no evidence that at any time in Ireland it was the
exclusive intoxicating drink of the Irish, or that it was
generally used as beer. As in the older songs of the Edda
from the Niebelungen Saga, so in all the older Irish poems and
tales, the heroes drink beer. Metheglin was probably made by
the ancient Irish by simply dissolving honey in water, as the
Romans did, but in medieval times aromatic plants seem to
have been added, as in France,and perhaps in Germany also.
The brewing of mctheglin in the south of Ireland came down to
within my own memory, but is, I believe, now extinct there.
It was as much esteemed in Ireland as wine, and was considered
as the especial drink of women.

The ancient Irish also made a kind of cider called Nenadmim
from the wild or crab apple—numbers of apple-trees being planted in
hedge-rows and greatly prized. A drink
bearing the same name is mentioned as being made from
the "woodberry", probably the Vaccinum myrtillus, and
uliginosum, called in Irish Fraocháin, or Fraoclioga, and commonly
called " Frochans",popularly known in Cork and in
the west of England as Whorts. This liquor seems to have
been the same as that known in later times as " bogberry wine."
The name Bear Lochlanach, or " Norse beer", or more popularly "
Danish beer", given to it, shows that the Norsemen,
like the modern Icelanders, made a similar drink. According
to Herr Weinhold, a berry wine or acid drink is also still made
beer" of - Heather in the German Alps in Carinthia. The " heather beer"
which the Danes arc supposed to have made from the common heath, is a
The only way in which heath could be used for making beer would be as
a substitute for hops, but
even for this use of it there is no evidence whatever.

-Source: On the Manners and Customs of the Ancient Irish, O'Curry,
Eugene, 1873