A study of Irish Food culture before the Arrival of the Potato Presented by: Gastronomy Class, ba, Culinary Arts Students, 2012/13, Cork Institute of Technology introduction



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A Study of Irish Food culture before the Arrival of the Potato Presented by: Gastronomy Class, BA, Culinary Arts Students, 2012/13, Cork Institute of Technology INTRODUCTION From prehistoric times up to the end of the seventeenth century the food Irish people ate was wholesome and in great variety. Rivers and seas yielded large harvests of fish: salmon was a particular favourite. The markets of medieval Dublin offered strawberries, raspberries, damsons, sloes, cherries, and blackberries from the Dublin hills; pears, plums, and apples are often mentioned in early sagas, luxuries like almonds, figs, raisins, and walnuts were imported by the spice ships of southern Europe. Corn and milk were the mainstay of the population (Connolly, 1994, p. 16). The arrival of the potato in Ireland may well be one of the earliest historical instances of the negative impact of a ‘convenience food’, with approximately one million people perishing and another million again emigrating despite the plentiful supply of other native produce. During the 1840-50s, much of Europe’s potato crop was ravaged by blight but the consequences for Ireland were disproportionately disastrous in a country where such a large percentage of the population was almost entirely dependent on the potato for their staple diet. Yet, the potato only arrived in Ireland towards the end of the 16th Century, this paper, therefore, seeks to establish a clear picture of the Irish diet prior to the potato’s introduction and its establishment as the predominant foodstuff for so many of the Irish population. With so few direct Irish culinary sources (cookbooks, recipes etc) available, until comparatively recently, we have primarily targeted secondary sources for information including social history, travel reportage and literature in general. We have also examined and considered sources after the arrival date of the potato in Ireland on the assumption that while it became the dietary staple for so much of the population; they were by no means in the majority. It is, therefore, logical that many other then-available foodstuffs, dishes and cooking methods would have also existed prior to the potato’s arrival and, indeed, would have made up a substantial proportion of the diet for the same section of the population subsequently most affected by the failures of the potato crop. This investigation is, therefore, divided into sections, dealing with specific areas of produce, diet, cuisine and culinary techniques, and also investigates further any links between these factors to arrive at an overall picture of Irish diet and cuisine prior to the 1590s. The results illustrate an infinitely more complex and sophisticated diet than was available to many by the time of the famine, even to those in the poorest or the peasant classes. Though British State policy meant much of this produce may have been unavailable to those most desperately in need, there were still alternatives, including foraged foodstuffs, but the adoption of the potato as the primary and near exclusive dietary staple by so many led to the loss of the knowledge and skills that could have prevented the very worst ills of the Great Famine and its enormous impact on Irish history. THE BREHONS AND FOOD DURING THE IRISH CELTIC PERIOD As the Bronze Age drew to a close, Celts arrived in Ireland between 500 B.C. and 600 B.C., and their reign lasted until 12th century A.D. They brought with them their farming knowledge, skills and techniques and their ability to use iron for the production of weapons and tools. There are many examples of various types of ploughs and ards which were central to the technology of Celtic agriculture. It can be alleged that with better tools, higher yields could be grown and harvested. This, in turn, would give rise to a more settled lifestyle rather than the nomadic lifestyle of the hunter/gatherer. According to Pierce (1989), Celtic society was based on a class system comprising nobles, landowners and warriors, the Aes Dana (men of art and learning) and commoners (free men who didn’t own land). The Brehons were judges and belonged to the Aes Dana and their role was to rule on legal matters. While the ancient laws of Ireland originated with the Pagan Brehons they were later revised by Saint Patrick and it was during the early Christian period that these laws were first written down in a manuscript called the Senchus Mór. Prior to this, Brehon law was handed down orally. The durability of the Brehons and their code was remarked on by Ginnell (1894): They prevailed over the country until the arrival of the Anglo-Normans, and they prevailed over the whole country except the Pale until the beginning of the seventeenth century. Pierce (1989) further explains that Celtic social life was organised on the clan system of lineage based groups, usually owning and occupying a particular territory and having political and legal implications. Celtic society was well organised with a sophisticated code of law called Brehon Law, which remained in use until the early 17th Century. Joyce (1913) explains: The Brehon Code formed a great body of civil, military and criminal law. It regulated the various ranks of society, from the king down to the slave, and it enumerated their several rights and privileges. The Brehon laws included a rule about what to feed a fostered child for breakfast: The children of the inferior grades are fed to bare sufficiency on stirabout made of oatmeal and buttermilk or water, and it is taken with stale butter. The sons of the chieftain grades are fed to satiety on stirabout made of barley mean upon new milk, taken with fresh butter. The sons of kings are made upon stirabout made of wheaten meal upon new milk, taken with honey (Mahon, 1998, p. 64). It is from the Brehon Laws that we learn much about the manner in which the Celts and early Irish Christians lived, their culture, way of life, values and foods. The Brehon Laws deal with virtually every aspect of daily life, are full of regulations pertaining to food and drink. In the Senchus Mór there are even detailed judgements on ‘eating stolen food’ and ‘refusing to give food’. The Brehons had laws on land ownership, watercourses, fishing, bee keeping, the protection and felling of trees and deer trapping. Wealth was measured by ownership of land and livestock. The status or rank of each individual was measured in wealth. Penalties or fines imposed for crimes committed against an individual were according to their wealth. The Brehon Code gives an indication of the values the Celts placed on various foods and their sources. Brehon Law and Bee Keeping The importance of bees and honey can be illustrated by the Bechbreactha (Bee Judgements or Bee Laws) which are over twenty pages long. These laws covered ownership of swarms, hives and honey production. To the Celts, honey was their main sweetener and the beeswax was used for candles. Many monasteries kept hives for honey plus ‘beeswax candles provided pure clear light’ which was preferable for use on the high altar rather than candles made from tallow (Connolly, 1994). Connolly claims that early hives used in pre-Christian times were probably skeps (baskets) made out of woven wicker and later from coiled straw secured with brambles. As well as a sweetener, honey was also a principle ingredient used in an alcoholic drink called mead, the drink of Celtic warriors and noblemen. Brehon Laws: Trees The Bretha Comaithchesa (Laws of the Neighbourhood) gave protection to the felling/damaging of trees. The Brehons listed 28 species of trees and shrubs which were then classified into the nobles, commoners, lower division and bushes of the wood: Breatha comaithchesa stipulated four categories of trees for protection - the lower ranks included shrubs and even bracken, which were of considerable importance within the economy of the time (Nelson, 1993, 16). Severe fines for felling a ‘noble’ tree —which included trees that provided food such as oak, crab apple and hazel — was two and a half milch cows. In a seventh century Irish Legal poem, entitled Críth Gablach and translated by D.A.Binchy, there are lines referring to “larceny of tree-fruit”, and reference made to penalties imposed for stealing both wood and nuts; A single cauldron’s cooking-wood that is cut, A handful of ripe nuts to which one stretches not his hand in satiety. Hazel Tree Under Breatha Comaithchesa, hazel was granted the highest rank of ‘Noble’ because of its nuts which formed a valuable source of food. Possibly, hazel nuts were both eaten fresh and stored for use during the winter. Crab Apple The crab apple was also classified as a ‘Noble’ of the woods. Apples are frequently praised in ancient Irish writings, Coleman (2009) gives an indication of the esteem in which apples were held in the line he quotes from the Aodh O Dochartaigh poem, Dúnaire Finn (written in 1627): I will eat good apples in the glen, and fragrant berries of the rowan tree Linnane (2001) suggests apples were the only fruit to be cultivated, while Renfrew (2005) suggests crab apples may have been used to make cider and verjuice which is very similar to vinegar and would have made a good substitute until the introduction of vinegar to the Celts by the Romans. Verjuice could have been made by placing the apples in a heap to sweat, discarding the stalks and any bruises, and then crushing the apples to extract the juice. The juice could then be strained and stored for a month before it was ready to use. Rowan The rowan, under Brehon law, was classified as a ‘Commoner’ of the wood. Nelson (1993) notes rowan berries were gathered for food and for fermenting as a drink and claims that the resulting drink resembles a perry (pear drink). Hawthorn Hawthorn was also classed as a ‘Commoner’. Its berries are also edible, even if they are rather dry and insipid. Again, Nelson (1993) notes that wine may be made from hawthorns. A traditional country saying is “When all fruits fail – eat haws” Elder Elder was classified in the lower order of the woods. This may be due to the elder being an opportunist and quickly establishes itself. A dry red wine may be made from its fruits (Nelson, 1993). Seaweed From the Brehon Code we know the Celts used seaweeds as a food and placed a high value on it. Dillisk (also known as Dulse) is mentioned: According to the Brehon Law, seaside arable land was enhanced in value by having rocks on its sea-border producing this plant, and there was a penalty for consuming the dillesk belonging to another without leave (Joyce, 1906). IRELAND’S TRADING PARTNERS BEFORE 1586 The Vikings arrived in Ireland in the middle of the 9th century, signalling the beginning of Ireland as a trading nation. The Vikings soon developed powerful ports and regularised trading routes. They established a coastal stronghold in Dublin, and later in Limerick, Wexford, Waterford, and Cork. Masterful sailors, Viking settlements were spread as far afield as Russia, Spain and Italy: The Vikings introduced an organised trade to Ireland. The development of their towns, and later the widespread Norman Foundations helped this trade and encouraged contacts (Dudley-Edwards and Hourican, 1973). Their strong sailing ability coupled with Ireland's excellent natural harbours and the bounty of the country's fertile land all contributed to the establishment of Ireland's first real commercial links to France, England and the continent. Many commercial centres emerged from coastal towns and each port had particular trade links with others throughout Europe; for example, Cork traded with Louvain, Bordeaux, Bristol and Florence. Ireland’s trade position before the beginning of the seventeenth century was excellent; this is further illustrated by Ireland not only exporting necessities, but importing luxuries: Broadly speaking the Irish exported necessities and imported luxuries. Their staple exports were hides wool and grain. Important imports were spices from Lisbon, Florence and Lucca, corn and English cloth, and salt, coal, silks and metals. The major import was however wine, which came mainly from France (Dudley-Edwards and Hourican, 1973). Ireland could afford luxuries because it was possible to produce more than was needed for the Irish population and the surplus requirements were exported very profitably. The English, however, soon realised the value of the wealth which was generated by this trading and moved to enact legislation to impose heavy taxation. Following the defeat of the Normans and the colonisation of Ireland by the English, trading of both imports and exports between Ireland and Britain began fully, with Britain becoming, as it remains today, Ireland's main trading partner. An overview of Anglo-Irish trade in the Sixteenth Century highlights that: Fish, hides and leather, wool and linen, hawks hounds and horses, fats foodstuffs cattle and corn timber glass old pewter brass and miscellanea of exports, cloth drapery and haberdashery goods, salt iron coal corn, dyes drugs spices miscellanea of imports (Leask, 1929). Despite the defeat of the Normans by the English finally ending several centuries of Norman rule, trading links between France and Ireland remained strong: It is clear that Ireland has established trade links with the main ports of Normandy and those of the French Atlantic seaboard by the late fifteenth century. This trade survived the disruptions of legislative restrictions, war and piracy throughout the sixteenth century (Lyons, 2003). FRUIT, VEGETABLES AND CEREALS The early Irish diet was seasonal and nourishing. It is clear from archaeological evidence that cereals have been grown in Ireland since Neolithic times though only certain land was suitable and along with milk, cheese and meat, cereals and vegetables formed the main part of the Irish diet from prehistoric times up until the introduction of the potato (Linnane, 2001). Bread does not seem to have been eaten in large quantities, but when it was made, oats and barley were the most common cereals used, the seeds milled in querns or hand mills. Grains: Oats, Barley and Wheat Oats, a rain-tolerant cereal most suited to the Irish climate, and barley acted as thickening agents in most soups and stews. For thousands of years the staple diet was grain based mainly oats and barley eaten in the form of porridge (Joyce 1906). It was first soaked in water, and then spread out on a level floor to sprout. It was turned and raked in ridges as it dried to ensure even drying and prevent spoilage. It was then further dried and stored until needed. Oat meal was used in many ways; for example, porridge was made very thick as a morning meal or almost liquid it was usually eaten at night and was consumed both hot and cold and was a central part of the diet for rich and poor alike although the poor would have eaten little else in their diet apart from vegetables. (Linnane, 2001). Oats was also used for making dry oaten cakes while wheat bread was a high-status food (Sexton 1998). Processed grain was also used for preparing bread, pottage, and stew. Joyce (1906) mentions three kinds of stirabout: oatmeal, wheat meal and barley meal. Oatmeal being the most common, wheat meal considered the best and barley meal inferior to the others. The stirabout was made with fresh sheep's milk though the poorer classes would have used water or buttermilk. Wild and Cultivated Fruits and Nuts There was abundance of wild fruits and nuts, especially hazelnuts, but until the mid-1600s, apples were the only cultivated fruit. Wild fruits included sloe berries, whortleberries, elderberries, black berry, wild cherry, elderberries, black berry, wild cherry, raspberry and strawberry. Wild and Cultivated Vegetables Planted in spring, onion, celery, leeks were widely grown, with leek known as lus and onion as cainnenn. Carrots, parsnips and turnips were also grown and used extensively in breads and stews. Wild garlic, known as creamh was also widely used along with wild cabbage, kale, watercress, shamrock, nettles and sorrel to make broth, soups, stews and sometimes even salads. Nettles tender tops were ate by poor people as a pottage (Joyce, 1906). Peas and beans were brought into the country by Normans and grown extensively to be used in stews and sometimes in bread. CATTLE AND MILK Milk and cattle are an integral part of Irish life and culture and are interwoven both into society and history. There were many words in ancient Irish for milk including ass, loim, melg, lemnacht, lemlacht, draumce bláthach and bainne. The 3rd century Roman scholar and writer Solinus observed: Ireland has such excellent pastures that cattle there are brought to the danger of their lives by overfeeding except now and then they are driven out of the field (cited in Freeman, 2001) Time line: Some of the Important Dates of the History of Cattle and Dairy in Ireland 7800BC It is thought that cattle were first domesticated in Turkey or Eastern Europe around 7800BC. These cattle changed the diet of the people by providing large amounts of meat and milk. It is suggested that all modern day cattle are descended from a single herd of wild ox which were domesticated over 10,000 years ago (Geere, 2012). Neolithic (4000BC-2500BC) The first farmers arrived in Ireland in approximately 4000BC, bringing with them knowledge of farming and domesticated animals. It was established that cattle were brought to Ireland by the Celts as they were not native species. Bronze Age (2500BC-500BC) Major advances occurred in tool-making and large amounts of land were cleared for agricultural uses between 2500BC and 500BC. The Beaker culture, which spread though Europe, brought new techniques for the production of pottery and metal work. Remains of pottery containing traces of dairy fats indicate that these vessels could have been used for storing or drinking fresh or fermented milk products. These vessels have been found in both Britain and Ireland. (Lucas, 1989) Iron Age (500BC - 500AD) -Early Medieval periods (500AD - 1100AD) During these periods, cattle, especially milking cows, became the accepted unit of currency. Penalties for wrongdoings in Brehon law were quantified in terms of cattle. The number of cattle owned by an individual defined his wealth and status in society. Analysis of cattle bones from the large middens found on early medieval crannogs such as Moynagh Lough and Lagore (Co. Meath) and Sroove (Co. Sligo) also indicate that cattle herds were carefully managed for dairying (McCormick, 1987). Cattle were primarily kept to supply milk, with mostly unwanted male calves and older or unproductive milk cows slaughtered for meat. Corróg, a type of covered pit, was developed and built within settlements. These pits were used to store butter, cheese, milk and other perishable items. Cattle were of exceptional importance in the lives of the early medieval Irish (Lucas 1989). The cow was the basic unit of wealth and social status was measured on the number of cows in a herd: Giving and receiving cows formed the basis of many contracts between members of different social ranks, and these contracts ensured stability within society. Fines, tribute, and marriage presentations were generally paid in cows and cattle raiding was regarded more as a form of political competition than criminal activity (McCormick, 2008) Cattle and Dairy Products in Irish Legend Cattle and milk played a central part in the lives of the people and this is reflected in the lore of ancient Ireland and feature in some of the most prominent myths and legends. These stories and legends give an insight into the lives and times where status was measured by the numbers and strength of their herds. Balor and the Glas Gaibhleann Balor was the legendary leader of the Fomorians, a race which invaded Ireland and tried to oppress the Tuatha de Danann. According to legend, Balor lived on Tory island and ruled over both the island and the people on the nearby mainland. He imposed heavy taxes on his people, including “one-third of their grain, one-third of their milk and, worst of all, one child in every three”. Though he had many cattle, he envied the legendary cow, the Glas Gaibhlinn, owned by the leader of the Tuath, Cian. The Glas Gaibhlinn was a cow which never ran dry, and was extremely strong, it “could travel around three of Ireland's four provinces in a single day giving her milk to whoever needed it” (Heaney, 1995). According to the legends surrounding the Glas, the cow would stand over rock formations known as na Beisti and fill the depressions in the rock with milk, for local people to collect later (Na Beisti are near Dingle and are 2.5m x 2.4m and protrude above ground level to a height of 34cm). In the main rock the depressions or bullauns vary in size, the largest being 42cm in diameter and about 25 cm deep. These depressions or Keelers could also have been vessels or tubs used in cooking. Queen Maebh of Connaught Maebh, the warrior queen from Connaught, is thought to have lived in the first century B.C. Controversy exists in relation to whether she was a historical figure or a legendary one, as she may have been confused with the goddess Medb. Nonetheless, many legends exist about Maebh and her family which include cattle and, according to one legend, she and her husband, Ailil, asked for “twelve white red eared milch cows and a calf with each of them” as part of their daughter's dowry. The most famous of the legends involving Maebh is that of the Táin Bó Cuailnge (The Cattle Raid of Cooley). According to this legend, Maebh and her husband were comparing the size of their herds, as the head of a household was decided by whoever had the most head of cattle. Ailil had one bull more than Maebh, and the only bull that was more impressive than it was the brown bull of Cooley. A bitter war ensued which ended with Maebh stealing the brown bull and fifty other cattle, and returning home where the brown bull and her husband's bull fought. The brown bull ripped the other to bits “tossing his loins as far as Athlone and the liver to Trim”. Aislinge Meic Con Glinne This story, thought to have been created in the 10th or 11th century and written down by a single scribe in 1411AD, tells the story of scholar named Ainiér Mac Con Glinne, famous for his gifts of satire and eulogy, who travels to meet Cathal, the king of Munster, in order to try and help cure Cathal of his gluttony. In order to do this he ties the king to a pillar and recites his idea of a gluttonous kingdom: And I saw a lake of milk in the middle of a white field, and I saw a house of diligent activity under its thatch of butter. When I came into its perimeter to observe its structure: sausages upon their recent boiling. It was them indeed its thatch-rods. Its two soft door-posts of custard, its platform of curds and of butter. The beds of splendid lard. The many shutters of pliant pressed cheese. This use of vivid imagery shows the high esteem in which milk and dairy products were held. Dexter: The Original Irish Cow The Dexter originated in the South Western region of Ireland and, like the Kerry cow, is descended from the predominately black cattle of the early Celts, though by the time of World War Two, there were none left in the country. A report on Irish cattle written in 1845, by David Low, claims the breed owes its modern appearance, name, and probably qualities to a man who was an agent of Lord Hawarden Dexter, who came to Ireland in 1750 and made his home in Co Tipperary. This theory, however, has been disputed by Wilson (1909), a professor of Agriculture at the Royal College of Science, Dublin, stating Dexter cattle are recorded from several earlier sources in other parts of south-western Ireland, too early and too distant from Tipperary to be traceable to Mr Dexter. Another difficulty Wilson finds with Lows' account is the suggestion that anyone could produce a “curious breed” embodying “roundness of form and shortness of legs” within the space of the human life by crossing Kerry’s, a breed described by Low himself as “light in the body and long in the leg. Wilson eventually concludes, on the basis of a series of deductions, that dexters are a hybrid descending from Kerry’s, which are black, and Devon’s, a red cattle imported to Ireland in considerable numbers from England in the 17th and 18th centuries. Even after the Dexter gained an identity as a breed, its history remained intertwined with that of the Kerry. For many years, the two breeds were registered in a single herd book, and some people considered Dexters to be a dwarf type of Kerry. Recent blood typing research, however, has determined that the Dexter and the Kerry, though closely related, are genetically distinct breeds, and they should not be crossbred with each other. The Dexter has always attracted attention because of its size, and it has sometimes been marketed as a novelty or ornamental breed. This practice has obscured the breed’s production value. Dexters are hardy, forage-efficient cattle with excellent maternal qualities. As with other dual-purpose breeds, the quantity of milk produced varies between strains; those strains which have had more dairy selection produce more milk, while those which have been selected for beef produce less. The milk produced is high in solids, making it ideal for butter and cheese production and Dexter beef is lean and high in quality. Dexters are good browsers and can rid pastures of some pest plants, and they may also be used as oxen. Other Meats All the evidence both written and archaeological tends to show that in Ireland, prior to the potato, cattle dominated the rural economy. The most recent and most detailed examination of faunal remains in Ireland was carried out by P.J. Crabtree on animal bones from Dun Alinnne, Co Kildare, a Bronze and Iron Age settlement. Here the great majority of the more than 19,000 bones identified belonged to cattle (54%) and pigs (36%), while sheep and goats (7%) and horses (2.5%) were poorly represented. (Linnane, 2000). Beef, for this reason, became known in Brehon law as winter food' as it was salted for use over the winter months and 'white meats'/bia bán (cheeses and curds) were known as 'summer foods. Pigs and Sheep Large numbers of pigs and some sheep were kept by most families; the sheep were kept in open country and on the hills and were used for the production of wool. The pigs were herded in the oak forests, which covered more than a third of the land of Ireland where they fed on the acorns that fell from the trees, and on other woodland fodder: Beside them are hearths blazing with fire, with cauldrons and spits containing large pieces of meat. Brave warriors they honour with the finest portions of the meat. The Celtic Iron Age saw the establishment of salt working around Britain coasts. The salt helped to preserve meat for winter use, and especially the pork so well loved by the Celts. The hams prepared by their neighbours in Gaul were exported to Rome as a delicacy; but we know no details about the salted meats of Britain. According to an Italian recipes of the mid-second century BC, hams had to be covered with salt and steeped in their own brine for seventeen days, dried for two, rubbed over with oil and vinegar, and them smoked for a further two days. It is likely that Celtic Britons followed similar practices, barring the oil and vinegar dressing (Wilson 1992). Birds, Wild Boar and Hedgehogs Though meat was always more usually eaten by the wealthier, birds, wild boar and goats, deer and even hedgehogs were commonly eaten. Feasting on special occasions was indulged in by all but mainly by the rich. (Linnane 2000) Drisheen and Offal The amount of manual work it took to produce food and livestock meant that when cattle were slaughtered, organs would also be used as food rather than wasted. One of the earliest references to offal use in Ireland is from an eleventh-century tale called Aislinge Meic Con Glinne (The Vision of Mac Conglinne). The story tells of the King of Munster, who has a demon of gluttony in his throat, and his exploits to satisfy his insatiable appetite. Based in Cork, the King meets a wandering monk and a litany to the choice foodstuffs is illustrated by: Son of fat, son of kidney, son of rib, son of shoulder, son of well-filled gullet … son of hip, son of flitch, son of striped breast-bone … son of paunch, son of slender tripe (Meyer 1892) It is clear that these cuts of meat offal were considered luxury items fit to grace the King's table and shows appreciation of flavour though five hundred years on these same dishes would be classed as undesirable and set aside for the working class. Even though from 1680 onwards, offal is noted as an unavoidable feature of life in Cork (Sexton, 1994), literary references are sparse pre 1586. In cultures across the world the idea of consumption of blood always arouses strong feeling and is sometimes even classed as a taboo. In European paganism, blood was considered to have the power of its originator and was at times consumed for that very reason: In the past, and even to some extent in present times, blood has been a staple food of nomadic tribes (Berbers, Mongols, etc.), for whom it is a renewable resource; they draw it from living animals (horses, cattle, camels), then staunch the wound (Davidson,. 1997). Linanne (2001) proposes that a similar technique was used in Ireland. If the blood was not consumed, it was preserved with salt, cut into squares and kept for eating during scarcer times: English observers noted the cutting of cattle for blood to be eaten in jellified form or mixed with butter and salt and made into puddings as universal among the Irish of the 17th century (Davidson, 1997) Before the introduction of the potato, eating of blood was cited in the above mentioned Aislinge Meic Con Glinne. Then I saw the doorkeeper, his stead of bacon under him, with four legs of custard … with its face band of the side of a heifer around its head, with its neck-band of old-weather dressan around its neck (Meyer, 1892). The word dressan has been translated as “spleen” and it’s not unreasonable to assume that dressan and drisheen are one and the same food stuffs, blood pudding from Cork. (Sexton, 1994). The most common drisheen is made from cows and sheep’s blood, alternating ratios in line with the seasons, to create maximum palatability. The book of Lismore also references the eating of blood in the Fifteenth Century. This is what the Munster men did: they drew blood from their cattle, put it in vessels and drew it up pipes, for it was their custom to collect dew every morning and mix it with the blood, leaving it thus until liquidized and then drinking it (Lucas, 1989). From the Fifteenth to Nineteenth century there have been numerous references to the consumption of blood and it went on to be established as a foodstuff in the common Irish diet. One of the first recorded recipes for a blood pudding anywhere comes from a first century Roman named Marcus Gavius Apicius and consists of pine nuts, leeks and blood cooked in a stock and wine mixture. Irish blood pudding was also made with locally available ingredients of blood boiled with butter and blood, baked then buttered. We can postulate that the later use of the natural casing, usually the intestine, to cook the blood in, afforded superior convenience in storage and transport when trading. The ways to consume blood were limited to raw, solidified (coagulated usually with salt) and cooked whether in a casing or not. HONEY The scribe ‘Solinius’, in the 2nd century AD, stated that Ireland originally had no bees. The first accounts of bees in Ireland date back to shortly after this time. An old folklore story tells of a sixth century saint, Madomnoc, bringing bees from Wales by ferry, the bees having become attached to him while he tended them in a Welsh monastery while studying under St David. Apparently, the bees flourished and spread throughout the country from then on, and “... their honey was ever sweet and the green forests of Ireland were perfumed with their sweetness...” (Mahon, 1998). Honey was widely used in Ireland as a sweetening agent until the general acceptance of sugar in the 17th century. For a long time before this, sugar was only found at rich peoples tables, as it was an expensive import. Bee hives were common all over the country, both wild and domestic, and every house would have had access to honey at some point, some houses using it in abundance on a daily basis but in more straitened times, it would have been only the wealthiest classes who could afford to consume it on a daily basis. Honey was widely used in many food preparation techniques, to coat meat, and to sweeten a variety of foods such as milk, bread, cakes, etc. It was also placed in bowls at the dining table at every meal in most Irish households at one point or another, so diners could dip their food into the honey as they consumed it, further sweetening it to individual tastes. Another very important use for honey was the making of mead, an alcoholic beverage made by fermenting honey and water and flavouring it with herbs and spices. Every house brewed their own, and every recipe was different, although they all had similar ingredients and processes. Another drink frequently mentioned in records was Bragget, made by fermenting ale with honey, and it was a favourite at feasts and festivals. It is obvious that honey in early Ireland was produced and collected in large amounts. According to Mahon (1998), barrels and vessels have been found and proven to have been used for honey that were “so large and heavy that it could only be lifted as far as the knees by a man of strength” . FORAGING Foraging is defined as 'to gather; look for food; to collect; conduct a search for something edible to consume' and foraging would have provided inhabitants of the island of Ireland before the 16th century with a diverse and nutritious supplemental diet. Linnane (2001) observed that during the first 8,000 years of history, very little is known about the people who lived in Ireland, only that they were 'predominately hunters and gatherers’. According to Linnane (2000), the introduction of the potato into Ireland is seen, by some, to have led to the disappearance of ‘many of the activities associated with the older methods of food production’ (Lucas, 1962). Wild foods such as sorrel, nettles, ramsons, bode and wild garlic are mentioned in folklore and one story of the celebrated Saint, Colmcille, often referred to as Saint Columba, tells of him observing a young woman picking nettles for food in a churchyard in Iona, whereupon, he vowed he would live on nettle soup from that moment on. A recipe attributed to him suggests that the nettles should be picked when there young, four to five inches tall, a hand full for each person, ‘boil, drain, chop and return to the pot’ www.independent.ie add water and milk, oatmeal was used to thicken the broth. Wild Fruit Wild fruits were frequently mentioned as part of foraging, and references have been made to sloes, raspberries, crab-apples, elderberries to name but a few, but the most often mentioned appears to be the blackberry. The Táin Bó Fraiech or cattle raid refers to ‘Ailill desires fraeich to fetch him some since he loves them’ (Lucas, 1962). Nuts Irish native hazel, An Coll, is strongly rooted in Irish history and mythology. The Celts believed it was the plant of knowledge and not only did nuts provide food but the wood was used for building. It has been suggested that similar to hibernating animals building up a winter store, people would have foraged for their nuts in autumn to help them survive winter. Mabey (1972) states that it is difficult to confirm exactly how wild plants were consumed before agriculture began, dating back to Neolithic times. The seeds from a number of species have been discovered and when plants were gathered from the wild, inevitably, seeds would fall and subsequently grow by the dwelling-places. Mabey (1972) further states that during the Elizabethan era, knowledge of and understanding of wild herbs and plants was pretty impressive and, anyway, they had not other choice as medicine and cultivated vegetables were not readily available. The Celts took serious advantage of all the edible wild weeds available and lists the use of fungi, rock sapphire, thistle, chickweed, ramsons, sorrel and hawthorn. Fat hen also known as Meld was believed to have been one of the main ingredients used in Britain prior to the cabbage. Like the hazelnuts, edible roots such as wild parsnip and dandelion wold have been stored for the winter months. COASTAL AND ISLAND FORAGING: SHELLFISH, SEAWEED, SEABIRDS AND SEALS As an island nation, Ireland has always had access to enormous bounty from the sea, particularly fish but also what may be considered the 'secondary' or 'alternative' marine food sources available to those living on the islands and coasts, in particular, foraged foodstuffs such as seaweeds, shellfish, the eggs of seabirds and even the meat of seabirds, seals and porpoises. There are various theories as to why fish has never featured as prominently as it might in the Irish diet, with Sexton suggesting that though fish was often eaten 'because of the preponderance of feast days and holy days and the forty days of lent', it was 'heavily salted stockfish' requiring much effort to render it edible and '...by consequence, fish-eating was regarded as a penitential rather than enjoyable affair' (1998). In addition, Sexton wonders if the eating of fish is 'linked with fasting or poor people's food', implying a further reason for disdain. If that sentiment existed, then foraged marine resources such as seaweed, shellfish and seabirds and their eggs must surely be placed even lower down the ladder in terms of public perception. Seaweed Irish literary references to seaweed are plentiful from the early ages. Lucas (1960) notes that: Along the coast seaweeds of different kinds appear to have been used as food from ancient times to the present day. Duilesc or dulse, in particular, is mentioned among the refections due to a tenant and receives recognition elsewhere in the [Ancient] Laws [of Ireland].' In Kinsella's translation and adaptation of Táin Bó Cuailgne, Cúchulainn makes reference to 'cress or sea-herb' (1969) though O'Rahilly translates 'sea-herb' as 'laver' (2010). Sexton quotes from the Seventh- to Eighth-Century law text Crith Gablach (Branched Purchase) which deals with the status of individuals in society, noting that a visiting farmer of some status should be fed 'a sercol of condiments' that includes 'duilesc' (1998). Sexton also notes the 12th Century text, Acallam na Senórach (The Conversation of Old Men), paying 'special attention to the quality of dulse found in the coves of County Clare'. By 1691, however, its status was declining,g with Dineley observing that the 'vulgar Irish' living near the shore eat 'dillisk and slugane, ie [sleabhcán or sloke]'. By the time of the famine in the 1840s, its fortunes had fallen to the point that Woodham-Smith (1991) categorises it alongside other last-ditch, desperate measures to combat starvation: They were starving, eating old cabbage leaves, roadside weeds, rotten turnips, while on the coast itself the population lived on dilisk (edible seaweed) and raw limpets. Ua Maeleoin (1994) writing about Blasket Islanders in the 19th century and first half of the 20th century notes: 'Dulse, sea lettuce and pepper dulse, and certain other varieties of seaweed – especially sea belt and murlins – were eaten' It was also essential to the Blasket Islanders as a fertiliser to help grow food. Domestic seaweed consumption in Ireland, however, fell away other than in the traditional coastal strongholds with Sexton noting that 'to this day, creathnach [shell-dulse] is still a prized delicacy on the Aran Islands', and it is only in recent years that it is beginning to find a new 'audience' (1998, p. 105) Shellfish With such a cornucopia of shellfish to hand and so easily accessible, it is no surprise to find a long tradition of its consumption with shell middens dating back to the Mesolithic or Middle Stone Age (Sexton, 1998). Sexton further quotes an anonymous traveller in the 1670s: 'their seas round about supply them with all manner of shellfish, and other sorts, the choicest which ever came to Neptune's table.' But though foreigners marvelled at this maritime bounty, Irish attitudes were not so clear-cut. Woodham-Smith, noted that by the time of the Great Famine, 'raw limpets' had become a food of last resort though the Blasket Islanders relished them as a regular part of their diet in those same years (Ó Crohan, 1936). Even in the years after the famine, Blasket Islanders showed no real interest in lobster, for example, other than eating the roe while out fishing, preferring to catch it solely for selling on to larger French and English boats that arrived specifically for this purpose. (Ó Crohan, 1936). Shellfish, however, did form part of their diet with Ó Crohan, referring to the 'custom here to go and get “kitchen” from the strand - limpets, winkles and such-like sea fruit of every kind, including crabs’ (1936). Linnane (2000) also observed: Coastal communities collected a variety of shellfish (razorbills, cockles, clams, oysters, limpets, periwinkles, mussels, prawns and crabs) added seaweed, some herbs and vegetables to make a soup/stew, which was left simmering for hours then eaten with oat bread. Similarly, Ua Maoileoin noted: Shellfish, such as limpets and periwinkles, were another great favourite. Dulse, sea lettuce and pepper dulse, and certain other varieties of seaweed – especially sea belt and murlins – were eaten. If they were hungry enough they would eat the limpets and periwinkles raw. They were not very fond of lobster as food, but they would eat the lobster roe from their fists while fishing. Crab was the most prized of all, especially the red crab, not boiled but roasted in hot ashes. Some hardy individuals would eat raw crab straight from the sea. Seabirds: Eggs and Meat Islanders around the Irish coast appear to have considered every possible food source and sea-birds had been providing valuable sustenance from as far back as the Bronze Age (Baldwin, 2012). Neither was it just their eggs, with Baldwin noting that the 'archaeological evidence effectively [confirmed] prehistoric fowling (cormorant, gannet, and Manx shearwater bones from Bronze Age. Ó Crohan (1936) mentions hunting the young of the gannet, referred to in Irish as the 'corraí' as 'heavy as a fat goose' (p150). Seals and Porpoise Considering the difficult lives of the Irish population in remote locations, islanders would turn to any food resource available with rabbits, for example, being a very popular meat source but a more popular resource again was seal meat and the hides were used for floor mats and oil from the liver used in the treatment of wounds and injuries and as fuel for lamps (Ua Maoleoin). The oil was also used as a food, eaten with bread and the meat was salted and deemed nicer than pork. The flesh of the porpoise was also eaten when available, sometimes called 'sea bonhams'. FULLACHT FIADH A Widespread and Diverse Bronze Age Cooker The fullacht fiadh or, as most archaeologists prefer, burnt mound, was a prehistoric site in Ireland with 7,000 recorded and over many hundreds excavated (Waddell, 2010). Early Irish literature also shows that the word fullacht (Old Irish for cavity) is not only applied to a water filled pit for boiling meat, but also to an outdoor cooking pit where meat was roasted on a spit or over an open fire (Kelly, 1998). Fia is a derivative of fiadh, (deer) or perhaps fianna (the legendary heroes of Celtic mythology). Dennehy (2008) explains that these sites are composed of a trough (lined with stone or wood), a hearth (being necessary for the required heating of the stones) and a mound (made up of charcoal and heat shattered stone, by-products of the cooking process). According to Dennehy (2008), the stones that were heated and shattered during this process were discarded nearby, gradually accumulating to form the mound surrounding the trough. Bathing and Hygiene It has been shown that the fullacht fiadh could have been covered by light structures and used as saunas or sweathouses such as that at Rathpatrick, Co. Waterford (Eogan & Shee Twohig, 2012). A similar sweathouse structure has been excavated in Co. Kilkenny with a large adjacent pool, presumably for plunging into (Waddell 2010). Butchery and Tanning A number of sites in Carlow and Kildare have produced animal bone; horse, pig, sheep, deer, goat and cattle (Waddell 2010). Not all fullacht fiadh sites, however, yield good specimens; the damp soil conditions associated with burnt mounds do not generally favour the preservation of animal bone as the soil becomes acidic over time. A mound in Cavan with a wooden trough produced five cattle teeth, one deer tooth, two deer antlers, one horse jaw bone and other fragments. The horse bone had been chopped and two other bones showed breaks which might have been due to butchering. The survival of bone here may have been due to reduced soil acidity caused by the effects of carboniferous limestone on the soil and in the ground water (O’Kelley, 1954). Some troughs may have been use for boiling meat and skins to extract fat. This fat could have been used to provide “flavoursome water to cook dough dumplings” (Waddell, 2010). An excavation in Co. Clare revealed the remains of a beetle whose larvae live in oak-galls, and these growths on oak trees have long been associated with cloth dyeing and tanning (Waddell 2010). In summary, it is clear that large quantities of hot or boiling water were produced and the sites often had long periods of use as attested by the large mounds of stone. A lack of consistent artifacts excavated at fullacht fiadh sites continues to shroud the purpose of the burnt mounds in mystery. The sites, however, were multifunctional, depending on size location etc. The evidence shows many uses and hypotheses from different sources; cooking, cleaning, tanning and with recently excavated sites (due to gas pipeline expansion) perhaps even used in rituals and celebratory festivals (Waddell 2010). Mullaly (2012) concludes that “Overall the fullacht fiadh may have indeed something like our modern kitchen sink—used for many different purposes”. One Pot Wonders The invention of cauldron cooking, a large three-legged pot which was hung over the fire and simmered continuously, resulted in a mini revolution as it allowed people to put all their ingredients into one pot and allow it cook over open flame fire. This changed the ancient cookery methods such as roasting meat over a spit which required constant turning and supervision. The cauldron method allowed the cooking of a variety of ingredients slowly and at a controlled temperature which meant a simpler method of food preparation and a far less intensive cooking regime. Often these meals lacked bulk so barley was on occasion used to thicken dishes and add substance. Those living in coastal regions collected a variety of shellfish such as razorbills, cockles, clams, oysters, limpets, periwinkles, mussels, prawns and crabs, to bulk out these dishes they added seaweed, some herbs and vegetables to make a soup/stew, which was left simmering for hours then eaten with oat bread (Sexton, 1998). In inland areas, meat and game were also cooked in the same way. The cauldron inspired Irish cooks to devise endless pottage and soups such as Irish farm broth, sheep's head broth, clam and cockle soup, and hot lobster soup (Sexton, 1998). Fowl and feathered game were cooked by covering them with a couple of inches of mud or blue clay without even plucking the feathers or removal of the intestine and placing them into a hot fire. When sufficient time passed the clay, which was then baked as hard as stone was drawn out and broken open, the feathers and skin came away with the clay and the bird was cooked without losing any moisture. Hedgehogs were also cooked in a similar fashion (Danaher, 1972). The cauldron was, on occasions, turned upside down on hot stones thus acting in a crude way as an oven. It meant bread could be baked by placing the dough on the hot flagstone in front of the hearth or under the cauldron (O'Kelly, 1954). This inventiveness allowed cooks to expand their cooking options and it also resulted in Ireland’s first oven; though primitive it served its purpose. O’Kelly (1954) observes that the iron or bronze cooking cauldrons would have been valuable possessions, though not easily available. Food Storage and Preservation According to Kurlansky (2002), the Celts ate a great deal of meat, both wild and domesticated and 'Salted meat was a Celtic speciality.' Research shows that the primary means of preserving and storing meat, fish and poultry were by smoking, curing and salting. This allowed them to keep food for the lean winter months, or for those times when animals could not be slaughtered for food. Information on the storage of other foodstuffs and produce is less readily available but one method which is frequently cited is using the bog as a place of storage. Right up to this present time, workers, usually engaged in farm work, landscaping or turf cutting, have come across the remains of baskets or caskets of ‘bog butter’. This was not only an Irish tradition, apparently; similar items have been uncovered all across Europe. Bogs, which are cool in temperature and antiseptic, were favourite places to store food and the earliest find of bog butter was at Cullard, Co. Roscommon, and dates back to the 6th century AD. It is unknown when this practice started but could have been even earlier than the 6th Century (Peate, 1960). The butter, known as 'country butter' was often salted which would develop flavour and also help with its preservation. Meat which was salted was often packed in bog holes and it was believed that the bog water preserved the meat. According to Mahon (1998), the surplus butter was salted, and then flavoured with garlic and herbs, and packed tight into a container or box made of sycamore. The container was then placed in a hole dug out of the bog, covered over and packed tightly with bog earth. A flag stone was placed on top, so they would know where to dig when the butter was required. This practice was used often in times of war or upheaval, or when future crops were uncertain and it was also used to get through the lean winter months when the food sources would be often very limited. Smoking and Preserving Before the invention of refrigeration, farmers had to preserve food, which would have been kept in storage throughout the winter in order to provide food for them and their families in leaner parts of the year. The most common method of preserving food, mostly meats, was salting the food items as salt could be relatively easily made from seawater or gathered from mines: Salt was highly prized, as a means of preserving meats, as brine, for basting, and as an annlann. The Irish distinguished between various types of salt, and salt from England was considered the best. Salt was made from seawater and dug from pits. Mined salt was considered better than that extracted from seawater. Ulster was known to have large natural salt deposits. At dinner, each guest was served either with a small dish of salt or a lump of it, which they ground beneath their cups. Salt was much more expensive then than it is at present, and as one of the few available preservatives, was heavily used. Sacks of salt were often given as tribute (Black-rose.net) With the improvement of salting and smoking techniques, smoked fish became a very valuable product on the Irish trade market bringing a significant source of income and growth to business in Irish ports: By the Ttenth and the Eleventh Century AD, the growth of urban populations, improved methods of salting and smoking preservation, and the development of Atlantic sea fisheries would have led to fishing becoming a much more significant source of wealth and power. It is likely that by the Twelfth Century and Thirteenth century (if not earlier in many locations) most estuarine and riverine fish weirs would have been taken into the hands of monastic houses, bishops, and manorial lords (Childs and Kowaleski 2000). Most meats came from sheep or pigs and farmers preserved it using salting and smoking techniques: Pigs and sheep were eaten for their meat, and every part of the animal found some use in the kitchen. Salted slabs of fat-streaked bacon became a favourite part of the Irish diet, and fat in all forms, from butter to lard, was a valued seasoning (globalgourmet.com) When the pig was killed: The body was washed and then each piece that was to be preserved was carefully salted and placed neatly in a barrel and sealed. Some places added brown sugar to the barrel at this stage, whilst others used juniper berries in the fire when hanging the hams and flitches wrapped in brown paper up the chimney for smoking. Whilst the killing was predominantly man’s work, it was the women who took most responsibility for the curing and smoking.” (Mac Con Iomaire, 2003) In early medieval Ireland, cattle were primarily kept to provide milk and other dairy products (cream, butter and cheeses) and very rarely eaten as a beef. “Rennet from calves and sheep was used in making cheese, while butter was clearly made in large amounts. Wooden buckets, tubs, and churns recovered from early medieval Crannogs also indicate the preparation and storage of such produce, while tubs of 'bog butter' may have been placed in bogs for preservation.” (What-when-how.com) Another very important part of the diet in medieval Ireland was grains, such as oats and barley or wheat. To preserve them for use throughout the year, farmers dried them and ground them into flour to use for baking bread or cakes. There is abundant archaeological evidence for drying of cereal grain in corn-drying kilns and the grinding of grain in both domestic rotary querns and horizontal mill. (What-when-how.com) BREWING IN IRELAND BEFORE 1556 Mead – fermented honey – was probably the first fermented drink, perhaps another food accident. Maybe honey was left out, rain fell, yeast settled on the mixture and nature took its course. In both Greece and Rome, before winemaking, mead was offered to the gods (Brothwell, 1998). Honey was a mysterious substance to ancient people. Greeks knew bees were connected to it, but not exactly how. Romans thought honey fell from heaven and landed on leaves, “the saliva of the stars” (McGee, 1984). Honey is produced from the nectar in flowers gathered by bees to feed young bees. Most of the water in the nectar evaporates, resulting in honey, which is 35 to 40 percent fructose, 30 to 35 percent dextrose, 17 to 20 percent water, and contains small amounts of enzymes. One way to preserve grain through the winter was to ferment it and turn it into beer. In the Middle Ages, beer was flavoured with a herbal mix called gruit, with herbs such as yarrow, wild rosemary, and sweet gale, also called myrica gale. They were considered aphrodisiacs and narcotics. By the end of the Middle Ages, hops had become the preferred way to flavour and preserve beer. Although some countries still make beer without hops, this was the beginning of modern-day beer. The chief intoxicating drink of the ancient Irish, as of all northern European peoples, was beer, which is called in old Irish cuirm, genitive chorma, which is almost identical with Greek ĸopµa (korma), as used by Athenæns, which itself has its roots in the pre-Christian period. Dioscorides uses the form ĸopu. The great Irish code, the Brehan Laws, makes frequent reference to malt, ale and beer, the latter having been erroneously interpreted as beer, and as long ago as the 6th Century AD. The grain chiefly used was barley, although rye, wheat and oats were also starting ingredients. Whatever kind of corn was used, it was first converted into malt (Irish; brac, or braich) by steeping the grain in water for a certain time, after which the water drained off slowly, and the wet gain was spread out on a level floor to dry. During its time on the floor, it was manually turned over and over, and raked into ridges, so that all parts of it were brought to the surface at some stage. It was next dried in a kiln (aith) until the grain became hard or 'malted'. If the malt was not kept as whole grains, it was then either put into sacks as it was crushed, or made into cakes and dried. Malt cakes often became so hard that, before used, they had to be broken into pieces with a mallet, and ground again in order to reduce them back to meal. Whether as whole, kiln-dried grains, as meal in bags, or as dried cakes, this brac kept for any length of time, and it was often in payment of rent or tribute, as is often maintained in the Book of Rights. Joyce (1913) reports that in Senchus Mór, subsequent instructions about using malt are as follows: When the ale was prepared, the ground malt was made into a mash with water, which was fermented; boiled, strained, etc. till the process was finished. Joyce reports that the grand houses had men whose job it was to strain ale for the house guests, chanting along with their work, ag sgagadh leanna, (a-straining ale). Yeast, or leaven (desoad or serba,) was used for both brewing and baking purposes, and contained malt. Ale was often brewed in private houses for family use and, as in other parts of the British Isles, there were numerous amateur 'experts' who understood the brewing process. There were also houses set aside for the purpose of brewing, where a professional brewer carried out his business. Some of these houses were called dligteach, meaning lawful, or legalised, and they were 'fully certificated. Other houses were unlawful (unlicensed), and the law did not recognise or accept their certificates. As a consequence, the proprietors of licensed alehouses took advantage of their position, and were able to charge more for their products. Among the members of St. Patrick’s household was a brewer – a priest named Mescan. A professional brewer in Ireland at this time was called a cerbsire (kirvshirre), a loanword from the Latin, cervicia or cereviciarus (which are borrowed Gaulish words). The native Irish term for a brewer is scoaire. It is likely that a ‘lawful’ alehouse always had a professional brewer in charge, rather than an amateur (Hornsey, 2003). At present, we know rather little about the role of women in the early history of brewing in Ireland, but,according to the Chain Book of the Dublin Corporation, which also decread their duties, they brewed considerable volumes in Dublin in the 14th century. In addition, Logan (1831), remarks that, 'brewing devolved on the Celtic females, and the Anglo-Saxons observed the same rule'. O’Curry (1873) notes that the brewing of beer amongst the ancient Irish appears to have been predominantly the privilege of the Flaths, who were allowed to receive their rents in malt, rather than in ungerminated corn, as was applicable to those in other strata of society. Another type of citizen who would have been permitted to brew would have been the Brughfer, who dispensed public hospitality to those who were entitled to it (such as judges, bishops). At the very least, even if not allowed to brew, the Brughfer would have a vat of ale made available to him. There are several translations of St. Brigid’s Alefast, but they all concur about the motion of consuming ale for all time. Ireland is commonly associated with whiskey but aqua-vitae did not get mentioned in official Irish annals until 1405, when there is a record that a chief, Richard MacRannall, died from an overdose of uisqe beatha. By the time of Henry VIII, the making of aqua-vitae in Ireland had achieved some magnitude, with grain being the raw material rather than wine. Distillation from grain became so extensive that regulations aimed at its constraint were enacted in 1556. Meads and Ales Mead or honey wine, as it is also known, is one of the oldest alcoholic drinks and is a wine made by the fermentation of honey and water using yeast. Mead has been found nearly everywhere in the world where there are or where honeybees but the earliest discovery dates back to 500BC. The fermentation of mead was discovered by accident, when a jar of honey and water were mixed which resulted in fermentation by wild yeast. The Middle Ages was when mead gained in popularity and was introduced to various cultures around the world, with each one producing their own variation; still, sparkling, strong, sweet, dry and spiced. Commonly it is associated with the Celts and Vikings but claims have been made that Mayans, Aborigines and African tribes also produced their own versions. In England and Wales, meads featured dominant flavours such as herbs, dried fruits and spices and these were credited with having medicinal, supernatural and romantic properties. In Ireland, mead became the drink of choice and is referred to in Gaelic poetry. Mead's influence was so great, the halls of Tara, where the high Kings of Ireland ruled, were called the house of the mead circle and soon a medieval banquet was not complete without it. It was believed that mead would enhance virility and fertility and while it was primarily the drink of choice for the rich, peasants were believed to also enjoy it, while the monks made it, both to sell and for their own consumption. The first recorded appearance of the term, honeymoon, was in 1546 and it stems from its association with mead. Mead found its way into wedding ceremonies, and the term honeymoon stems from the Irish tradition of newlyweds drinking honey wine every day for one full moon after their wedding. (www.googobits.com ). In the early 16th century, ale became a popular drink amongst the ordinary working class people, deemed safer to drink than the water and this was when the decline in popularity of mead began. It is believed that the Dutch were responsible for introducing hops to England in the 13th century (though it would be the 18th century before the English brewers began using them). Hops were ideal to impart a bitter and balanced flavour to the ales and acted as a preservative so the ales would not spoil. Irish ale was produced without the use of hops, which are not native to Ireland so, a mixture known as gruit, which was a combination of herbs and spices such as lavender, heather, rosemary, juniper berries and pine needles, to name a few were added in the production process to add a flavour and bitter qualities to the ales. Ales were made from grains such as barley, oats, wheat and rye and it is believed that women and housewives were responsible for its production, one of their many chores, and ales were considered to be full of nutrients and were consumed with bread. Another drink favoured by the Irish was sloe wine, which made by mashing sloe berries and boiling them in water, leaving them at room temperature uncovered for one day, adding honey then putting the mixture into an airtight container and burying it for six weeks in the ground and finally straining it and drinking it as wine.



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