Interesting TF find - Mothering Forums

Forum Jump: 
 
Thread Tools
Old 01-20-2010, 02:08 PM - Thread Starter
 
ursusarctos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2,468
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
So I went to the library archives with DP today and was browsing as he got the books he needed, and a book popped out at me from the shelf. It's an old book about Finnish food traditions. There's a lot of interesting things in it, but what really got me excited was the section about something called "bench gruel" or alternatively "milk of the field" (literally translated), a sour drink made of rye flour and water, "about the thickness of piimä [buttermilk]".

Apparently "bench gruel" was what was drunk by the common folk in "milkless times", that is, in the winter when the cows dried up. Traditionally Finns relied heavily on (raw, cultured) milk products in their diet, so it would make sense that a substitute was needed when the family cow wasn't producing milk. The book cites several old sources describing how "bench gruel" was made:

Quote:
It was normally made a tubful at a time, so that there would be enough to drink for a week. Rye and malt flour were mixed in lukewarm water into a thick mixture. The water couldn't be hot while the mixture was fermenting. The tub was lifted to a bench beside the oven [this would have been a giant wood oven that took up almost a whole wall of a one room cabin and was used for heating and cooking] and covered. After the mixture started fermenting hot water was added and whisked in well to cook it. The mixture now got to sour little by little for two or three days, after which it was ready to drink. It was poured into pints and kept on the table between meals.
In a reference from 1751 "bench gruel" is called "edible batter" and the author adds "The people claim this to be one of their healthiest foods, which strengthens them the most".

What a great substitute for raw/cultured milk to drink! It has all the minerals of whole grain in a highly accessible form, plus the lactobacilli from the long souring process. I found this fascinating, and I wonder if there are corresponding foods in other northern, heavily milk-reliant cultures. I am really curious to try this out for myself now, in a smaller batch of course.

Me treehugger.gif and DH caffix.gif and sweet baby DD heartbeat.gif born 08/2011.

ursusarctos is offline  
Sponsored Links
Advertisement
 
Old 01-20-2010, 02:24 PM
 
Join Date: Dec 2003
Location: Healing my heart
Posts: 6,041
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
How very interesting! I wonder if you could use something besides rye flour?

Mama~Love is offline  
Old 01-21-2010, 07:19 AM - Thread Starter
 
ursusarctos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2,468
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I would think any whole grain flour would work. Rye was just the main flour that people used in Finland. The book also mentioned that sometimes crushed potatoes were added to the mixture. It seemed like the important thing was the addition of malt flour, which makes sense because its sugars are accessible to the microorganisms that would be doing the fermenting/souring. It didn't specify which grain but I would assume it was rye malt.

Me treehugger.gif and DH caffix.gif and sweet baby DD heartbeat.gif born 08/2011.

ursusarctos is offline  
Old 01-21-2010, 08:40 AM
 
Magelet's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2008
Location: San Francisco Bay Area
Posts: 2,697
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
That sounds fascinating, and I'm so wanting to try it. any other cool TF stuff in there you would like to share with us? I'd love to hear more.

Caroline, partner to J, post partum doula, kitchen manager, aspiring midwife, soon to be nursing student, mama to my furbaby, someday a mama to not so furry munchkins, G-d willing
Magelet is offline  
Old 01-25-2010, 06:30 AM - Thread Starter
 
ursusarctos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2,468
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Most of it seems to be devoted to various ways of smoking and drying meat and fish, with only a small later section on grains... and it's arranged as a reference book, not a how-to unfortunately, but if I find anything else intriguing and practical I will post!

Me treehugger.gif and DH caffix.gif and sweet baby DD heartbeat.gif born 08/2011.

ursusarctos is offline  
Old 01-25-2010, 10:50 AM
 
kxsiven's Avatar
 
Join Date: Nov 2004
Location: Finland
Posts: 1,429
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
My Karelian great grandmom used to make many variations of these type of drinks. To one version she added turnips!
kxsiven is offline  
Old 01-25-2010, 05:02 PM - Thread Starter
 
ursusarctos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2,468
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by kxsiven View Post
My Karelian great grandmom used to make many variations of these type of drinks. To one version she added turnips!
Oh my gosh! That's so cool to hear that someone actually has experience with these drinks! Somehow it makes it seem so much realer than just reading about it in a book

Me treehugger.gif and DH caffix.gif and sweet baby DD heartbeat.gif born 08/2011.

ursusarctos is offline  
Old 01-25-2010, 08:18 PM
 
leila1213's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 2,556
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
I don't know, but it sounds a lot to me like the milk substitutes that babies who couldn't breastfeed would get. Although it wasn't too healthy for them! But maybe the books I read weren't really up on the whole culturing/fermenting thing.

***
leila1213 is offline  
Old 01-26-2010, 06:52 AM - Thread Starter
 
ursusarctos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2,468
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by leila1213 View Post
I don't know, but it sounds a lot to me like the milk substitutes that babies who couldn't breastfeed would get. Although it wasn't too healthy for them! But maybe the books I read weren't really up on the whole culturing/fermenting thing.
Yeah, babies historically have been fed gruel if milk dried up Apparently (don't remember where I read this) it was the practice in some parts of Germany at some point to barely breastfeed at all and just give gruel from very early on With terrible effects on the infant mortality rate of course. Though this drink, to my knowledge, was not intended for infants though.

Interestingly, in another book about Finnish folk traditions that I was thumbing through, it said that only children drank straight cow milk - adults would always drink it sour. So I bet you that if the cow was giving even a little milk it would go to the little ones and the grown ups would drink the soured gruel.

Me treehugger.gif and DH caffix.gif and sweet baby DD heartbeat.gif born 08/2011.

ursusarctos is offline  
Old 01-26-2010, 05:00 PM
 
leila1213's Avatar
 
Join Date: Sep 2006
Posts: 2,556
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by ursusarctos View Post
Interestingly, in another book about Finnish folk traditions that I was thumbing through, it said that only children drank straight cow milk - adults would always drink it sour. So I bet you that if the cow was giving even a little milk it would go to the little ones and the grown ups would drink the soured gruel.
Interesting! Could it have anything to do with the fact that babies' bodies make more lactase than adults'? Supposedly if you keep feeding fresh milk, older kids and adults will continue to make lactase, but if you stop then lactase production will eventually taper off? So then you have sour milk for those who may not produce the necessary enzyme?

***
leila1213 is offline  
Old 01-26-2010, 07:44 PM - Thread Starter
 
ursusarctos's Avatar
 
Join Date: Dec 2008
Posts: 2,468
Mentioned: 0 Post(s)
Tagged: 0 Thread(s)
Quoted: 0 Post(s)
Quote:
Originally Posted by leila1213 View Post
Interesting! Could it have anything to do with the fact that babies' bodies make more lactase than adults'? Supposedly if you keep feeding fresh milk, older kids and adults will continue to make lactase, but if you stop then lactase production will eventually taper off? So then you have sour milk for those who may not produce the necessary enzyme?
That's what I was thinking! Especially since now, in the era of pasteurization, it seems that the majority (or at least a large percentage, don't remember) of the Finnish population is lactose intolerant. The solution, of course, has been to develop a lactose-free "milk drink" Anyway, I don't think it's a coincidence at all that only kids used to drink fresh milk!

Me treehugger.gif and DH caffix.gif and sweet baby DD heartbeat.gif born 08/2011.

ursusarctos is offline  
 
User Tag List

Thread Tools


Forum Jump: 

Posting Rules  
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are Off