Butter is not on the list of 10 cooking staples that can outlast you
, but Irish workers have found a 3,000 year-old 77-pound barrel used to preserve butter. It's believed to date back to the Iron Age. Inside the log, according to NBC News
, is some "exceptionally well-preserved butter" that has outlasted about 150 generations.
The barrel and the butter are now at the National Museum of Ireland. Both the oak barrel and its contents are being cleaned, analyzed, and tested for age.
Although the butter is well-preserved it's definitely not going on anyone's corn-on-the-cob. It has "turned white and is now adipocere, a kind of wax."
The barrel was buried in a peat bog, a common practice thousands of years ago. Researchers aren't sure whether it was buried specifically for the purpose of preservation or if it was a practice used to make the butter taste better. For whatever reason it was put in the bog, it was left there for 3,000 years and dug up workers in County Kildare, Ireland.
About 270 packages of butter have been found in various bogs, and other artifacts like swords and wooden object have been found preserved in bogs, too. What's the secret to the preservation?
The bogs' unique chemistry is what allows these artifacts to endure. The peat-building Sphagnum moss grows over anything tipped into the bog, embedding the buried material in cold, acid- and oxygen-free conditions that immobilize bacteria, preventing decomposition.
So there you have it, your Tuesday science/history/culinary lesson, and a topic of discussion for around tonight’s family dinner
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