fulacht fiadh

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fulacht fiadh

Postby the_power on Wed Aug 06, 2008 2:44 pm

So, after the weekend in Craggaunowen, and watching two attempts at a fulacht fiadh, I think I'm a little more likely to say "Using it for cooking is a stupid idea".

There are a few problems with it;
You need a shitload of dry wood I think about a half a cubic meter of wood was enough to heat enough stones to get a small fulacht boiling. If the wood is damp/fresh, it'll barely get the water over 60C
Most of Ireland is covered in limestone. If you get the fire hot enough (900C), the stones turn to lime and you get alkali sand, rather than hot rocks. Not tasty.
If you don't cover the fulacht, you lose a lot of heat, very quickly. Ours stopped boiling after ~20 mins without new hot rocks.
The fulacht is flat, so has a large surface area in contact with wet soil. You lose a lot of heat, quickly
Boiling is just not as tasty as frying/roasting
These guys could make pots, even if they were of animal skin, which must be 10 times more energy efficient
If you wanted to cook with rocks and a big hole, leave water out of the equation, and it'll work much better.

Does anyone know what rocks were usually used at these sites ? Granite also goes to sand at high temperatures.

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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby sabrewolfe on Wed Aug 06, 2008 3:42 pm

Yeah I always thought it was a bit dodgy myself. Perhaps were missing some bits and pieces that may not have survived in the archaeological (SP ? damn IE lack of a spell check) evidence. I know myself from doing outdoor cooking that there are easier ways of boiling water for cooking food. For example barks can easily be folded to make cooking vesssels that are very waterproof again another piece of bark would cover said vessel to stop loss of heat perhaps a mixture of strips of bark and straw stopped water from cooling too much.

Anyway too answer your question the stones would have to be of a stable variety that did not come out of a river or were made of a porous rock as both have a very nasty habit of going off like a grenade when heated in a fire. There is some argument that fulacht fiadh were notonly used for cooking but possibly for bathing, dying or leather work or the basis for a sweat lodge type hut (as postulated by evidence found at Ballyvourney which included post holes for a kind of circular hut that may have kept steam in).

Or you could go by Billy Quinn and Declan Moores (two Galway based archaeologists ) theory that fulachtaí fia were used primarily for the brewing of beer, they experimented by filling a large wooden trough with water and adding heated stones. Once the water had reached approximately 65 degrees Celsius they added barley and after 45 minutes transferred it to separate vessels to ferment, first adding wild plant flavourings and yeast. Some days later they discovered that it had transformed into a drinkable light ale.
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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby Ambiorix apsealgair on Thu Aug 14, 2008 7:41 pm

i remember watching a history class in my old secondry school attempt at cooking in one. it didnt work at all and the stones didnt boil the water only made it luke warm.they were at it for the whole day (9 till 6 i think). they never covered it which as john said will lose alot,if not all of the heat.
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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby Dave Mooney on Thu Aug 14, 2008 10:27 pm

The problem with the Craggaunowen Fulacht Fia is that the local coral limestone was being used. This stuff seems very soft so burning it to mush is easy. Probably great for making lime from, in a dry fire only process. (Looking at Craggaunowen castle they don't seem to have used very much of it in the construction, I'm thinking they may have brought stone in form further down the road.)

As the guys managed to create a limey pit with ease they've probably just re-enforced the idea that these things were for industrial uses such as leather tanning. The first process being the stripping of the hide of all fat and hair, a lime pit is just what you want. Also the fact most of them are self filling, being in low lying areas, would bring up hygiene issues anyway. Not a concern it you're only processing hides. Did anyone mention there was a couple of leaches in the pit before you lads started?

There is a Fulacht on the map about 4 miles down the road, if I get a chance I'll spin down and see what the local stone is like around that.

On the cooking thing; We ran the Fulacht fia in Ferrycarrig with the UCD Archaeology Soc and Dr. Aidan O'Sullivan and it worked a treat. Based on the argument that at some point the stones are the same temperature as the water or will start to draw the heat back out of it, we rotated them out of the pit and kept the water boiling as a result. The stones came out of the pit too hot to touch but heated 3 times as fast when put back on the fire thereby using less fuel. We also reduced the estimated period of use of such a site as with multiple heatings in the one session the stone broke up to useless sizes very quickly.
The meat cooked through and tasted fine to me. My hot tip would be however, 'If you're going to cook your veg in the same pit put it in a net first!'. Took us ages to chase out the chopped leeks. D'oh!

I'm also with the Ale making brigade! http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=dZ6K03ovxCM
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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby Nerva on Tue Aug 26, 2008 9:21 pm

the_power wrote:So, after the weekend in Craggaunowen, and watching two attempts at a fulacht fiadh, I think I'm a little more likely to say "Using it for cooking is a stupid idea".
:lol: :lol: :lol:

There's one on Pullo's uncle's land though...
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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby claimhteoir on Fri Dec 19, 2008 9:24 am

Dave Mooney wrote:On the cooking thing; We ran the Fulacht fia in Ferrycarrig with the UCD Archaeology Soc and Dr. Aidan O'Sullivan and it worked a treat. Based on the argument that at some point the stones are the same temperature as the water or will start to draw the heat back out of it, we rotated them out of the pit and kept the water boiling as a result. The stones came out of the pit too hot to touch but heated 3 times as fast when put back on the fire thereby using less fuel. We also reduced the estimated period of use of such a site as with multiple heatings in the one session the stone broke up to useless sizes very quickly.



I guess if you're hungry or have a noble wanting a feast you find a way! I agree with John though... it'd work better and be tastier without the water... wrapped meat with direct contact on hot stones and then all covered up and insulated... venison a lá Ray Mears.
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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby Kirst on Fri Dec 19, 2008 9:53 pm

Mick Monk a lecturer in UCC has a forthcoming paper about Fulacht fiadh.

In brief; he theorises that they were large cooking pits used for banquet like parties in autumn when they were culling the excess cattle (young males) since they didn't want to feed the extra mouths during winter.

Just thought I'd let ye know.
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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby Andrea L Redden on Mon Jan 12, 2009 3:08 am

Kirst wrote:Mick Monk a lecturer in UCC has a forthcoming paper about Fulacht fiadh.

In brief; he theorises that they were large cooking pits used for banquet like parties in autumn when they were culling the excess cattle (young males) since they didn't want to feed the extra mouths during winter.

Just thought I'd let ye know.

Makes sense. Could you keep us posted with the details of the article when it's published?

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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby the_power on Mon Jan 12, 2009 9:40 am

Actually..here is a point...is there any evidence that there was water in the pits ? I'd love to read a good report on what was found; type of stone, hardness of stone, condition of stone etc. I'd love to try a dry fulacht fiadh. I reckon you could use loose, burnt stone, sand & gravel rather than fine sand to cover meat & hot rocks. I'd love to give it a go, given how awry our attempt at cooking in a wet fulacht fiadh went.

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Re: fulacht fiadh

Postby Kirst on Tue Jan 13, 2009 12:53 am

The whole point of a fulacht fia was to dig one so that the trough would either:

(i)naturally fill up with water (the majority being found in still marshy/boggy areas of land), or

(ii)be situated very, very close to a water source so it could easily be filled, a small stream generally (but still in water-logged soil to seal the water in).

They can be found fairly high up on mountains or hills as well as valley floors.

All sorts of rock is used, I've noticed sandstone and limestone mainly in several I've studied. The stones is generally brittle and breakable by hand since it's been burnt/boiled, several times over. The pieces all have edges that are obviously cracked, not weathered.

There are lots of reports out there, but there are rarely entire papers about them.

Also while the brewing theory is interesting, there would be much more obvious evidence of grains etc. found in the excavations. So far no examples have actually yielded valid evidence for brewing.

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