Thursday Doors

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I’m still in the city of Cork for Thursday Doors this week, with a triple delight for all you lovers of red doors. This image is of the Butter Museum, which is part of the old Butter Exchange, close to St. Anne’s Church and its Shandon Bells Tower (featured in last week’s post). An outdoor butter market started up there in 1730. Due to a thriving trade over the next few decades, a premises was built to house an indoor market, on the grounds where Shandon Castle once stood. The Cork Committee of Merchants was formed in 1769 and established the Cork Butter Market. This became a thriving centre of commerce during the 18th and 19th centuries, exporting butter to four continents and was considered the most important provider of this food in the whole of Britain and Ireland. Apparently, at its peak in the 1880’s it was handling 500,000 casks per year, valued at £1.5 million.

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The former Butter Exchange now houses Shandon Craft Centre

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This is now the Institute of Choreography and Dance

The circular shaped Firkin Crane opened in August 1855 as part of an extension to the Cork Butter Market premises. This design enabled rainfall from the roof and gutters to be collected by a number of chutes and the water was then used to wash the firkins (small wooden vessels or casks). The Danish word firkin means a quarter barrel. A butter firkin had a capacity of nine gallons or eighty pounds in weight. The barrels were tarred and weighed on a large balance called a crane. Tar was used to seal these casks, as they had to be watertight for their overseas journey.

Here’s a slideshow of some of the buildings near the Butter Museum.

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This is how the Butter Market Exchange looked in the past

Butter Market 1900

Butter Market Exchange with Firkin Crane premises on left, c. 1900 (Photo: National Library of Ireland)

We’ve always loved our butter in Ireland and in times past, when you didn’t have a communal ice-house to store it in, a peat bog was a good alternative. There have been many reports of old casks of butter being dug up during the cutting of turf in a bog (more than 400 ancient balls of butter have been found in Ireland and Scotland in recent years) but one in particular is quite remarkable. Over 100 pounds of what is referred to as bog butter was discovered in Tullamore, County Offaly, in 2013. It’s estimated to be about 5,000 years old, dating from the Iron Age.

A love of butter is not exclusive to this side of the Atlantic, by any means. The first recorded student protest in the United States of America took place at Harvard University in 1766 – over butter! As colonists were preparing for the American Revolution, the spirit of the Sons of Liberty trickled down to their own sons, many of whom were attending the college at the time, where they formed the group The Sons of Harvard. When the university first opened its doors, in 1636, the food dished up was a constant cause for complaint and remained so for over a century. Despite numerous attempts at improving the service, the quality of the butter remained very poor. At one meal with particularly rancid butter, Asa Dunbar (the grandfather of  poet and philosopher, Henry David Thoreau) stood up on his chair and proclaimed: ‘Behold, our butter stinketh!— give us therefore, butter that stinketh not.’ This incited half of the student body to walk out in protest. When they were suspended for not giving up the name of the instigator of the rebellion, the students put up a good argument for their case and won.

I’m now going to make myself a nice cup of tea and have a bit of homemade fruitcake smothered in butter. (It’s official, butter is good for you, margarine is bad). Thanks for stopping by and while I munch on my favourite treat I’m off to have a look at what delightful Thursday Doors Norm has on his blog. Then I’m going to follow the blue ‘frog’ link at the bottom of his post for even more doors from around the world. 🙂

Cork Butter Museum

The Firkin Crane

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About Jean Reinhardt

Author of 'A Pocket Full of Shells' an Amazon International best seller, Jean writes young adult and historical fiction. She has been known to shed a tear over Little House on the Prairie.
This entry was posted in food, Historical buildings, Ireland, photography, Thursday Doors and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

50 Responses to Thursday Doors

  1. I visited the butter museum, but I only took photos of the nearby church with the salmon on top! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  2. dimlamp says:

    Excellent post Jean. Butter any day of the week over margarine for me.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. bikerchick57 says:

    I love the story of butter at Harvard. I can’t imagine sitting down to dinner and smelly rancid butter. Ugh! I would protest too.

    Nice doors, Jean. Thanks for a tour of the Butter Museum & Exchange and the wonderful history you provided.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Norm 2.0 says:

    A museum of butter eh? I had no idea.
    I loved this informative post and the lovely accompanying shots. I must admit that with my dietary restrictions I’m careful about my butter consumption these days, but some things absolutely can’t be done properly with anything else. Especially when it comes to baking. Long live butter!

    Liked by 1 person

  5. joey says:

    Fabulous story about Thoreau! I’d never read or heard that before 🙂

    Butter is crucial to living well, and I am not at all surprised about its recent approval from the powers that be. The Butter Museum is beautiful and I’m glad you shared all that with us today.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. vronlacroix says:

    Loved reading this fascinating information.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. jan says:

    Such a delightful post! 5,000 year old bog butter doesn’t appeal to me but you can’t beat freshly baked bread and butter.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Jan. Celebrity chef, Kevin Thornton, has sampled some 4,000 year old bog butter and has buried some of his own in a bog for a six month period. I must google him to make sure he’s still with us, lol.

      Like

  8. msgt3227 says:

    How cool… a Butter Museum!!! I introduced Grass-Fed KerryGold “Pure Irish Butter” to our household within the past month… Pretty sure it is not 5000 year old bog butter as it smells and tastes great! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  9. jesh stg says:

    Thank you for enlightening us and providing us a history of it! I love butter, and even though I didn’t grow up eating healthy, I discovered in my student time how bad margarine was, and I did get the message across, because in my daughter’s refridgerators I only see butter:)

    Liked by 1 person

    • We were fooled for a while by the old ‘butter is bad for your health’ message, but only for a while. Margarine is worse. I’ve never liked the taste of margarine so I make my own spreadable butter by mixing a little water, olive or rapeseed oil and butter together in a blender. It spreads straight from the fridge and tastes yummy. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • jesh stg says:

        You’re creative, Jean:)

        Liked by 1 person

        • Lol! Desperation, more like it. At the time we were short of money and had four young children and it was actually cheaper to make that spread than buy those early ones when they first became available. I found the recipe in a book I borrowed from the library but I substituted sunflower oil for the more expensive olive oil.

          Liked by 1 person

          • jesh stg says:

            You are resourceful Jean:) Wouldn’t have thought to go to the library for a butter recipe!
            In my student time and my kids between 12 and 4 when I started in the US, we had to really scramble to get the bills paid, and it never added up when I made a budget. Can’t come to any other conclusion that friends and heaven helped us!

            Liked by 1 person

  10. Dan Antion says:

    Wonderful photos and history, Jean. I’m sharing this with my wife. We normally buy butter from a local dairy, but recently, she tried some Kerrygold butter which is imported from Ireland. It was pretty good – we still love our local supplier, but it was fun to try.

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Love your doors, and I loved your butter. 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  12. jlfatgcs says:

    Jean, a wonderful post. I dearly love your Thursday doors, as you have a great flavor of history. The stinky butter at Harvard… I wonder if students there know the story. Many thanks! -Jennie-

    Liked by 1 person

  13. Very nice! Do they have a popcorn museum next door? Add a theater and good movie and everyone will enjoy the movie with buttered popcorn. I do like all the doors you posted.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. I had no idea butter had this history in Ireland or at Harvard! Butter for me too not margarine!

    Liked by 1 person

  15. A butter museum. Who da thunk? I’d heard of bog bodies, but not bog butter. What an enjoyable and informative post. Thanks! I’ve also made my own butter, mixing it with the type of olive oil that’s NOT extra virgin, as that has too much taste of its own.

    janet

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Margarine is toxic!! I adore the orange doors 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  17. prior.. says:

    you are a good writer and photographer Jean!

    and have you ever heard of bullet proof coffee?

    the guy was healed while on some hike – and butter was part of the healing elixir – and he suggests folks use a lot of in coffee (well that was a horrid summary of it all – but you get the point) anyhow, I sometimes now add butter to my coffee and it is good – with a little bit of cocoa and milk.
    anyhow, laughing with this:
    Behold, our butter stinketh!— give us therefore, butter that stinketh not

    Liked by 1 person

    • Funny you should mention butter in coffee. My husband started adding it to his after reading about its nutritional value. He says the coffee tastes good and that butter is a health food that’s natural, with a fat that’s easily broken down by the body. I won’t argue with that – I love butter. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • prior.. says:

        oh yeh, I won’t argue either – and it is so dense and satisfying….
        your hubs gets a thumb up.

        I just add way less butter than the bullet proof guys suggests.

        and have you heard of Kerrygold – it is ireland’s best ? or so they tell us here.

        I felt mad because i was at a site that talked about this brand and then later I realized it was an affiliate or promo thing – I felt so dooped – I mean – I don’t mind ads – but don’t deceive – ya know?

        anyhow, we tried the kerrygold and it was “ok” – very light in color, but not bad.

        Liked by 1 person

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