‘Bog butter’ is exactly what it sounds like: delicious (2023)

What’s the weirdest thing you learned this week? Well, whatever it is, we promise you’ll have an even weirder answer if you listen toPopSci’s hitpodcast.The Weirdest Thing I Learned This WeekhitsApple,Spotify,YouTube, and everywhere else you listen to podcasts every-other Wednesday morning. It’s your new favorite source for the strangest science-adjacent facts, figures, and Wikipedia spirals the editors ofPopular Sciencecan muster. If you like the stories in this post, we guarantee you’ll love the show.

FACT: We still don’t understand some of the most basic things about the lifecycle of American eels

By Ryan F. Mandelbaum

American and European Eels are species catadromous fish. This means that they live the opposite kind of life from a salmon—eels spend most of their life in freshwater rivers, and then spawn in the ocean. But when their hormones say it’s time to reproduce, they leave their homes in Europe and North America and all migrate to the same place: the Sargasso Sea in the Atlantic Ocean.

The Sargasso Sea is the only sea bordered on all sides by water, so named because of the vast mats of sargassum seaweed floating on its surface. It’s a patch of calm, blue water produced by a gyre of ocean currents spinning clockwise across the Atlantic. It’s an important place for fish and seabirds alike who take refuge in its seaweed, including American and European eels.

Eels start their lives as small, transparent young, called glass eels. For a long time, scientists thought that these glass eels and American/European eels were different species; it wasn’t until 19th century biologist raised the glass eels in tanks that they realized that hey matured into the big yellow-brown adults. But to this day, their lifestyle has remained a mystery—no one has found a European Eel egg or observed one spawning, for example. They just know that the little guys appear in the Sargasso.

We’re starting to learn more about the strange lives of these eels, though. For example, we now know that the adults of both species undertake the epic migration to the sargasso, dissolving their guts in order to conserve energy for the journey and dying after spawning. Scientists detected adult American eels in the Sargasso for the first timein 2015.Another team announced detecting European eels migrating to the Sargassolast year. Both American and European eels are endangered, critically endangered in the case of the latter. They’re especially vulnerable to fishing, plus the damming of the rivers where they spend their lives after spawning. So It’s more important than ever that we understand the ecology of these enigmatic fish.

FACT: ‘Bog butter’ is exactly what it sounds like, and it might just be delicious

By Rachel Feltman

In 1859, archeologists Edward Clibborn and James O’Laverty published a paper in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology titled, simply, “Bog Butter.”

“For many years past there have been found, from time to time, in the bogs of Ireland—and especially in those of the North—wooden vessels filled with butter in a hardened state, and quite free from putrefaction,” they wrote. “Specimens of these vessels, generally very much broken, are to be seen in all our museums, but until now we have never met with one in nearly a perfect state.”

But in the County of Derry, they said, they’d found a bog butter vessel in excellent shape. Based on this and other specimens, they wrote, along with what they knew about the history of Irish dairy prep, they now felt confident that the substances and pots had to do with butter churning and cheese making.

This was a huge win for the bog butter enthusiast community: in the 1800s there was simply no way to suss out the molecular makeup of butter-like substances you found buried in bogs. That didn’t stop the study authors from sampling the “yellowish white” substance they found, which they said tasted “somewhat like cheese.”

Bog butter is now considered one of the more common historical relics one might find in a bog, especially in Ireland. There have been nearly 500 reported specimens found, and the oldest known example is from 3,500 years ago. The most recent dates to as late as the 1800s, so researchers suspect the preservation method persisted in some rural pockets until pretty recently.

In 2019, researchers used stable carbon isotope analysis on the individual fatty acids in 50 bog butter samples to finally show, definitively, that there was butter in them there bogs.

So, why did people put butter into bogs? The answer is probably: lots of reasons! Why not put butter into a bog?

Researchers point out that it’s a common and misguided trope for archeologists to try to come up with a single explanation for a practice that spanned thousands of years. And not every bog butter is the same: some are in elaborate wooden vessels that predate the butter inside them by centuries, suggesting a longstanding practice of making and reusing bog butter pots, while others were seemingly dumped in without any protection. But their best guesses for those myriad reasons include protecting or hiding precious resources from enemies and authority figures (at times in Ireland you could literally pay your taxes with butter), offering up said precious dairy to gods or spirits, storing the butter to preserve it, or even using the bog process as a way of creating distinct flavors.

To find out more about why bogs are freakishly good at preserving foodand how modern scientists went about making bog butter of their own—give this week’s episode a listen.

FACT: You always get some splashback on you when peeing

By Purbita Saha

Why is peeing into a toilet or urinal so messy? This is actually a big head scratcher in fluid dynamics science. No matter how and where you pee, you’re bound to get a bit of splashback on yourself or your surroundings. This, of course, is amplified if you go no. 1 standing up. The amount of splashback also depends on the trajectory of your stream and the receptacle. Lessening the scatter effect could improve hygiene in public toilets—and make pee-recycling systems more efficient.

Surprisingly, there’s a lot of research on this topic. The Splash Lab, run by engineer Tadd Truscott, has been analyzing the behavior of pee once it rushes out of the human body for more than a decade now. Formerly based at Brigham Young University and now at Utah State University, the team uses giant spray jets and tanks to mimic the act of peeing and trace the splatter pattern of each single drop with high-speed cameras.

Their takeaway was basically that once pee is airborne, it has a mind of its own. Once it’s traveled a few inches outside the urethra, the stream begins to break up. So, when it finally reaches the inside of a toilet bowl or the back of a urinal, it hits the hard surface as thousands of individual drops. That’s when all hell breaks loose.

Depending on the angle at which you pee, plus how much and how quickly you have to relieve yourself, the force of the droplets will guarantee splashback. Closing in the distance, ideally by sitting on or squatting over the toilet, can blunt the damage. You’ll still get some pee on your netherregions, but your clothes, the seat, the floor, and, god forbid, the ceiling should be protected.

If peeing straight down isn’t an option, get as close to the receptacle as possible. Then, pee at a gently sloping downward angle so that the back of the urinal or toilet bowl still captures the bulk of the splashback. Don’t send the stream down straight into the water or drain: Making contact with another surface can cause the droplets to separate and spread out even more.

Some of the findings from the Splash Lab have helped other researchers innovate streamlined urinal designs. A recent one from the University of Waterloo, nicknamed the “Nautiloo,” is shaped like a mollusc shell with a narrow long channel, raised edges, and a curved bottom to force the pee to stream down rather than break into oodles of droplets. It was also tested for urninators of different heights, which makes a difference. Others have experimented with inserts that mimic desert moss from Mongolia to actually absorb or filter the pee to prevent splashback. But none of these are available for public restrooms or your personal bathroom just yet. So for now, it’s best to suck it up and pop a squat. And then maybe clean up after with a bidet attachment.


‘Bog butter’ is exactly what it sounds like: delicious? ›

FACT: 'Bog butter' is exactly what it sounds like, and it might just be delicious. In 1859, archeologists Edward Clibborn and James O'Laverty published a paper in the Ulster Journal of Archaeology titled, simply, “Bog Butter.”

What does bog butter taste like? ›

Perhaps the ancient Irish found that bog-aged butter tasted better! At the Oxford Symposium on Food and Cookery in 2012, attendees tried a three-month-old bog butter created by the Nordic Food Lab to a mixed response. Some enjoyed it, others described the flavor as “gamey” and “pungent.”

Is bog butter good? ›

Bogs are Ireland's original refrigerators. And they are pretty good—even 3,000 year-old bog butter is edible. We know this because archeologists tended to eat it.

What is the oldest edible bog butter? ›

A new study by University College Dublin and the National Museum of Ireland has revealed the remarkably long-lived tradition of using bogs to keep butter edible dates back over 3,500 years. Irish bog butter is almost always made from milk fat which has been buried in a bog. What makes it so special is its age.

Was 2000 year old butter found in the Irish bog? ›

Turf cutter Jack Conaway was cutting peat for fuel in the Emlagh bog when he made a surprising and smelly discovery. Buried 12 feet under, Conaway found a massive 22 pound (10 kilogram) chunk of butter estimated to be 2,000 years old. Oddly enough, such encounters are not unusual.

What is the best and tastiest butter? ›

  • Editor's Choice. Finlandia Unsalted. This creamy, rich butter—both the unsalted and salted versions—is premium in every way, from aroma to flavor. ...
  • Runner-Up. Isigny Ste Mère Unsalted. ...
  • Budget Pick. Breakstone's Unsalted. ...
  • Best for Baking. Land O'Lakes Unsalted. ...
  • Best Salted. Kerrygold Salted. ...
  • Best Cultured. Vermont Creamery Unsalted.
Nov 18, 2022

Why does Irish butter taste so good? ›

Because the remaining percentage in butter contains mostly water, it takes away the flavor and creaminess of the butter. Even though the butters can be used interchangeably, Irish butter has a higher fat and lower water count than American butter, so it has a better taste and makes it a better choice for baking.

What is the unhealthiest butter? ›

Margarine is the worst of all butters and spreads, as it is highly processed and loaded with pro-inflammatory Omega-6 fats and trans fats, which is considered the worst type of fat you can eat.” Gioffre says, “Trans fats raise your 'bad' cholesterol but also lowers your 'good' cholesterol, ultimately stressing your ...

Why did people put butter in bogs? ›

Looking at over 274 instances of bog butter from the Iron Age to medieval times, Earwood concluded that early Celtic people probably sunk the butter in the bog simply to preserve it or protect from thieves. The cool, low-oxygen, high acid environment of the bog made a perfect natural refrigerator.

What is the butter stored in bogs? ›

Bog butter is an ancient waxy substance found buried in peat bogs, particularly in Ireland and Scotland. Likely an old method of making and preserving butter, some tested lumps of bog butter were made of dairy, while others were meat-based.

What is the oldest piece of butter in the world? ›

Over 100 pounds of "bog butter" were discovered in Tullamore, Co Offaly in 2011. This ancient food substance, thought to have been buried as a form of refrigeration, is thought to be 5,000 years old, dating from the Iron Age.

How to make bog butter at home? ›

In his blog, Kaller explained how he made his own bog butter: “We poured milk into a jar until it was half full and shook it. At some point the sound of the sloshing changes, and you have a solid clump of butter in the middle of the liquid.

Where is bog oak found? ›

Where can I find bog oak? The Great Fen Information Point at New Decoy Farm has a carpark which is surrounded by pieces of bog oak that were unearthed during the construction. Another very good place is on Holme Fen, where you can see pieces of bog oak still lying where they fell thousands of years ago.

Why is butter so yellow in Ireland? ›

The naturally occurring plant pigment carotene is responsible for the yellow colour of Irish butter. The carotene content of butter depends largely on the animals diet. In Ireland, dairy cows are fed primarily a grass based diet, which is rich in carotene.

What is the best butter in the world Irish? ›

Kerrygold is a beloved brand of Irish butter founded in 1962.

What is the most popular butter in Ireland? ›

Kerrygold, first produced in 1962, is the most well-known brand of Irish butters. It's most commonly available in 8-ounce blocks rather than 4-ounce sticks. Both Irish butter (such as Kerrygold) and European butter contain at least 82% butterfat for a product that's creamier and easier to spread than classic butter.

What butter does Gordon Ramsay use? ›

There, chefs baste the meat with Devonshire Butter, like you would a turkey on Thanksgiving day. You don't have to babysit the meat on the grill like that to take the technique to the next level, though.

Why does Amish butter taste different? ›

Flavor and texture make Amish butter stand out

Taste of Home says the main reason for this is its higher butterfat content when compared to other styles. Typically Amish butter is made with at least 84% butterfat, placing it above American-style butter at 80% and European- and Irish-style butters at 82%.

What butter do top chefs use? ›

Many professional chefs and bakers will recommend using unsalted butter no matter what you're making, so that you have better control over seasoning and since the salt content varies among salted butters.

What is the number one butter in the world? ›

1. Rodolphe Le Meunier. One of many on this list that have been thought of as the best butter in the world, Rodolphe Le Meunier is one of the most highly regarded brands out there and is adored by the one-and-only Nancy Silverton (via Saveur).

Why is Irish butter so expensive? ›

As Ireland is a net exporter of the raw material, the Irish price for milk is entirely influenced by global market developments.” Aldi said its butter costs were linked to the EU butter EEX Index, “which outlines how much a tonne of butter will cost a supplier.

Which country produces the best quality butter? ›

The butterfat is then collected and molded into blocks or rolls, and is often aged for a few days to a few weeks to develop its flavor. Spain is known for producing high-quality butter, and the country's butter is considered to be among the best in the world.

What butter do professional bakers use? ›

Best American-Style Butter: Cabot

This slightly higher amount of water (compared to European-style butter) steams in the heat of the oven, puffing up flaky pie crusts, plush cakes, and crispy-edged cookies, making them light, fluffy, and tender.

Is Land of Lakes real butter? ›

Since the concept of squeeze spread isn't new, we found a way to make LAND O LAKES® Soft Squeeze butter spread stand out: It contains real butter.

What is the best butter for high blood pressure? ›

We found an association of shea butter consumption with lower BP, which provides the rationale for investigation through rigorous study designs to evaluate the benefits of shea butter consumption for prevention of hypertension and improved cardiovascular health.

Have bodies been recovered from bogs? ›

A number of skeletons found in Florida have been called "bog people". These skeletons are the remains of people buried in peat between 5,000 and 8,000 years ago, during the Early and Middle Archaic period in the Americas. The peat at the Florida sites is loosely consolidated and much wetter than in European bogs.

How did the pioneers store butter? ›

Before refrigerators, the springhouse was a fixture around most homes, providing a place to keep milk, butter, and other perishables from spoiling. Running springwater kept temperatures cool enough to preserve foods even on hot summer days.

Why do people keep butter in water? ›

(Salted butter keeps longer than unsalted butter at room temperature because the salt acts as a preservative.) The best storage container for this method is a butter bell crock or French butter keeper, which holds the butter in a cup surrounded by water to prevent oxidation.

Why are bogs cold? ›

Bogs are mossy wetlands. Almost all of their water comes from rain and snow. Water in bogs is low in oxygen, very acidic and often cold!

Why is peat removed from bogs? ›

This is undertaken to allow the peatland to be 'bunded' in order to restore squelchy, boggy conditions vital for the recovery of the bog plants and mosses.

Are bogs freshwater or saltwater? ›

Bogs are a type of freshwater wetland. Histosol, bog soil, is made up largely of decaying plant matter. It is oxygen-poor and nutrient-poor, making biodiversity much lower than in other wetland ecosystems.

Why does Mexican butter taste different? ›

Super yellow butter. I didn't know what to make of it. It was so bright I was sure some food coloring must have been added.

Who was the first person to eat butter? ›

Many believe that ancient nomadic people first discovered the miracle of butter. It is thought that while traveling long distances, nomads would attach sacks containing milk to their pack animals and the cream was eventually churned into butter.

What was butter before butter? ›

Before modern factory butter making, cream was usually collected from several milkings and was therefore several days old and somewhat fermented by the time it was made into butter. Butter made from a fermented cream is known as cultured butter.

How do Amish people make butter? ›

How Amish Butter Is Made. Amish-style butter is churned cream with a higher dairy fat content than American butter. Instead of being shaped into four-ounce sticks, it typically comes in a one- or two-pound rolled log or wheel, shaped like goat cheese or wax-coated Gouda.

How is Irish black butter made? ›

Based on an old traditional recipe; Irish Black Butter is made with Euro PGI Status Armagh Bramley Apples, local cider, brandy and spices and is produced locally. On the BBC programme; Dragons Den; the Dragons praised Irish Black Butter saying 'I actually love it,' 'It is beautiful,' and It's really lovely. '

Who invented butter? ›

Khosrova traces butter's beginning back to ancient Africa, in 8000 B.C., when a herder making a journey with a sheepskin container of milk strapped to the back of one of his sheep found that the warm sheep's milk, jostled in travel, had curdled into something remarkably tasty.

Why is bog wood so expensive? ›

Knowledge, diligence and craftsmanship. Searching and mining from rivers, lakes, swamps and bogs is a complicated and expensive process. Also because of the special requirements for cutting and drying, the treatment of True Bog Oak is extremely challenging and requires specialized knowledge, diligence and craftsmanship ...

Why is bog oak expensive? ›

Since there is such a limited supply of the wood—with Bog Oak essentially being the very early stages of fossilization—prices for this type of wood are very high. A special thanks to Steve Earis for providing the wood sample of this wood species.

What is the most famous bog? ›

On 8 May 1950, peat cutters Emil and Viggo Hojgaard stumbled upon a corpse in a peat layer in the Bjældskovdal peat bog, near Silkeborg, Denmark.

Why is European butter better than American butter? ›

European Butter

The standards for the minimum amount of butterfat in butter are different in Europe and America. Abroad, the minimum is 82 percent; here, it's 80 percent; everywhere, it's lower for salted butter. So, whenever you use European butter, you're likely to have a richer dish.

What is the healthiest butter? ›

Grass-fed butter has the nutritional edge in that it offers more heart-healthy nutrients than regular butter in a less-processed product than margarine,” Malkani says. You can typically find grass-fed butter at the grocery store or natural foods market. Look for terms like “pasture” and “grass-fed” on the label.

Why is butter white in USA? ›

In the United States, the diet of cows varies from those in Europe and Oceania, and there are also breed differences. The level of the natural pigment carotene in milk, derived from the diet of cows, is the strongest determinant in whether butter appears yellow.

Where is Aldi Irish butter from? ›

Countryside Creamery Pure Irish Butter

Just like Kerrygold, Aldi's Irish butter is made from the milk of grass-fed cows and it's imported from Ireland.

Why is President butter so good? ›

France's #1 butter is made from high-quality cultured creams in the northwestern portion of France referred to as the “Grand Cru” of European dairy regions. Its oceanic climate, rich soil, and lush grass help produce butters that are distinctly rich and savory.

Who makes Kilkeely butter for Aldi? ›

Aldi Stores (Ireland) Ltd.

Why do people love Irish butter? ›

This butter is often more flavorful thanks to the grass the cows eat, so Irish butter can provide more buttery flavor recipes. Mashed potatoes can taste richer without adding extra butter, cakes can taste richer than when made with American butter and your morning toast can just taste plain better.

What does Irish butter taste like? ›

What Does It Taste Like? With sweetness and sunny, golden flavor, Irish butter has nuances of the bright green grass eaten by the cows who make the milk for the butter. There's a freshness and a depth of flavor to the butter, and it's richer than American butter, thanks to the higher fat content.

What does New Zealand butter taste like? ›

Nothing - NOTHING - comes close to the fresh taste of New Zealand's Anchor Butter, which has hints of clover and something really special that's hard to describe! The NZ government has very strict regulations for its cows and all, and these cows graze upon meadow grasses - you can taste it in the butter!

What is a bog butter? ›

Bog butter is an ancient waxy substance found buried in peat bogs, particularly in Ireland and Scotland. Likely an old method of making and preserving butter, some tested lumps of bog butter were made of dairy, while others were meat-based.

What does black butter taste like? ›

A conserve of apples, cider, brandy, and spices, Irish Black Butter has a uniquely deep, caramelized apple flavor with subtle spice notes and an almost earthy, smoky finish.

What is the most popular butter in the world? ›

1. Rodolphe Le Meunier. One of many on this list that have been thought of as the best butter in the world, Rodolphe Le Meunier is one of the most highly regarded brands out there and is adored by the one-and-only Nancy Silverton (via Saveur).

Why is Icelandic butter so good? ›

Icelandic Creamery Butter is made from fresh cream, which is produced from the milk of Icelandic cows fed on grass. Rich in flavour, its smooth texture makes it easier to spread. The use of growth hormones and steroids in raising cattle is completely banned in Iceland.

Is Costco New Zealand butter good? ›

The New Zealand export gets a 9/10

That is good," he says of the salted, 95% grass-fed New Zealand product. He gives it a "9 out of 10." Costco Guide slid into the comments to proclaim that they "love it."

What is the difference between Land O Lakes butter and Irish butter? ›

What's the Difference Between American Butter and Irish Butter? American butter (e.g., Cabot, Land O'Lakes, and store brands) is predominately sweet cream butter with a higher water content than Irish butter, meaning that it is not as flavorful or spreadable as Irish butter.

What is Irish butter like? ›

What Does It Taste Like? With sweetness and sunny, golden flavor, Irish butter has nuances of the bright green grass eaten by the cows who make the milk for the butter. There's a freshness and a depth of flavor to the butter, and it's richer than American butter, thanks to the higher fat content.

Why should humans not destroy peat bogs? ›

The destruction of peat bogs and other areas containing peat also release carbon dioxide into the atmosphere. For the last 200 years humans have been damaging peat bogs in the UK and they've started drying out, releasing carbon dioxide as they do so.

Why does restaurant butter taste so much better? ›

If you are using cold butter at home, you are missing much of the flavor in the butter. A good restaurant will serve you butter at room temperature. In addition to being easier to spread, you'll be able to taste more of the aromatic compounds in the butter.

Why does American butter taste different? ›

American butter is monitored and regulated by the USDA, which states that a butter must contain at least 80 percent butterfat to make the cut. This butter doesn't include any of the added cultures that European butter does, meaning the taste is much less flavorful.

What color is high quality butter? ›

Essentially, a natural grass-fed diet will result in a yellow coloured butter while cows that are fed mostly grains will produce a lighter coloured butter. This is similar to free range hens producing eggs with brighter almost orange coloured yolks. We reckon, the more yellow the butter, the happier the cow.


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