Monday 2 October 2023


A swatch of my family spent August up in Ullapool in Scotland. All the under-30s went on a day trip crossing The Minch Skotlandsfjörð to Stornaway, Lewis out in the Hebrides. They were hoping to see whales but were disappointed in that; although none of them lost their lunch - so that's a win. The CalMac schedule only left them ½hr in Stromness - enough to run up to touch the Town Hall door; but not time to snag a scotch pie from The Big Bite on Point St. Later that week, on the Mainland, they were able to pick up some Scots edibles including a packet of "Highland Crackers, Original Seeded". I won't say that these are better than anything you can buy in Ireland, but they're crisp and not wafer-thin and salty in a good way.

As an intellectual, I am obliged to read the packet, which is often revealing about the trade-off between taste, transport, and shelf-life. Here is the Table of Contents / allergens.

Orkney beremeal (barley flour - gluten) (20%), wholemeal spelt (gluten) flour, wheat flour (gluten fortified with calcium carbonate, iron, niacin and thiamin), butter (cow's milk), Cullisse Highland Rapeseed Oil (10%), linseed (10%), sesame seeds (5%), malted wheat grains, sunflower seeds (2%), malted barley (gluten) flour, ground peppercorns, sea salt, malted rye (gluten) grains, pumpkin seeds. Here's a peculiarity for obsessives: 'tis me who has added the red gluten after wheat. I wrote to the company to suggest that, in the next print run for packaging, they specify the nature of the allergen for each of the four grassy species (barley wheat spelt rye) of the ingredients. And yes, spelt Triticum spelta will trigger gluten intolerance, despite what some woo-folk assert.

Beremeal is flour made from bere [R] a six-row barley Hordeum vulgare grown in diminishing quantities, mainly on Orkney. Bere is adapted for the poor, acid soils of the north and is remarkable for its short "90-day" growing season. 70% of all barley grown on these islands goes to animal feed, almost all the rest is malted for beer or its more potent derivative, whiskey. Barley bannocks used to be the staple food of those who only grew wheat for cash or for The Laird. Bere is mostly ground in The Barony (water) Mill at Birsay. Barley-meal really doesn't hold together as well as wheat flour and weaker gluten means that barley bread is barely riz. I'm glad bere is now getting niche use in these fancy crackers - at £30/kg they are about the same price as smoked salmon.

No comments:

Post a Comment