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Making Bannocks
Posted: 31/07/2013

Crofting Connections staff and assistants have been on the go around the country visiting lots of schools and events.  This has included several taster sessions on milling grain and making traditional beremeal bannocks.

The first bannock session took place at Pitgaveny Estate on 27th May attended by 200 pupils from Elgin Academy.  All had a go at milling wheat grains and the freshly milled 100% wholemeal flour was added to a beremeal bannock mixture.  Bere is an ancient and genetically pure variety of barley grown now primarily in Orkney and Shetland.  It is a 6 row barley is known colloquially as ‘King of Corn’ in Orkney as it grows so tall.  It has a strong taste so takes a bit of getting used to for the modern palate but is nutritionally very rich.
Pam did a storming job of cooking up the bannocks for every pupil to taste.  Most gave these traditional strong tasting bannocks the thumbs up, but keen observers noticed that even those who had given it the thumbs down had secretly come back for seconds.

Arisaig PS with their bannocks

Pam and Bríd did a lot of travelling to visit Highland schools just before the end of term.  On 14th June the upper class of Arisaig PS helped prepare bannocks.  Everyone got a chance to experience what it might have been like to mill their own flour, make the mix and see the bannocks cook. The children did lots of calculations to work out how many needed to be cooked for the whole school to have a taste, how many needed to be served with and without butter and/or local jam.  The big hit was the celebration midsummer bannock you can see pictured.  Thumbs up all over the school!

Finally Pam and Bríd (with the help of a Highland Council School cook) ran a bannock making session for visitors to the Soil Association stall at the Royal Highland Show on Saturday 22nd June.  Children and parents at the show were delighted to see first hand how to mill flour and then get to taste the bannocks with either crowdie, highland honey or homemade rhubarb jam. 

There was also great interest in the barley, oat and wheat plants which Pam’s husband had grown on his organic farm.  Visitors from Orkney were especially pleased to see the bere and black oats, both traditional varieties and also surprised to see emmer wheat growing which is the heritage variety from which all modern wheat is derived.  Some of our schools are also growing this giving children a wonderful opportunity for plant comparison across all the cereals.

Traditional and modern oats and emmer wheatTraditional barley and bere

Emmer wheat, one of the first domesticated wheat varieties, traditional small ,or black, oats, modern firth oats,  traditional bere barley and modern Garner barley. 
All these seeds are distributed to Crofting Connections schools to be able to observe and compare traditional and modern cereals.