Does anyone remember an Irish bastible? My granny could cook the most amazing meals using a cast iron bastible suspended over an open fire.
She even cooked bread in a bastible, without the aid of a fancy thermometer or convection fan oven. Yes! My granny baked the most delicious loaves of Irish soda bread, in the simplest oven of all, a bastible pot.
And so today I thought I might share some photos of bastibles with you, so that when I reminisce about olden times in Ireland, you’ll know exactly what I’m talking about.
In years gone by an open turf fire was the center of every Irish home. The hearth was the heart of the home, where everyone gathered to share the warmth and light of the lapping flames. But fires did not just burn at night. The fire was watched and kindled all day long since few Irish rural cottages could boast a fancy oven for cooking.
No! All the cooking was done over an open fire and the necessary tool to accomplish this task was of course, the bastible.
Bastibles were flat-bottomed pots and Irish women in days gone by were master bastible chefs.
This cast iron pot was the primary cooking tool in many an Irish kitchen in the nineteenth and early twentieth. My granny used one right up until the 1960’s.
This simple pot could be used to roast a duck, a chicken or a goose, and of course, Irish soda bread was artfully baked in bastibles by our grannies and great grannies.
However baking and cooking over an open fire was no easy task and required skills passed down from generation to generation. If the fire was too hot, burnt food was guaranteed. An insipid fire could leave food undercooked.
Temperature was controlled by placing hot sods of turf on top of the lid. My granny knew exactly how many sods were needed for high or medium heat. Many years of practice ensured the perfect results every time.
The bastible was my granny’s oven. She also had a three legged, pot-bellied, cast iron pot that was used for boiling potatoes. The big difference between these pots was their shapes. A pot-bellied bottom was for boiling, while a flat bottom was for baking and roasting.
I remember the day my uncle bought a range to replace the open fire in my granny’s old farmhouse kitchen. It was a happy day as a little bit of modern convenience finally arrived in the old cottage. But even though I was only 5 or 6 years old, a pang of sorrow and nostalgia quivered through my soul, as the range was fitted in place, covering forever the spot where the turf fire had once brightened the hearth.
Modern times had come to my granny’s kitchen, but I missed the iron crane with the kettle hanging above the flames. Despite my young years, I knew that life as we knew it was changing, never to return to how it once was.
And so, you may wonder how this simple pot got its name. ‘Bastible’ sounds like a derivative of an old Irish or Gaelic word. However, the name is believed to have come from the town of Barnstable in England. This type of cooking vessel is said to have been first made there.
I’m not sure if these pots had a different name in other regions of Ireland. Bastible was the term we used in County Cork. Let me know in the comments section if you called these pots by a different name.
And there you have it! A little trip down memory lane, with a quick look at the old Irish bastible.
Do you also feel a twinge of nostalgia when you see these old pots? Oh, such fond memories of the good old days.
Slán agus beannacht,
(Goodbye and blessings)