What Is Brose?

Angie Bates

Brose is a type of Scottish porridge made from meal, usually oat. Pudding and an alcoholic drink can also be made from this porridge. The origins of brose are at least 500 years old. Although the basic preparation has remained largely the same, modern versions often include ingredients the original versions lacked.

Oatmeal, which is often included in brose.
Oatmeal, which is often included in brose.

Frequently eaten by Scottish farmers around the 16th century, brose was created by placing oatmeal in a bowl and covering it with boiling water. Butter might be added as well. The mixture was covered and allowed to sit briefly so the oatmeal could partially swell with water. Then, milk was normally added and the dish was eaten. Since the oatmeal had only partially swelled, farmers could eat greater quantities and remain full for longer.

In some instances, "brose" refers to a type of alcoholic beverage.
In some instances, "brose" refers to a type of alcoholic beverage.

Different versions were prepared in slightly different ways. Oatmeal brose was mixed by cutting through the meal after it had been soaked to form knots or clumps, whereas pease-meal versions were simply stirred to combine. A version called kail brose was made with liquor used to boil salted beef and was generally considered unsuitable for children.

Modern versions often combine the same basic ingredients with other flavorings. Simple recipes may just include rolled oats, water, salt, and perhaps sterilized bran. These versions can be cooked in a double-boiler as well as the old fashioned way. The oats are often first toasted in an oven before use. One popular modern version includes mussels as well cream, onions, salt, and pepper, in addition to the basic brose ingredients, resulting in a hearty, soup-like dish.

Fruit may also be included to make a dessert brose called cranachan. In addition to oatmeal and raspberries, whiskey and honey are usually added to the mixture. Then the mixture is layered with whipped cream and topped with more berries.

One of the most famous versions of brose, however, is Atholl brose. A sweet alcoholic drink, the first written recipe was recorded around 1475, when it was said the Duke of Atholl defeated his enemy by filling a well with the liquid and waiting until his enemy had drunk his fill. Atholl brose is made with Scotch whiskey, honey, and a small portion of oatmeal. It may also include eggs and water.

The oatmeal is first soaked in water or whiskey, and then strained. The solids are discarded and the resulting liquid is blended with the remaining ingredients. The drink must be shaken before use and may be allowed to sit for up to a week before being served.

Brose is typically sweetened with honey.
Brose is typically sweetened with honey.

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