CROCKETT’S COUN­TRY WAYS: How to build a fire of bones

Every­body loves a camp­fire, but did you know that burn­ing bones is a great way to get a hot­ter, brighter fire? Not to men­tion the ir­re­sistible bar­be­cue aroma, writes Jonny Crockett

Sporting Shooter - - Contents -

Be­tween 12,000 and 22,000 years ago, our an­ces­tors were burn­ing mam­moth bones across cen­tral and Eastern Europe. The rea­son for this prac­tice is still de­bated and no par­tic­u­lar side is win­ning the aca­demic to and fro. How­ever, bones and fires have some weird prop­er­ties.

As the nights are draw­ing in, but the tem­per­a­tures still al­low a lit­tle al fresco din­ing, a bon­fire could be just what you need. When you’ve fin­ished eat­ing, the first few drinks have been and gone and you’re sit­ting around the fire with friends dis­cussing not very much but in great de­tail, why not throw a few bones on the fire? The bones should be fresh (per­haps the re­sult of a stalk you’ve just done, or even the bone from a joint of meat yet to be cooked). It doesn’t re­ally mat­ter which crea­ture you’ve got the bones from, just don’t cook them first.

For this ar­ti­cle, I’m go­ing to use a cow fe­mur from the lo­cal butcher’s (pic 1). I need to have the fire go­ing first.

I’ve had a BBQ so I’ve been us­ing char­coal. The char­coal was ini­tially ig­nited us­ing a small twig fire. As you know, char­coal takes a lit­tle time to get go­ing. It slowly heats up but then stays hot for some con­sid­er­able time. With a lit­tle oxy­gen it can get hot enough to melt iron. We don’t need it that hot, we just need it to get to around the magic tem­per­a­ture of 380ºC – this is the tem­per­a­ture at which bones start to burn.

Be­fore adding the bones, you need to do a lit­tle prepa­ra­tion. It’s not dif­fi­cult, you just need to smash the bones into smaller pieces. The poll of a split­ting maul, the near­est mal­let to hand or even a house­hold ham­mer. One way or the other, just break it up (pic 2).

You’ll be able to see the mar­row in­side. If there are any de­cent sized and shaped pieces for other projects, such as mak­ing ar­row heads or har­poons, keep them to one side (pic 3).

Now you can put the bones on the char­coal (pic 4). The grease oozes out from the por­ous bones and the mar­row starts to melt. The smell is heav­enly (as­sum­ing you like the smell of cook­ing bone and mar­row) and the camp­fire starts to light up. It’s the lu­mi­nos­ity that is so no­tice­able.

It’s worth not­ing that you can’t light a fire with bones, you have to light it with wood or char­coal first. From a dull or­ange of the char­coal em­bers with a Lux (bright­ness) read­ing av­er­age of 9 (pic 5), you can get a dra­matic in­crease if you add wood (pics 6 and 7) and you sud­denly get bathed in warm flames with a Lux read­ing of 67. That’s over seven times brighter than the char­coal. The wood I’ve added is ap­prox­i­mately the same size and roughly the same shape and weight as the bones I’m go­ing to burn.

Once the bones are burn­ing away, the Lux read­ing leaps up to 239 (pics 8 to 10). That’s over 26 times as bright as char­coal and 3.5 times as bright as wood.

It would be a won­der­ful light to sit around and tell sto­ries of the chase or the gi­ant fish that got away. The more bones you’ve got to burn, the brighter they burn. How­ever, if you let the tem­per­a­ture drop be­low 380ºC, the flames will just die away un­til you get the tem­per­a­ture back up again. The bones don’t burn to em­bers, they sim­ply crum­ble to ash, or are left cal­ci­fied and dried.

It seems strange, but have a go the next time you get the chance. Un­like our palae­olithic fore­fa­thers, try to stick to an­i­mal bones. The sto­ries can be just as amaz­ing though.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.