The size and shape of the flummery mixer and its name varied from area to area. It was known as pren llymru in Caernarfonshire and rhwtffon in Merioneth.
The flummery mixer is an ingenious implement used when making llymru, a sour soup made from oat germ that was widely eaten until the beginning of the 20th century in north Wales. Oats were the most important arable crop grown in the chilly damp conditions of much of north Wales, and a variety of oat-based soups and dishes were an important part of the diet of rural communities.
Llymru is made in several stages. Finely ground oat husks which contained the oat germ were soaked in tepid water in a large earthenware pot. The mixture was well stirred and left for about 3 or 4 days until the required level of sourness was reached. It was then strained through a fine horsehair sieve into another bowl, ready to be used when needed over the next few days. The well squeezed out oat husks would be fed to livestock. For the final stage of preparation, the mixture was boiled over a hot fire and stirred continuously until a jelly like consistency was reached.
The flummery mixer was an essential tool – the length of the stick and its bends meant that the mixture could be stirred vigorously over a hot fire until it was ready without getting too close. To test the thickness the flummery mixer was lifted and how the llymru dripped back into the pot was assessed – in some parts of Merioneth (south Gwynedd) it was said that the tail should be like a rat’s tail.
When it was ready a common way of eating it was to pour it into a bowl and put on a special stand in the centre of the table. Each person would have their own bowl of cold milk and with their own wooden spoon take spoonfuls of warm llymru and put it gently in their milk. The llymru should be swallowed without chewing – ‘slip go down, never come up’ was a local saying.
Llymru was considered a nutritional food as well as being delicious and refreshing. It was thought to be beneficial for kidney diseases, and weak and frail elderly people were given bowlfuls as a delicacy to stimulate their appetites.
The flummery mixer is on display in the At Home display case in Gallery 4.