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Jersey Black Butter
a delicious use of apples!
Jersey Black Butter
The island of Jersey is found in the English Channel, lying close to the northwest coast of France. It is a beautiful island that used to grow many apples. During the seventeenth century, 20% of arable land was covered in apple trees. By 1850, this had grown to 33%, and cider production was an essential island product. In the early days, farmers would supply workers with cider as part of their wages. Something similar happened in England, where cider or beer formed part of the deal.
Did you know? The first written record of cider being used as a form of payment dates back to 1204, from a manor house in Runham, Norfolk. This practice continued for many centuries, mostly as a means for wealthy landowners to pay their farm labourers.
What is Jersey Black Butter?
Firstly let me make it clear that this is not a dairy product. The term butter is used because of the way it was originally spread on bread to be eaten. The jar pictured above was kindly given to me by my colleague and friend, Tracey Bolton, as part of some wonderful retirement gifts at the end of last month. It has inspired me to write about this wonderful product. A few years ago, I visited La Mere Wine Estate, where you can see where they make this product alongside many other goodies, including wine and cider. They do have a separate website for Jersey Black Butter.
If you do visit Jersey, make sure you go along to the La Mere Wine Estate. They provide a wonderful tour and explain the processes of wine, cider, gin, liqueurs, confectionary, black butter and chocolate. Be prepared to come back with a bagful of goodies!
Traditionally at apple harvesting time, it was quite a social event to make Jersey Black Butter. The quotation below explains the process from times past.
This is from the book “Saint Martin, history of an island parish”: a very good description of how black butter nights used to be: “An ever-popular event was the making of black butter. This is an apple preserve so named on account of its colour when cooked. For days previous, apples had been peeled and sliced, then emptied in a large circular pail or bachin placed on a tripod in the hearth over a wood fire; cider was copiously applied, also spices and cinnamon and in some cases liquorice to darken it. The stirring had to go on for hours, in fact it was an all-night job, and neighbours would gather to join in the stirring, working in relays, by means of a long handled wooden rake; between the relays a certain amount of flirting and merrymaking went on: these were called black butter nights – sethée de nièr beurre. They were frequently repeated during the long winter nights and were immensely popular.”
Author: Chris Blackstone, Katie le Quesne. Phillimore & Co Ltd, West Sussex for the Parish of St Martin ©, 1999, p.296
Like other Black Butter producers, La Mere Wine Estates has its own recipe. However, it is based on a traditional recipe. From their website, we read:
Peeled and cored apples are cooked down with black treacle, liquorice, cider, brown sugar and spices. This is then cooked slowly over an open gas flame, stirring continuously for several hours. The Black Butter is then blended to a smooth consistency and potted. The jammy conserve is a perfect breakfast/snack accompaniment in its own right, as a condiment and also can be used as an ingredient in a wide range of recipes for both sweet and savoury dishes.
There is much you can do with Jersey Black Butter, and here is a link for some recipes where you can add it to your dishes and produce some fantastic flavours. I can vouch that it makes a great dip with poppadoms with your Indian curry. Not exactly Indian, but who cares? It tastes great!
There are variations of black butter in other parts of the world. Jersey mariners sailed the seven seas, and when they settled, they would produce black butter. A lovely reminder of home and life back on the island of Jersey.
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