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Black Butter

“The last hour, spent in yawning and shivering in a wide circle round the fire, was dull enough, but the tray had admirable success. The widgeon and the preserved ginger were as delicious as one could wish. But as to our black butter, do not decoy anybody to Southampton by such a lure, for it is all gone. The first pot was opened when Frank and Mary were here, and proved not at all what it ought to be; it was neither solid nor entirely sweet, and on seeing it Eliza remembered that Miss Austen had said she did not think it had been boiled enough. It was made, you know, when we were absent. Such being the event of the first pot, I would not save the second, and we therefore ate it in unpretending privacy; and though not what it ought to be, part of it was very good.”
Jane Austen to Cassandra
Castle Square, Tuesday (December 27, 1808)

Prefer to buy your Black Butter? Try Jersey Black Butter– a centuries old recipe!

Black Butter is based on a medieval “apple sauce” recipe. Through the centuries it was been adapted to fit current cooking practices and ingredients. Black Butter is a dark, sweet type of Apple Sauce. It can be spread on toast and biscuits or eaten by itself. The American version, Apple Butter, has been a national favorite for centuries.

Apples have been grown in England since Roman times. In the 16th and 17th centuries orchards were extensively planted in Kent. Apple growing was also well advanced in Herefordshire, Gloucestershire and Worcestershire. Protection of the fruit market during the Napoleonic Wars and high tariffs on imported fruit after the wars led to an expansion of new orchard planting in the 1820s and 1830s.

Black Butter
Take 4 pounds of full ripe apples, and peel and core them. Meanwhile put into a pan 2 pints of sweet cider, and boil until it reduces by half. Put the apples, chopped small, to the cider. Cook slowly stirring frequently, until the fruit is tender, as you can crush beneath the back of a spoon. Then work the apple through a sieve, and return to the pan adding 1lb beaten (granulated) sugar and spices as following, 1 teaspoon clove well ground, 2 teaspoons cinnamon well ground, 1 saltspoon allspice well ground. Cook over low fire for about ¾ hour, stirring until mixture thickens and turns a rich brown. Pour the butter into into small clean jars, and cover with clarified butter when cold. Seal and keep for three months before using. By this time the butter will have turned almost black, and have a most delicious flavour.

Modern Equivalent:

6 lb cooking apples
3 cups sugar
8 c Apple cider
1/2 cup cider vinegar
3 teaspoons cinnamon
1 Tablespoon whole cloves
Or 6 (16 ounce) jars applesauce**
6 cups apple juice
8 cups white sugar
2 tablespoons ground cinnamon
2 teaspoons ground cloves
2 teaspoons ground nutmeg
  1. Peel, quarter, and core the apples.
  2. Place the apples in large kettles of boiling water. Cook over medium heat until apples are tender, 20-30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  3. Meanwhile, in a large saucepan, cook apple cider over high heat for about 30 minutes or till reduced by half.
  4. Drain*, sieve apples with food mill or potato masher.
  5. **Combine applesauce and reduced cider in large dutch oven or crock pot.
  6. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat.
  7. Simmer, uncovered, for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  8. Stir in sugar and spices. Bring to boiling. Reduce heat.
  9. Stir mixture from time to time and taste after a few hours. Add more sugar or spices if necessary.
  10. When apple mixture reaches the consistency of apple sauce, turn off heat.
  11. You can leave the apple butter with this textured consistency. If you prefer it smoother, process the hot mixture in a food processor for a minute or so.
  12. Spoon the apple butter into freezer containers or store it in the refrigerator. It keeps for three months.

*At this time you can place the apples in zipper-style freezer bags. Freeze apples until you are ready to make apple butter. Thaw apples before proceeding with recipe.

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