In the 1850’s, a third of Jersey’s arable land was made up of orchards, with the island exporting around 150,000 gallons of cider a year. It is this booming cider production that the creation of black butter stems from, as making the preserve was a good way of using up a seasonal glut of apples and any surplus of cider. There is no tracing back to when this apple spread was invented, yet recipes have been seen dating back to the 14th century! The preserve has traditionally been cooked in farmhouse kitchens by Jersey women stirring big, bubbling pots of cider and spices.
Centuries on, this delicacy is still made collectively island-wide and visitors can witness the making of this traditional lip-licking concoction at National Trust property, The Elms: a handsome 18th century farmhouse, situated at the top of St Peter’s Valley. The Elms was gifted to the Trust by Mr Nicolle Jean Perrée in 1975 and has been used as the Jersey Butter headquarters since 1978. The property has a wealth of architectural detail that provides a fascinating insight into Jersey’s agricultural heritage, plus a beautiful garden together with an orchard of abundant fruits and berries.
Black Butter is a farmhouse delicacy and now plays a key role in maintaining the traditional and rural culture of the island.
Jersey Black Butter is a unique medieval recipe for apple sauce, which has been adapted over the years. Black butter is a blend of harvested apples, cider, sugar, spices, liquorice and lemons. The spread can be eaten on toast, with biscuits and even on its own.
The laborious cooking process initiated co-operative and community projects within the islanders to work together and make the process easier and a more social event. The process begins with the peeling of the apples, which can take hours when dealing with large quantities of freshly harvested fruit. In order to help the time pass, the locals would play music and tell stories while working and this tradition has been passed down through the generations.
Next, a fire is lit, traditionally in an old bakehouse of a Jersey farm, and the apples are placed in a bachin (copper cauldron) with the other ingredients. The cauldron contents would bubble and need to be stirred continuously for 24-30 hours. All the peeled apples would be added until none are left and the mixture has reached a jammy consistency. The cauldron is then removed from the fire and allowed to cool before the contents is split into jars, ready to be consumed. Again, music, cards, games and story-telling would be done throughout to entertain the workers and keep the morale high.
You can find Jersey Black Butter and buy it from La Mare Wine estate in the northerly region of the island where you can enjoy the preserve in its pure form straight from a jar or you can try out the Black Butter chocolates, fudge or biscuits: an ideal gift for anyone with a sweet tooth.
With a semi-fluid consistency, the butter is often eaten on bread like a spread. It is also served as an accompaniment to white meats, and each part of the Island has a slightly different recipe. Today this farmhouse delicacy remains a perfect example of the age-old rural culture of the island and is well supported by Jersey’s top-flight chefs on Michelin-starred menus to help keep the tradition alive.
Black butter is much more than a recipe, it is a glorious taste of the past, and a wonderful survivor of Jersey’s medieval heritage. You can find the traditional delicacy around the island from:
• La Mare Wine Estate, St Mary
• Maison de Jersey, St Helier
• Waitrose stores, St Helier and Rue de Pres
Black butter is perfect for creating the ultimate sweet treats. Here are a few recipes to inspire you.
150g Prunes (stoned)
227g Black Butter (1 jar)
2tsp Bicarbonate of soda
200g Soft dark brown sugar
100g Salted butter
270g Self raising flour (sifted)
4 Medium size eggs lightly beaten
1. Pre-heat oven to 180º C
2. Grease and flour 8 moulds
3. Chop the prunes roughly and place them in a saucepan with the black butter and water. Bring to boil and add bicarbonate of soda, stir then remove from heat
4. Stir in butter and brown sugar until dissolved
5. Pour into moulds and bake immediately for approximately 20-25min
6. Serve warm with caramel sauce and vanilla ice cream
250ml Double cream
6 Large egg yolks
80g Soft light brown sugar
100g Black Butter
Sugar for glazing
1. Heat the milk and cream together
2. Mix the egg yolks with the sugar
3. Add the heated milk and cream to the egg mixture and stir well
4. Pass through a fine sieve and then stir in the Black Butter
5. Place 4 ramekin dishes on tray and fill ramekins with the brulee mixture
6. Fill tray with boiling water until 2/3 up the side of the ramekin dish and bake in a preheated oven at 100 degree for approximately 1hour or until set.
7. Place in fridge until chilled
8. Finish with a light sprinkle of sugar and glaze with a blow torch or under a hot grill
Are you hungry yet? Book your travel to Jersey to try out the deliciously sweet Black Butter for yourself.