Jersey Black Butter
What are my special features?
Jersey Black Butter is a concentrated apple preserve flavoured with spices. It is a very old and traditional Jersey farmhouse delicacy and is called ‘Beurre Nièr’ in Jèrriais, the Norman-French dialect of the Island.
The preserve is important not only in gastronomic terms, but as a feature of the now declining, traditional rural culture of the Island. Jersey Black Butter is made and produced in the cider making season using the following ingredients and method:
14 cwt apples
113 gallons of cider
30 lbs of sugar
liquorice, cinnamon, and other spices in proportion
Boil up the cider and leave to simmer. Adding the apples and other ingredients in a cauldron (‘bachin’) hung over a low fire. Stir continuously for 24 to 30 hours, until the correct ‘jammy’ consistency is achieved. Jersey Black Butter can be served as a spread on bread, paired with cold meats or added to various dishes such as a curry.
What is my history?
A similar product to Black Butter is made in Normandy, a part of France with has traditional and cultural ties with Jersey.
Since the 16th Century, the growing of apples and the making of cider has been a traditional economic activity of Jersey. In the cider production ‘glory days’ during the 18th Century, Jersey was also a shipbuilding and cod fishing island. Fish catches would be transported to South America and exchanged for exotic spices which explain the familiarity with and abundance of spices within Jersey at this time.
In the cider season, making black butter was a good way of using up a seasonal glut of apples and any surplus of cider. Black Butter making is a very labour intensive process and this was used to form co-operative and community projects which united people within Jersey.
The Jersey Black Butter often extended throughout the night and lots of stamina was needed to keep awake causing local to play music, cards and tell stories to make the time pass. This comprised what is called, in Jersey-French ‘Un Séthée de Beurre Nièr’ (Un soir de beurre noir). In effect, these were indigenous and ‘home-grown’ events and opportunities for the local culture to be passed down from one generation to another.
Why am I forgotten?
Since the 19th Century, apple growing and cider making diminished and despite some very recent endeavours to revive these activities, they are now a negligible part in the Island’s economy. In addition to this, the production of Jersey Black Butter is very labour-intensive and most traditional knowledge has been lost through generations.
Don’t lose me… cook me!
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