Monday, June 14, 2010

Once You've Had Black...

Black butter is a delicious fruit spread made from slow-cooked apples, cider, sugar, spices and liquorice. Over time, the ingredients combine to colour the spread a dark black-brown hue. It has its origins on the island of Jersey, where communities used to gather and make large batches using windfall apples from its cider orchards; the event became an excuse for full-scale merrymaking too, with dancing, singing and feasting taking place alongside the cooking.

Its use of liquorice distinguishes it from standard British fruit spreads, a reflection perhaps of Jersey's proximity to France and its culinary influences. Vive la difference, I say - any country* which gives us tasty cows & repeats on telly of Bergerac hurtling around the island in a grunty old Triumph can't be all that bad...

Making black butter seemed like a good way of using up the mass of apples I have lying around the place. I used Granny Smiths and some decrepit Cox's Orange.

You'll need:
  • 2 kg apples, peeled and cored
  • 500 g sugar
  • 1.2 L apple cider
  • juice of a lemon
  • 80 g liquorice, chopped** (use proper; don't touch that liquorice-flavoured nonsense)
  • 1 tsp ground cloves
  • 2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp allspice
  • 1/2 tsp nutmeg
Empty the cider into a pot & bring to the boil. Turn the heat down to a simmer and allow the cider to reduce by half. Add apples and cook until soft - this took a little over three hours. Stir in the lemon juice. Remove from the heat and empty the mix into a bowl. Pass the apple through a sieve back into the pot. Place it back over the heat and add sugar, stirring until dissolved. Now add the remaining ingredients, stirring to combine. Leave to cook over a very gentle heat until the mix turns brown, stirring occasionally - this took a little over an hour. At this stage, it will have a treacle-like consistency and will thicken as it cools. Pour while hot into warm, sterilised jars, seal and leave for at least a month before opening. You can of course eat it straight away, but time will serve to enhance the flavour.

And what to have it with? It's traditionally spread on bread or toast, as you would jam, but I think it's quite nice with cheese, like an aged Cheddar or an older, slightly salty Gouda (salt+sweet).

*Crown dependency, strictly speaking (thanks, CIA factbook!)
**To stop the liquorice from sticking to your blade, spray it with Sprink or rub with oil 


Mel said...

Wow, the yellow butter in my fridge pales in comparison to your post now!

PS. Thanks for leaving a comment on my blog when you dropped by too, very apt since I became a NZ citizen last month. I also found some coconut embedded in my keyboard today... hehe!

Nigel Olsen said...

Well done, Mel! That's awesome news - easy on the coconut, though;)

Anonymous said...

Wow, that sound fantastic with all those spices and liquorice, will try this one while there are tons of apples around. Thanks

Nigel Olsen said...

Alli! Yeah, it's easy to make, too.

Mary said...

Liquorice sounds delicious. Will definitely be spicing up my next batch of apple butter accordingly. Thanks Nigel!

Shaheen said...

I recently made apple butter, but this flavour combo is amazing. I may have a go at making it next year. Its been a while since i've had good licorice.

Nigel Olsen said...

Mangocheeks - It is very flavoursome. I love your blog, by the way; there's been a move to allotment-style gardening in communities in our bigger cities, something your country's had for years.