Between 1600 and 1700, twenty percent of Jersey’s arable land was made up of orchards. Cider was made by farmers to give to their staff, making up part of their wages. A great tradition that exists as a result of Jersey’s proliferation of apples is the production of ‘black butter’ or ‘Le Niere Buerre’.
Made from cider apples, the new cider is boiled over a fire for many hours - up to two days! When the cider is ‘reduced’ by half, apples, sugar, lemon, liquorice and spices are added. The mixture is continuously stirred with a wooden ‘rabot’ or paddle. Production of the butter is a very popular community event following each winter crop with traditional singing, dancing, storytelling and chatting going on into the early hours of the morning. Both The National Trust for Jersey and Jersey Heritage host annual events focussed around the Black Butter making process.
Black Butter can be bought online from La Mare Wine Estate and you can find a Black Butter Recipe on the BBC Jersey website.
Nièr Beurre - Black Butter (Trailer)
In October 2009 the documentary filmmaker and visual anthropologist Daniela Rusowsky, Director of Funk Productions, worked with the collaboration of the National Trust for Jersey, and filmed for the first time in professional format the Jersey tradition of Black Butter making, an ancient apple spread known for its dark colour and unique taste.
La Séthée d'Nièr Beurre
La séthée d'nièr beurre (the black butter evening) is an old Jersey couôteunme (custom) that is somewhat misnamed as it requires longer than eune séthée to make this local delicacy. Here's one version of l'èrchette (the recipe).
Un tas d'monde (lots of people) each armed with un couté (a knife) are first set to work à p'ler (peeling) and à quarteller (slicing up) the apples.
Meanwhile, the fire is alleunmé (lit) and eune peîlée d'cidre (a preserving-panful of cider) is put on to bouoilli (boil). (NB The National Trust uses fresh apple juice in their recipe, not cider).
Douochement (slowly) the apples are ajouôtées (added). This is where lé travas (the work) really starts, because i' faut rêmuer sans cêsse (one must stir non-stop). Otherwise the nièr beurre will be brûlé (burnt).
Les hommes (the men) – and these days les femmes étout (the women as well) – take turns to r'muer using lé rabot (long-handled stirrer). The long handle of the rabot is important to avoid les êcliatchies (spits) of the boiling mixture. La r'mueûthie (the stirring) continues for eune niétchie (a night) and then eune journée (a day).
Eune heuthe (one hour) after lé drein lot d'pommes (the last lot of apples), des limons (lemons) are added. And then trais heuthes (three hours) before lé nièr beurre is ready, the final îngrédgiens (ingredients) are added: d's êpices (spices) and du ricolisse (liquorice).
There's a test to find out when la rêmueûthie can stop, eune tchul'lée (a spoonful) of mixture is put on eune assiette (a plate). When it's sticky enough so that eune tchulyi en bouais (a wooden spoon) pressed into the dollop can lift l'assiette, lé nièr beurre est prêt (is ready) to be poté (put in pots).
Jèrriais (Jersey French)
La faîs'sie d'cidre (cider making)
Lé Preinseu (the cider Press)
Lé nièr beurre (black butter)
La séthée dé nièr (black butter evening)
The traditional dishes listed are not widely available but represent the variety of Jersey’s food heritage.
Black Butter (‘Le Niere Buerre’)
Between 1600 and 1700, twenty percent of Jersey’s arable land was made up of orchards. Cider was made by farmers to give to their staff, making up part of their wages. The island’s export trade in apples peaked in 1810 when 4.5 million litres left the island. A great tradition that exists as a result of Jersey’s proliferation of apples is the production of ‘black butter’ or ‘Le Niere Buerre’. Made from cider apples, the new cider is boiled over a fire for many hours - up to two days! When the cider is ‘reduced’ by half, apples, sugar, lemon, liquorice and spices are added. The mixture is continuously stirred with a wooden ‘rabot’ or paddle.
Production of the butter is a very popular community event following each winter crop with traditional singing, dancing, storytelling and chatting going on into the early hours of the morning. Although not as common, the black butter evenings still take place. The tradition also exists further afield. In Pennsylvania USA, early immigrants took the custom with them but renamed it ‘Apple Butter’. Visitors to the island can take part in a cider-making weekend at Hamptonne (farm buildings that are now a Jersey Heritage site open to visitors for special events) which takes place annually in October.
Bean Crock (Un Piot et des Pais au Fou)
Jersey bean crock is one of the island's best-known recipes. The mixture of dried beans, which are left to soak overnight, is placed in an earthenware jar and boiled. Onions, herbs and pigs trotters are added. The dish was originally eaten for breakfast, especially on Sundays but it is now more commonly eaten for supper, served with a large portion of crusty French bread.
Balls of flour, sugar and eggs, cooked in milk and traditionally eaten on Good Friday.
Apples baked in spicy dough.
La Soupe D'Andgulle (Conger Eel Soup)
Conger eel soup, garnished with marigold flower petals.
Jersey Wonders (Des Mervelles)
Deep fried doughnut type of cake eaten hot or cold and shaped like a lovers’ knot. There is a belief that Jersey Wonders should not be made on a rising tide.
Vraic Buns (Gaches a Vrai)
These buns were eaten in the old days when farmers went to the rocks to cut vraic (seaweed) as fertiliser for the fields.
The traditional Jersey bread baked between two cabbage leaves. Historically, Jersey produced sturdy walking sticks fashioned from the stalks of cabbages, known as 'Tall Jacks', which had been induced to grow tall stalks by removing leaves from around the heart.
Why not learn a few words of our local language Jersey French en route?
Quand la pomme est meûse, ou tchait
When the apple’s ripe, it falls
L’êpice est au fond
The spice is deep down (The best is at the bottom)
Dé bouanne vielle soupe rêcaûffée vaut mus qué d’la fraîche tchi n’vaut rein
Good old soup reheated is better than fresh soup, which is no good
Quand la pâte est levee, I’faut la metre au fou
When the dough has risen, you must put it in the oven
Vaut mus payi l’boulandgi qué l’docteu
Better to pay the baker than the doctor
Du paîsson dait nagi trais fais – dans la mé, dans l’beurre et dans l’vîn
Fish should swim three times – in the sea, in butter and in wine
À la tabl’ye coumme au clios, Car ch’est l’ventre tchi souôtcheint l’dos
At table as in the field, It’s the stomach that supports the back
Mageons l’miyeu tandi qué l’piéthe amende
Let’s eat the best while the worst improves
Y’a un tas d’tchi bouan à mangi en Jèrri au mais d’Mai!
There are loads of good things to eat in Jersey in May!