Archive for December, 2009
Posted in jane austen, Jane Austen Novels, Jane Austen's enduring popularity, Jane Austen's letters, Jane Austen's life, Jane Austen's World, Lady Susan, Regency style, The Watsons, tagged A Woman's Wit: Jane Austen's Life and Legacy, Morgan Library, Morgan Library and Museum on December 31, 2009 | 9 Comments »
The exhibit, A Woman’s Wit: Jane Austen’s Life and Legacy, will be shown through March 14, 2010 at the Morgan Library in New York City. This week I had the distinct pleasure of seeing this unique presentation of Jane’s letters, the drafts of two of her novels (The Watsons and Lady Susan), several books, and images and cartoons of the Regency era.
I had taken a number of shots with my flip camera before a museum guard advised me that I could not take pictures. (Since it was possible to take pictures to my heart’s delight in The Louvre, it did not cross my mind that I could not do so at the Morgan Library). Interestingly, I had already taken numerous shots in full view of everyone before the guard stopped me.
The actual exhibition area is contained within a small room, but there are so many letters and items of interest that I could have spent the entire day inside that space. Jane’s Life and Legacy were divided into three sections – her life and personal letters, her works, and her legacy. Over the next few weeks I shall write about my impressions from that exhibit, tying in other links and posts.
If you are not familiar with the Morgan Library and Museum, some information about its history might be of interest:
A complex of buildings in the heart of New York City, The Morgan Library & Museum began as the private library of financier Pierpont Morgan, one of the preeminent collectors and cultural benefactors in the United States. Today it is a museum, independent research library, musical venue, architectural landmark, and historic site. More than a century after its founding, the Morgan maintains a unique position in the cultural life of New York City and is considered one of its greatest treasures. With the 2006 reopening of its newly renovated campus, designed by renowned architect Renzo Piano, the Morgan reaffirmed its role as an important repository for the history, art, and literature of Western civilization from 4000 B.C. to the twenty-first century. – Press Release information
The following links might also interest you:
- ArcSpace.com: Morgan Library: This fascinating link shows images and architectural drawings of the new addition of the Morgan Library
- Collector’s Portrait: John Pierpont Morgan: Find out more about John Pierpont Morgan in this link.
Happy New Year, All!
Gentle Reader: This is Christine Stewart’s fourth post for this blog. Christine has embarked on a year-long journey on a Sense and Sensibility inspired project that she chronicles on Embarking on a Course of Study. During the recent snow storm on the East Coast, she made good use of her time by completing 100 pages of The Mysteries of Udolpho.
Okay, here’s my clever (I hope) new idea for the new year: dating a la Jane Austen via match.com.
What better way to test out the preferred behavior, character, and values of our favorite heroines (for me: Lizzy, Elinor, and Anne) that captivated their men? And what better arena than one of (or the) largest dating site on the Internet – arguably the biggest ballroom in the world?!
Let’s look at the necessary criteria:
- I’m single and available – check.
- I’m armed with an arsenal of advice Jane Austen style (see book list on my site) – check.
- I’ve got a healthy sense of humor – check.
- I’m willing to make a fool of myself – check.
- I’m willing to learn something – check, check, check!
That’s what this blog is all about!
Though I consider myself a great catch, I’m an interesting (odd?) mix of come hither and cautious, which makes for some contradiction. I can flirt, but at heart I want someone grounded, centered, not necessarily old-fashioned, but someone with integrity and good manners to go along with his rockin’ sense of humor, his smarts, creativity, good heart, and sex appeal. I’ve really misjudged men in the past and accepted less than I deserved, sometimes ignoring my intuition, which was yelling Run! in favor of being with someone rather than being alone. Settling for Mr. Right Now instead of Mr. Right Always. Good grief – who hasn’t, right? It’s all part of growing up.
But still – ouch.
I took a break for a few years – focused on career and writing, friends, buying a house, and now this blog, but this is too good of an opportunity to pass up.
If you’d like to hear more and see the books I’m using (and take this challenge along with me), go to my site, Embarking on a Course of Study.
In a previous post a week or so ago, you can find a link to listen to and/or download the entire ‘The Mysteries of Udolpho.’ Some readers of the sections are better than others. But it’s a delicious treat regardless.
I’m still doing my regular course of reading per Marianne Dashwood’s possible list. It’s sometimes slow going as there’s so much (!), but worth it.
Happy New Year!
Christine’s other posts for this blog:
Laurel Ann, my blogging partner at Jane Austen Today, gave me a copy of Fashion: The Collection of the Kyoto Costume Institute a thick, breathtaking book with color photographs of the institute’s extensive western fashion collection.
The Kyoto Costume Institute (KCI), founded in 1978, is the only institution in Japan to study Western fashion. Its collections include primarily Western costume and accessories, dating from the 18th Century to the present. Its website provides information about the KCI, its gallery and exhibition catalogues. The digital archive contains images of 200 objects from the collection, arranged chronologically. The site is available in both English and Japanese parallel versions. – Intute
This book holds a special place on my shelf. Its arrival tells me that Laurel Ann knows me very well! View some of the lovely images contained in the book at this site: Digital archive of the Kyoto Costume Institute
Posted in Austenesque novels, Book review, jane austen, Jane Austen Novels, tagged Beth Pattillo, Jane and the Genius of the Place, Jane Austen Ruined My Life, Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart, Stephanie Barron on December 26, 2009 | 5 Comments »
Mr. Darcy Broke My Heart is the second mystery book by Beth Patillo, author of the popular Jane Austen Ruined My Life. The book is based along similar lines as the first novel. A young woman without a job and with a neglectful boyfriend travels to Oxford to attend a Jane Austen seminar. The adventure begins when Jane Austen’s lost manuscript of First Impressions is found. The reader once again runs across The Formidables, who played such a prominent role in Ms. Padillo’s first book. I have finished the second chapter and cannot wait to finish the book. Click here to read my review.
My other choice for the holidays is Stephanie Barron’s Jane and the Genius of the Place, the first book in a long, successful mystery series. I have started to read this first book on four occasions and never quite managed to get into the story. I am determined to read the book front to back this time to learn why two of my friends are die-hard fans.
Today is Boxing Day in England. May you and yours enjoy the lingering effects of this lovely holiday season.
Posted in Christmas, History, Holiday, jane austen, Jane Austen's World, Regency Life, Regency Period, Regency style, tagged Christmas in the Olden Time, Sir Walter Scott on December 24, 2009 | 3 Comments »
Happy Christmas from Jane Austen’s World
Heap on more wood! — the wind is chill;
But let it whistle as it will,
We’ll keep our Christmas merry still.
Each age has deemed the new born year
The fittest time for festal cheer.
And well our Christian sires of old.
Loved when the year its course had rolled,
And brought blithe Christmas back again,
With all his hospitable train.
Domestic and religious rite
Gave honour to the holy night:
On Christmas eve the bells were rung;
On Christmas eve the mass was sung;
That only night, in all the year,
Saw the stoled priest the chalice rear.
The damsel donned her kirtle sheen;
The hail was dressed with holly green;
Forth to the wood did merry men go,
To gather in the mistletoe,
Then opened wide the baron’s hail
To vassal, tenant, serf, and all;
Power laid his rod of rule aside,
And ceremony doff’d his pride.
The heir, with roses in his shoes,
That night might village partner choose.
The lord, underogating, share
The vulgar game of “post and pair!”
All hailed with uncontroll’d delight
And general voice, the happy night
That to the cottage, as the crown,
Brought tidings of salvation down.
The fire with well dried logs supplied,
Went roaring up the chimney wide;
The huge hail table’s oaken face,
Scrubb’d till it shone, the day to grace,
Bore then upon: its massive board
No mark to part the squire and lord.
Then was brought in the lusty brawn,
By old, blue-coated serving-man;
Then the grim boar’s head frowned on high,
Crested with bays and rosemary.
Well can the green-garbed ranger tell,
How, when, and where, the monster fell;
What dogs before his death he tore,
And all the baiting of the boar.
The wassail round in good brown bowls,
Garnished with ribbon, blithely trowls.
There the huge sirloin reeked: hard by
Plum-porridge stood, and Christmas pie;
Nor failed old Scotland to produce
At such high tide her savoury goose.
Then came the merry masquers in,
And carols roar’d with blithesome din;
If unmelodious was the song,
It was a hearty note, and strong.
Who lists may in their mumming see
Traces of ancient mystery;
White shirts supplied the masquerade,
And smutted cheeks the visor made
But oh! what masquers, richly dight,
Can boast of bosoms half so light!
England was merry England when
Old Christmas brought his sports again.
’Twas Christmas broached the mightiest ale,
’Twas Christmas told the merriest tale;
A Christmas gambol oft would cheer
A poor man’s heart through half the year.
Posted in Austenesque novels, Book review, jane austen, Jane Austen Novels, Jane Austen's World, Popular culture, Regency Life, Regency World, tagged Coffeetown Press, Hazel Holt, My Dear Charlotte on December 23, 2009 | 7 Comments »
My Dear Charlotte is a recent novel written in epistolary form by British mystery writer Hazel Holt, who uses Jane Austen’s letters to her sister Cassandra for her inspiration. The main character of the book and the writer of the letters is Elinor Cowper (pronounced Cooper), who lives in Lyme Regis with her parents. She writes faithfully to her older sister Charlotte in Bath. In the letters Ms. Holt includes all the minutia of daily life that Jane wrote down, such as purchasing cloth, refurbishing bonnets, exchanging recipes, and attending balls and assemblies. Jan Ferfus, Professor of English Emerita, Lehigh University writes in the introduction:
“Of course, you don’t have to love Austen to love this book. If you enjoy detective novels, you will find here a completely satisfying murder mystery, coupled with a romance (or more than one, in fact). My Dear Charlotte gives you, in addition to mystery and romance, a portrait of the world of the English gentry at around 1815, immediately after the defeat of Napoleon–its manners and its moral certainty. As in Austen, Napoleon is not directly mentioned, but his shadow is there: one brother of the heroine is a sailor and the other a junior diplomat at the Congress of Vienna. It’s the social world at home that is central, however, with its balls, visits, courtships, gossip, and of course murder, underlining the tensions and rifts within that apparently civilized society.
The book is based on the premise that Jane’s letters make for interesting reading. As the publisher says, “While the story is new, the details having to do with balls, dinners, and other social events are given in the words of Jane Austen herself.” This excerpt describes events just after Mrs. Woodstock’s murder:
Of course it cannot be denied that Mr Woodstock himself will lead a happier life without his formidable spouse, though I do not believe that he could have summoned up the courage to dispose of her!
Mr Rivers will be glad to be rid of one who would have put obstacles in the way of his plans for the Barbados estate, but I do not think that may be considered a sufficient reason for an honourable man to take a life.
Mrs West, however, seems to me to lack such scruples if they stood in the way of her daughter’s advancement. I do not at present see how she could have brought about Mrs Woodstock’s demise, but no doubt, if I give my mind to it, I may presently think of something.
Poor John coachman also had reason to wish his mistress dead, since his whole happiness (and that of Sarah) depended upon keeping his position at Holcombe and if he had been turned away without a character his case would have been miserable indeed.
So you see, there are a number of people who will be happy at Mrs Woodstock’s death. Perhaps I should add myself to the list for the sake of those hours of tedium and the many irritations she has subjected me to!
The above passage represents the book at its most exciting because it concentrates on the plot. As far as I am concerned, Jane Austen’s letters are not all that interesting when taken out of context. The letters to Cassandra are important because they reveal something (anything) about Jane’s life and thoughts. Those that I read from the Brabourne edition seem like watered down pap when compared to the tart and satiric observations of her novels. There were times when I stopped reading My Dear Charlotte, for the book was bogged down by the minutia of daily life instead of clues about the murder. The details were meant to give authenticity, but they should have been used more sparingly. I found the epistolary format also problematic, for it allowed for too much exposition and very little dialogue, and I felt that I was receiving my information third-hand. Instead of getting into Elinor’s head, I was reading about her recipes! In fact, Elinor reveals as little of her thoughts, ideas, and hopes in her letters to Charlotte as Jane did to Cassandra. I would have preferred that Ms. Holt had used the rich dialogue and language in Jane’s books for inspiration, rather than her uneventful life.
Hazel Holt would most likely disagree with my assessment of Jane’s letters. She describes the process of writing My Dear Charlotte in a recent interview, in which she revealed that she found Jane’s letters delightfully chatty:
I thought – holding my breath – that since they are such wonderfully informal, chatty letters, I might just manage to create a sort of facsimile of her world if I wrote my novel in the form of letters, inserting extracts of Austen’s where they would fit in with the story – the perfect, authentic background.
Ms. Holt DOES capture Jane’s ascerbic wit on a few occasions by directly quoting her and weaving these gems into the plot:
“Mrs Holder’s niece, Miss Porter, is recently come into the neighborhood but is not much admired; the good-natured world, as usual, extolled her beauty so highly, that all of Lyme have had the pleasure of being disappointed.”
“I do not remember if I told you that Mrs Heathcote wrote to tell us that Miss Blackford is married, but I have never seen it in the papers, and one may as well be single if the wedding is not in print.”
Perhaps I was expecting too much from the start and didn’t give this book the chance it deserved. As a successful mystery writer, I expected Ms. Holt to wow me from page one. To be fair, as the book progressed and as the characters were introduced and more fully formed, I found myself becoming more involved in the plot. Ms. Holt knows how to write a mystery, though I took a stab in the dark and guessed the murderer early on. Searching the Internet for reviews and comments about My Dear Charlotte, I discovered that many people liked it immensely and gave it rave reviews. As for me, I rate this book two out of three regency fans.
My Dear Charlotte: With the assistance of Jane Austens letters (Paperback), Hazel Holt. ISBN #’s
Large Print Books: 978-1-60381-041-8
More on the Topic
- About Hazel Holt
- Interview with Hazel Holt
- About Coffeetown Press
- Comments on Wikio (positive comments)
- Amazon reviews (positive review about the book)
- Reveries Under the Sign of Austen (a scathing review)
- Order the book
OK, I’ll be the first to admit that this short YouTube video of Persuasion is a bit juvenile, and the language and concept somewhat puerile. But the video IS funny in a weird sort of way. It was the result of an English project based on Jane Austen’s classic. If you want more comics, check out Eric Cochran’s hysterically funny website. As he cautions: “If you haven’t read Persuasion you should! Unless you’re a dude…”
I think Jane would have laughed her cap off.
Posted in Book review, jane austen, Jane Austen Novels, Jane Austen's World, Popular culture, Regency Life, Regency style, Regency World, tagged Christine Stewart, embarking on a Course of Study on December 16, 2009 | 5 Comments »
Inquiring readers: This is the third guest post by Christine Stewart, who has embarked on the year-long Sense and Sensibility inspired project on her blog, Embarking of a Course of Study. Read her biography on Poets and Writers. Enjoy!
Let’s just say how much I am enjoying rereading Northanger Abbey. The first few times I read it, I think it was right after reading P&P or S&S and I was still steeped in all the (I was going to say romance, but Austen doesn’t really do romance) push and pull, hopes and dreams, of the characters’ road to marriage (let’s go with that), so I was frustrated with the satire and play and narrator’s voice in the book at times – because I wanted it to be another P&P or S&S or Persuasion.
Well, it’s a rollicking good time now and I can appreciate it for all its charms and cleverness. It’s the one book where Jane’s voice speaks to you directly and it’s a fun dialogue. Her wit is beyond compare! She really goes full force, no holds barred. Awesome.
It’s gotten me thinking how much of her characters’ character, and whether they take the high road or low and end up where they want to go, is tied to books. Books have power – whether read or written (women created some measure of independence – money – through writing) – and they make or break the character and her future. The wrong ones give you the wrong ideas and make you the wrong fit (and wrong-headed) for the partner who could have been right otherwise. I’ve mentioned this before, but I’ll say it again. The heroines who do well are the ones with self-command, self-awareness, and the power of self-examination. The ones that follow (to the greater degree) the rules of propriety, and who have a handle on their emotions, go the furthest.
This is something many women may not be taught today, as young girls. Yes, as children, we knew about behaving at the dinner table and in malls, etc., but I’m pretty sure my friends and I never heard word one about dealing with/managing our emotions (fears, worries, even joys), so they didn’t rule us. And self-examination? What??? Who heard of that as a teenager or young adult, when you needed it most?
With all the silly (ok – STUPID) magazines we read – Tiger Beat, Seventeen, Mademoiselle, Cosmo – that were all about dressing and making oneself up for a man and making him feel important, forgetting about what was inside us and making ourselves feel good first, we didn’t stand a chance. And then it became all about career – women ‘having it all.’ Always looking outside, not inside for ways to manage our lives. Media in general was not (and still isn’t) responsible in how it communicates with young women. And most of our parents didn’t know how to help themselves let alone us.
There’s been a big resurgence of self-help books, classes, and videos geared towards teaching women how to relate to men, how to get what they want from men, how to meet the right one and marry him. Think Bridget Jones’ Diary. But it’s even larger now. Being 43 and single, I get targeted for these kinds of ads/info on the Internet. There’s a huge industry with audio, video, books, teleconferences, soulmate kits, vedic astrology readings, and more. Who knew?
It’s really boomed since The Secret came out and the masses learned about The Law of Attraction on Oprah. It’s a new (and very commercial – because that’s what we Americans do best) version of the ‘how tos’ that Austen’s characters (the sensible ones) demonstrate for us.
And guess what? It’s all about self-examination, self-awareness, and self-command. That’s the good news. It’s still about reading the right books, which is still a minefield experience. That’s the bad.
Let me ‘share’ that about 13 years ago I had an anxiety disorder that lasted for several years (panic attacks and everything, good times), and that taught me those three skills. It forced me, more like, but I hadn’t known or seen their necessity in my life to that point, so that’s what it took for me to wake up, apparently! I’m grateful that it happened as it was a major turning point in my life and a constant reminder to keep up those practices. It’s not an experience you forget. Still, would have been easier to have had good examples in life and books instead….
So what do you think? How were you raised? Who were your examples/models of womanhood? Do you regularly take stock of your feelings and behavior and adjust where needed? Do you put yourself first (not thinking selfish here, there’s a difference), take care of yourself? Make hard choices/decisions? I’d love to hear.
Stop by the website and comment, and check out a video of Jane Austen’s House (12/11 post), and a link to The Gentlewoman’s Companion, or A Guide to the Female Sex (11/30 post). Let’s read along together!
Enjoy Jane’s birthday!
Let’s celebrate by making ratafia cakes
Take 8 fl oz: apricot kernels, if they cannot be had bitter Almonds will do as well, blanch them & beat them very fine with a little Orange flower water, mix them with the whites of three eggs well beaten & sifted, work all together and it will be like a paste, then lay it in little round bits on tin plates flour’d, set them in an oven that is not very hot & they will puff up & be soon baked.
4 fl oz/ 110 g/ 1 cup ground almonds; 2 egg whites; 1 teaspoon orange-flower water or orange liqueur; 6 oz/ 175 g/ ¾ cup caster (superfine) sugar; rice paper
Today we know that bitter almonds may contain prussic acid, so it is wise to use ready-ground sweet almonds and a little orange liqueur for extra flavour instead. Set the oven to heat to 350 F/ 180 C/ Gas Mark 4. Sieve or pound the almonds in a bowl to get rid of any lumps. In a second bowl, whisk the egg whites with the orange-flower water or liqueur until stiff. Then mix the sugar into the almonds thoroughly and lastly fold in the whisked whites. Cover a baking-sheet with rice paper and place small teaspoonfuls of mixture on it, well spaced apart. Bake for 10-12 minutes or until the cakes are just fawn; they must be soft underneath. Cool them on the sheet, then keep in an airtight tin. Enjoy them with after-dinner coffee.
(Black, Maggie and LeFaye, Deirdre, The Jane Austen Cookbook, p. 125)
More on the Topic
T’is the season to purchase books for a Christmas gift or to curl up with a novel in front of a fire as the cold weather settles in. The first book I suggested for your consideration was The Harlot’s Progress: Yorkshire Molly, by Peter Mottley, the first in a trilogy and a fictional actualization of Hogarth’s series of etchings called “The Harlot’s Progress”. My friend, Lady Anne, wrote a review about the second holiday book, These Old Shades by Georgette Heyer, a perennial favorite.
Regency Cheshire by Sue Wilkes
The third book on my recommendation list this holiday season is Regency Cheshire by Sue Wilkes, a history book about the Regency period in Cheshire during the early 19th Century. All I ask of a history book is accurate information about an era or region in which I am interested, and tidbits of information that will enlighten my knowledge of the past in an interesting way. This book offers both. I tend not to read history books from front to back, one of my bigger failings. I will start a chapter in the middle of a book and towards the end, before attempting the first chapters, and Regency Cheshire lends itself well to this practice. I knew very little about Cheshire before I began to read it, and am now curious to visit the area. In no particular order, here are some of the facts related in the book that I found interesting:
“Mad Jack” Mytton, the Squire of Halston Hall, drank seven bottles of port wine per day and kept two bulldogs and a pet bear. One day, Mad Jack got hiccups while drunk. Attempting to frighten them away, he set his shirt on fire with a lighted candle, an incident he survived. – p 72-73
An ailing George III celebrated his jubilee in October 1809. Churchbells rang and flags flew in Macclesfield, where a public dinner was held in his honor for 1,200 people; an ox was roasted in Chester, and the streets were decorated with patterns of colored sand in Knutsford. – p22
Chester hosted the Earl of Chester Plate, a racing event that began in 1802. Inns and private rooms filled up rapidly before race meetings, and special balls, assemblies and plays were held during race week. Along with genteel folks came beggars, blind fiddlers, and unwelcome pick-pockets. – p 71
“About 92,000 cows were kept for diary production in the first decade of the nineteenth century and approximately 11,500 tons of cheese were produced each year…Cows were milked twice a day at six o’clock in the morning and evening. The annual yield of cheese from each cow varied hugely, from 50 lb. to over 500 lb, depending on the season, quality of the soil and pasture, time of year, and how well the stock was over-wintered. About eight quarts of milk were needed to produce one pound of cheese.” – p 176-177
“Child workers helped throwsters in workshops or ‘shades’…The throwster’s helper, usually a boy, then ran to the other end of the room, carrying the other ends of the silk threads on bobbins….The throwsters twisted the silk threads by spinning the wheel. Their young helpers ran miles barefoot every day.” – p. 198
“John Wakefield, a gentleman and salt proprietor at Winnington, was accused of of fatally stabbing 21-year-old Richard Maddock, a handsome Northwich flatman. Maddock’s sweetheart, Elizabeth Woodward, a ‘smart, good-looking girl’, aged about twenty and a servant in the Wakefield’s home, was a key witness for the prosecution. John Wakefield fell desperately in love with her and offered to take Elizabeth to London, and ‘keep me as a lady’, she testified. On the night of 8 September 1817, Wakefield discovered Maddock in the house with Elizabeth. There was a violent struggle. Later, another flatman found Maddock dying about seventy yards from the house. The jury found Wakefield guilty of manslaughter, but the judge gave him just six months in the ‘common gaol’.”- p 112
There are more fascinating stories about Regency Cheshire in this fact-filled, informative, and well-written book. If you have any interest in the Regency era or Chester in the 19th Century, I highly recommend it. Click here to order the book in the UK.
More on the topic:
- Order the book in the U.S.
- Sue Wilkes: Blog
- Chester 360
- Cheshire Memories: County author Sue Wilkes produces new book on Regency Cheshire
- Robert Hale Publisher: Regency Cheshire
Posted in Christmas, Holiday, jane austen, Jane Austen's letters, Jane Austen's life, Jane Austen's World, Regency food, Regency Life, Regency Period, Regency style, Regency World, tagged apple butter, black butter, Regency food on December 12, 2009 | 17 Comments »
Inquiring readers: Reader Cora Harrison recently placed this comment on my blog: “In one letter, Jane [Austen] spoke of serving ‘black butter’ with wigeon and that she thought the butter was bad … Poor Jane, I thought. However, in reading a book called The Feast of Christmas I discovered that black butter was not butter at all, but what I would call a fruit cheese, made from equal quantities of apples, blackcurrants or blackberries and less sugar, and then boiled until it sets – and of course, the colour would be black!”
Her comment so intrigued me, that I decided to look up the topic. Jane wrote to her sister on December 27, 1808:
The first pot [of black butter] 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.”
The recipe for making black butter, or apple butter as it is commonly known today, harkens back to medieval times. After the winter crop was picked, the preserve was made in huge quantities. In the 18th century, twenty percent of Jersey’s arable land was made up of orchards, and the tradition of producing ‘black butter’ or ‘Le Niere Buerre’ became an annual social and festive occasion. Jersey black butter was made from cider apples that were slowly boiled over a fire. Women would peel hundreds of pounds of apples, while the men and children would gather enough wood to keep the fire going for almost two days. After the cider was ‘reduced’ by half, apples, sugar, lemon, liquorice and spices were added. The Jersey tradition of making black butter included singing, dancing, and storytelling all through the night and until early morning. Jersey Island black butter is characterized by the addition of liquorice, which made the preserve quite dark. – RecipeZaar & BBC Jersey Black Butter.
According to Food Legends, black butter “contains no butter, the butter in the name being like the cheese in lemon cheese, more a description of the consistency and application of the product than anything else; and second, it is not really black, indeed a great deal of effort goes into avoiding the burning that would change the dark brown mass to black.” The following is likely Jane Austen’s recipe for Black Butter. Traditionally, the preserve is spread on bread, or it can be eaten by itself:
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. – Copyright Maria Hubert von Staufer March 1995
This recipe, which Cora must have at first thought Jane Austen was referring to, is a black butter that is generally served with fish, such as skate or salmon:
Black Butter: Put into a frying pan the necessary amount of butter, and cook it until it has a brown color and begins to smoke. At this moment add a large pinch of concassed parsley leaves and spread it immediately over the object to be treated. - Chest of Books
More on the topic:
- Black Butter: A Recipe from Jane Austen’s Christmas
- The Old Foodie: A Woman in Possession of a Good Recipe
- More Recipes from Eighteenth Century England
- Quote from the Jane Austen Magazine
- Image from La Section de la Langue Jerriaisse
- A Regency Meal in December