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Anglo Saxon Apple Butter

12/10/2022
by Admin Edatachase

Fruit was used as the usual accompaniment for meat until quite recently. From a modern standpoint, think of apple sauce with pork, or rowan jelly with goose, just writ large… a kick of sweetness adds so much to meat, bringing out the flavour and mixing with the juices…

The Anglo-Saxons certainly thought sweet and meat was a good combination and this recipe has been stolen (and muddled up) from a fantastic cookery book ‘Tastes of Anglo-Saxon England’ by Mary Savelli.

Æpple Syfling, or stewed apples, calls for you to cook apples, cider, honey and spices until soft and then serve with meat. It is truly delicious in this form: not too sweet (I would recommend tarter apples, but that’s personal preference), with an aroma of spice and a lovely texture.

Obviously, though, the joy of cooking is that we can appreciate and adapt. The Anglo-Saxons did not have a slow cooker that could just be left on in the corner (but if they had, I’m sure they would have done this too), so taking advantage of modern technology, I have appropriated the original recipe and taken it to the next stage of the sweet, smooth, gooey goodness that is apple butter.

Feel free to stop at any point and savour the wonder that is spiced stewed apples in any form, but I would recommend seeing it all the way to the end, at least with some of the mixture. The flavour of the full apple butter is rich, not too sweet and deep, pairing equally well with gamey meat; bread and cheese (apple butter and cheese toasties are next level magnificent); cake; ice cream; and many things in between.

The mint and cumin mix produces a fresh and light sauce that tastes summery, but comforting at the same time. 

(Note: I have included an alternative spice mix below the main recipe. Feel free to adapt it to your tastes, but the alternative recipe is one of my favourite spice mixes. Star anise is used a lot in 14th century fruit recipes and I got a little bit addicted in the name of research. If you are a liquorice nut like me, go wild with the star anise. The resulting mix is much more autumnal and a sweeter than the mint.)

Recipe

  • 10 apples (approximately 500g), peeled, cored and diced
  • 375ml/12 fl oz Courtney's Cider
  • 2 large tbsp runny honey
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp dry mint
  • ¼ tsp cumin
  1. Put diced apples, cider, honey, white pepper, mint and cumin in the slow cooker and mix together.
  2. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours.
  3. If you want Anglo-Saxon ‘butter’, remove the mixture at this point and serve with meat.
  4. If you want to continue to a more modern variety, blend the mixture together (giving you will have a modern apple sauce consistency).
  5. Continue cooking on high for 2-4 hours, until the sauce behaves like a thick caramel when you stir it. Check occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn't catch.
  6. Place in sterilised jars and store for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. 

(Alternative Spice mix)

  • 10 apples (approximately 500g), peeled, cored and diced
  • 375ml/12 fl oz Courtney's Cider
  • 2 large tbsp runny honey
  • ¼ tsp white pepper
  • ½ tsp powdered cinnamon
  • 1 stick cinnamon
  • 4-7 star anise (to taste)
  • ½ nutmeg
  • 3 tbsp dark brown sugar
  1. Put diced apples, cider, honey, white pepper and powdered cinnamon in the slow cooker and mix together.
  2. Tie the cinnamon stick, star anise and nutmeg inside a cheesecloth and nestle into the mixture.
  3. Put the lid on the slow cooker and cook on high for 2 hours.
  4. Remove the bag of spices and blend the mixture together (giving you will have an apple sauce consistency).
  5. Add the brown sugar and mix together.
  6. Continue cooking on high for about 4 hours, or until the mixture is the preferred consistency (a thick sauce that holds its shape when stirred. Check occasionally to make sure the mixture doesn't catch.
  7. Place in sterilised jars and store for up to 3 weeks in the fridge. 

The result of your apple butter will vary massively depending on your choice of ingredients. Bramley apples will produce a completely different colour and flavour to red apple varieties. The addition of brown sugar will darken the end result and make it more caramelly. 

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