The weather is finally warming up and here in the hills of Lincolnshire (yes, Lincolnshire does have hills – of a sort, anyway!) the Jack by the Hedge (Alliaria petiolata) has been merrily coming up all over the place. This deliciously garlic scented beauty can be used in all sorts of savoury recipes, from pesto to soup to pastas and salads, but just recently I have been using it to make my own herb butter.
This is very simple to do – and me being me, I of course like to make it from scratch if possible, using double cream and a large kilner jar, followed by substantial amounts of elbow grease!
Simply pour the room temperature cream into a clean, dry kilner jar, put the lid on and start shaking it vigourously. You’ll find it will thicken pretty quickly into a lump that will be a real nuisance to shake from one side of the jar to the other. Put it down, get a quick cup of tea, then pick it up and keep shaking it – this is where it helps to have friends or a handy Viking around to do the butter making haka! You’ll find eventually that the sound the cream makes will change from a muffled slosh into a thump with a much more liquid slosh as the butter solids start to separate out. Keep at it for a bit longer, and you should find yourself with a large pat of yellow butter and a small amount of buttermilk. Hang on to the buttermilk – you can use it to include with the dandelion flower and spelt bread recipe I shall blog about next week, or put it into pancakes!
Next up, you will need to gather half a pint of loosely packed Jack by the Hedge tops. Check these over carefully for livestock – tiny black glossy storm bugs like to live in the white flowers, and these really aren’t good seasoning! Using a board and mezzaluna, finely dice up the herbs, into pieces no more than 1mm across.
Pour your butter into a sieve and allow the buttermilk to drip through, then transfer the butter into a clean bowl and begin using a fork or spoon to mash it thoroughly against the side, keeping the bowl tilted at an angle so the buttermilk can drain off. This can be poured back into the jar with the rest of it regularly. When you’ve done as much as you can to force out the remaining buttermilk, stir in the finely chopped Jack by the Hedge and a generous pinch of salt – I like herbamare for this, or you can use home made herb and nettle salt (I’ll blog about this soon as well) or any other sea or mineral salt you can cook with.
This should give you a very generous portion of delicious herbed butter that is wonderful for cooking fish with, stirring into pasta, just eating as it is with fresh bread… those are just the ideas I can think of off the top of my head, there are many more out there! If you want to try this recipe, I suggest you do so fairly quickly – the warming temperatures out there mean that the Jack by the Hedge will soon become more stringy, so only pick the top few leaves when this happens.