Real, no-foolin’ butterbeer. That’s what this is. Based on a Tudor recipe dating back to 1594 in a book called The good Huswifes Handmaide for the Kitchin. What are ye waiting for? Get to the kitchin!
I’m rather loving the Handmaide at the moment. Next up — Tudor custard. Then maybe Tudor orange and apple tart. Then… probably not the “Conie with a Pudding in his bellie”. Boiled, no less (sorry, boyled).
Looking through the Handmaide you get an idea of what things were popular and trendy at the time (well, in wealthy households, presumably — if my mum thought oranges were an awesome and exotic gift to receive at Christmas in the 1950s in the UK, I can only imagine how precious they were in the 1590s). On the spice front, the Tudors seem to have been pretty big on mace so I decided to hunt some down and I’ve put that in the butterbeer, for olde tyme’s sake.
However, if you’re precious about your beer at all, this might not be the recipe for you. But if hot, spiced, almost custardy beer sounds bang up your alley (it’s like the mulled wine of… beers…) then this could be a life-changing moment for you and you should brace yourself accordingly.
As for a research journal article to discuss on the topic, what can I say? This letter to the editor was published in the Journal of the American Academy of Child & Adolescent Psychiatry, right after a letter about citalopram and dystonia:
Welsh, C.J. (2004). Harry Potter and butterbeer. J Am Acad Child Adolesc Psychiatry, 43(1), 9-10.
Basically, the author just machine-guns some Harry Potter stats around (55 languages! 170 million copies! etc.), then goes into enough detail about the themes of the books that it makes me suspect that this 46-year-old psychiatrist might be a rabid Harry Potter fan (or someone close to him is a rabid Harry Potter fan, although I prefer the other theory). Then he raises the question, given the sensitive treatment of many real-world themes in the books, why does J.K. Rowling think it’s ok to encourage children to drink beer — or at least to imply that butterbeer is maybe possibly alcoholic and then depict 13-year-olds enjoying it?
Oh I don’t know, maybe because it’s magic beer?
Actually I really don’t know. He does say at one point that the beer is noted in the book to have a warming effect, which is, as he says, “a quality typically used to describe alcoholic beverages”. Well, maybe butterbeer is warm thermally? Tudor butterbeer certainly is. You heat it up in a saucepan. What do you make of that, huh?
He then says that a house-elf called Winky gets drunk on butterbeer, testament to its alcoholic properties. Well, you know, chocolate can kill my dogs and yet make me simply rather contented — maybe butterbeer only intoxicates elves? (cf. The Lord of the Rings where it doesn’t.) Maybe it’s impossible to know because I can’t go and find a house-elf and do a behavioural study on the effects of fictional vs non-fictional alcohol.
He then cosies up to Rowling again, saying how fantabulously obliteratingly wonderful her stories are, but! Can we use butterbeer in Harry Potter as a way of teaching children to not consume alcohol until they reach an appropriate age? Can we use Winky as an example of the misfortune that befalls those who abuse alcohol?
Sure why not. But somehow I think kids are probably more likely to get bad messages about alcohol consumption from the behaviour of their immediate family members rather than bloody Harry Potter (e.g. see Cranford et al. and plenty of other papers). But then again, I’ve heard tales of children who cried when they didn’t get their letter from Hogwarts, so we perhaps shouldn’t underestimate its power — although surely there are more interesting things in Harry Potter for children to try to copy other than drunk dirty house-elf behaviour… aren’t there? Well?
In conclusion, mentioning a massively popular franchise will get you published in a slightly fancy journal. (JAACAP has an impact factor of 4.983.)
BRB, writing a paper to submit to Nature that mentions something about Twilight. (Made slightly more difficult by the fact that I’ve never read the books or seen the movies, but I’m sure I can figure out all I need to know from the movie posters.)
Read on for the recipe for butterbeer.
Butterbeer (or buttered beer)
I’ve scaled this down to make just one [rather large] serving, so scale it back up as needed.
1 Imperial pint (568ml) of beer — preferably an ale of some sort
2 egg yolks
1/4 tsp ground mace (or nutmeg)
1/4 tsp ground cloves
1/8 tsp ground ginger
25g unsalted butter, diced
Note 1: Use a light-flavoured ale for this if possible. I used Hitochino Japanese Ale and it worked really well. Other lighter-flavoured beers work as well (I’ve also used Sapporo and it tasted pretty good despite being a lager). Keep in mind that in Tudor times, ales didn’t contain hops, so if you can find a beer that is light on hops that would probably be ideal.
Note 2: You can easily substitute the beer with ginger ale or ginger beer for a non-alcoholic version (just omit the powdered ginger or it might be a bit over the top on the ginger front).
Note 3: You can adjust the spices to taste — you might prefer more ginger and less mace/nutmeg/cloves.
Note 4: I’ve used half as much sugar as the original recipe called for. I think it’s more than sweet enough with this much, but if you want the genuine Tudor article, double the sugar amount.
Note 5: The original recipe called for a “dish” of butter to 5 pints of beer and I have no idea how much a dish was in 1594, so I’m just guessing at an appropriate amount. You can feel free to speculate too (unless you actually know how much a 1594 dish was, in which case… nice work).
In a bowl, whisk egg yolks and sugar together until pale.
Put the beer in a saucepan and whisk in the spices. Place over low heat and when slightly warm, add the egg and sugar mixture, whisking as you go. Keep whisking as the temperature increases, but do not let the mixture boil or even get close to boiling. It should be steaming but not bubbling because if it gets too hot, the eggs will cook and the mixture will look curdled. (If you have a kitchen thermometer, try to keep the temperature around 65-70°C, 149-158°F.) Keep stirring while the mixture thickens slightly, which only takes a few minutes.
When it has thickened a little, take it off the heat. Add the butter and stir it until it melts into the beer mixture completely. Pour into the appropriate vessels and serve!