Hustlin’ like a huswife

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
40g sugar
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!

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  1. Heh, I was surprised how alcoholic my mulled wine was still after simmering a few hours…

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 6, 2010

      Haha just buy a bottle of Glogg from the foods section in Ikea. It’s non-alcoholic mulled wine and… yeah I just like the name.

      I simmered some wine a couple of weeks back so I could make some sort of concentrated wine syrup to add to some cupcake icing (long story) and it turns out that simmering it with the lid off the saucepan is a fantastic way of concentrating all the tannins in the reduction so it makes you cry when you taste it. Lesson learned…

  2. I’d much prefer to read this article about Harry Potter and butterbeer than the one I found once, by a super-intense religious woman (that’s my PC version of what I originally described her as) which pretty much blamed butterbeer for all the ills in the world. Because, like, totally, Hermione *hugged* Ron and Harry in the movies after she drank some. The skank! Clearly she was going to have sex and get syphilis, all because of butterbeer.

    That said… am absolutely bookmarking this for the next Harry Potter Day my friends put on. It shall be my first time attending, and I’m going to get as all drunk. Wonderment shall ensue! And syphilis.

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 6, 2010

      Haaahaaaaaa ahhhh we know what a lot of religious people think of Harry Potter… time for a book burning!

      I don’t know if anyone’s going to get drunk on butterbeer — it’s so rich that you’d probably be clutching your stomach and groaning from being so full after, like, half a pint. Although I did make iced egg-nog last Christmas and it was incredibly rich yet people still managed to get quite a few down before feeling like their stomach was going to explode with richness.

  3. LOL about the LTE. Sounds like he’s really overthinking it to me, but you make some good points in response 8). This sounds really delicious to me, and I’m looking forward to the interesting apple orange tart too if you make it.

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 6, 2010

      The apple and orange tart sounds quite fantastic from the recipe.The orange component is actually orange peel, which is what got me interested because I like orange peel way too much. I’m definitely going to give it a try at some stage.

  4. Thanks for your comment on my blog! Year 12 is scary, but I’ve only got 5 weeks to go…so I can’t wait :D
    I’m glad you commented because now I’ve found your blog. I didn’t know butterbeer actually existed??? I thought it was stuff from Harry Potter as you mentioned! I’m so excited. I’m making this!!!!

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 6, 2010

      Year 12 will be over in a flash and then you’ll be in for much more freedom and independence. I hated it at first, but then after my first uni semester I couldn’t imagine ever wanting it to be any different!

      I was pretty surprised that butterbeer was a real thing too (although at some level, beer + butter sounds like a pleasant combination), but the Tudors indeed came up with it centuries before J.K. Rowling was even born. It’s pretty good, although I’m sure it would be much more enjoyable in on a cold winter’s night rather than on an increasingly warm Australian spring/summer’s day. I can’t imagine that an iced version of this recipe would work very well, since the butter would just separate out and solidify. Maybe that’s something I need to work on: devising a summer butterbeer recipe!

  5. My mouth is watering. I can’t tell you how excited I am to try this recipe.

    Reply
  6. I love reading about the history of food and food in history. It was fascinating to read the snippets from the end 16th century cook book. More, more!

    Reply
  7. This looks and sounds awesome. So cool to know that people were making the same recipe hundreds of years ago! Thanks for sharing :D

    Reply
  8. Great post! I’ve only heard of butter beer in the Harry Potter books, I didn’t realize it was an actual drink. This sounds yummy but very rich. Love your blog. Glad I found it through tastespotting.

    Reply
  9. I too never realized that this is an actual beverage. Seems appropriate for a Halloween party… or a christmas party… or even Thanksgiving. Hm… I’m going to experiment with this one. Something makes me inclined to try it with a high alcohol content stout and then serve it in small quantities, as it seems like it would be very rich.

    Reply
  10. Very nice! I may have to try this out! I clicked for curiosity, not being a drinker, but your suggestion of ginger beer is a good one!

    Reply
  11. Totally going to point out that drinking at home is a very common British thing from a young age, and you can in fact have a glass of wine or a beer in a restaurant from the age of 16 in Scotland. Mildly alcoholic ginger beer and shadys are common too.

    I’m stoked You’ve put this recipe up, its on the Halloween list!

    Reply
  12. I had always assumed that the butterbeer in Harry Potter was alcoholic, and I always chalked it up to the fact that Americans are incredibly puritanical about a lot of things and like to freak out over stupid crap. Like, say, teenagers having an occasional bit of alcohol but clearly not binge drinking and being stupid. Or kids having a small glass of wine with dinner and no one calling CPS to get them tossed into foster care.

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 17, 2010

      I once made cupcakes for an extended family get-together (i.e. a whole heap of people from my boyfriend’s family who we never see and I’d never met before) and the cupcakes had 2 tablespoons of rum in the icing. So 2 tbs of rum spread across at least 40 cupcakes. One mother freaked out and forbid her children from touching them because they were “alcoholic” cupcakes and “for grown-ups only”.

      I remember eating quite a few rum ball truffles as a kid. And look at the horrific consequences — now I’m a neuroscientist! My brain must be totally wrecked. Let that be a lesson to helicopter parents everywhere.

    • I’ve had the same thing happen. Only with my LDS extended family, the same thing happens with coffee. When I still lived close to them, one of my aunts wouldn’t bring her children to my house unless I hid the coffee and liquor where her kids couldn’t see it.

      What a shock, now that they’re adults three of her five kids are alcoholics.

  13. I quite like how there are references in this post, it kind of makes me want to go check out some more refs (but then that would feel too much like work and that’s not good). I wholeheartedly support an attempt at publishing something weird in the article section of Nature, I bet the editors would get a kick out of it!

    Reply
  14. Taylor

     /  October 20, 2010

    For us Yankees:
    1 Imperial pint (19oz) of beer — maybe a “bomber” (22oz)
    2 egg yolks
    3.5 tbsp sugar
    1/4 tsp ground mace (or nutmeg)
    1/4 tsp ground cloves
    1/8 tsp ground ginger
    2tbsp unsalted butter, diced

    Reply
  15. this was going to be interesting until you’re writing style turned out to be, “blah, blah (insert superfluous words and try to sound witty), blah.”

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 20, 2010

      Wow, thanks for “you’re” constructive feedback, dude! I hope you continue to read my blog just to make yourself annoyed — I wouldn’t want to force you to read this blog against your will, so it’s great that you’re doing it yourself. And good on you for being brave enough to comment with a fake name, fake email address and fake URL. I’ve certainly learned my lesson! Just a minute while I delete my blog and go cry in the corner.

  16. Hey there,
    Nice one on the butter beer recipe. I want that cookbook! To possibly answer your “dish” question,
    http://homecooking.about.com/library/weekly//bloldconvert.htm
    has a “saucer” as approximately one heaping cup. If that’s equivalent, that’s a lot of butter……
    Incidentally, at least half the pictures of my son up to about 18 months had him holding a beer bottle/can/pint up to his mouth. One day he figured out how to tilt it, blew some out his nose, and has since refused to touch it.
    Going to try this recipe out with Wychwood Brewery’s Wychcraft Ale (fairly light and low hop) for Halloween.

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 20, 2010

      That’s a huge amount of butter! I can’t imagine that it would even mix in completely with the rest of the liquid with that sort of amount — you’d probably end up with a layer of liquid butter sitting on top of the beer. Yikes.

      Good luck making your butterbeer — I hope it turns out well!

  17. Ivan Mawesome

     /  October 20, 2010

    Jess,
    Glogg is just the mix that you’re supposed to add to wine, at least for the traditional Swedish glogg. If you’re drinking the Ikea stuff straight, you’re really missing out. Here’s the recipe I use every year from he son of Swedish immigrant:

    1 bottle of Ikea Glogg
    1 big honkin’ jug of table wine (my buddy Carlo Rossi does the job)
    1 orange
    a bunch of whole cloves
    a bunch of cinnamon sticks
    some Aquavit (if you can find it, otherwise cheap vodka works)
    handful of raisins
    handful of slivered almonds

    pour wine and Glogg into a pot.
    throw in raisins, almonds, cinnamon sticks (maybe rub them together a bit over the wine mixture)
    stab the cloves into the orange and set it afloat in the wine like a little orange water mine.
    turn on the heat.
    before the mixture starts to boil, turn the heat to simmer and dump in the Aquavit or vodka (amount depends on how drunk you want to get)
    mix, serve and enjoy.

    disclaimer: don’t do this if you’re not yet of legal drinking age.

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 20, 2010

      Thanks for that recipe. I’ve just been using Glogg for cooking, just to add flavour to cakes and things like that, but I’ll definitely give that proper recipe a go. Maybe in the winter though, since it’s just heading into summer here and the days (and nights) aren’t really making me want to drink hot wine right now.

  18. I’m assuming this stuff isn’t at all fizzy once the beer’s been heated and mixed with eggs and whatnot? I do enjoy beverages of the carbonated variety… maybe some fiddling around can make my butterbeer dreams come true.

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  October 22, 2010

      No it’s not really fizzy, and when you pour it out of the saucepan and into a glass it definitely doesn’t have a head. I’ve never tried carbonating something before (well, I haven’t got the equipment) and I’m not sure how it would work with a liquid like this that’s kind of thick from the eggs. So I think a carbonated butterbeer would be a completely different recipe… I’ll have a think about that and see if I can come up with something with a similar flavour but that is or could be carbonated!

  19. Renee

     /  October 26, 2010

    Wow, this was really interesting! Thanks for sharing the recipe. I tried using Boddingtons (because that’s what I found) and used the ground mace. I’m thinking next time I’m going with the nutmeg. I did keep worrying because the beer was very frothy throughout the process, but it turned out just fine!

    Reply
  20. Lara

     /  November 14, 2010

    Thanks so much for the recipe! I got excited when I saw The Unofficial Harry Potter cookbook in the bookstore, but it did not have a recipe for butterbeer. I’ve seen attempts at recipes to replicate what is served at the Universal theme park in Florida, which was officially approved by J.K. Rowling herself, but of course those versions are non-alcoholic. I like that yours is historically authentic. Can’t wait to make it.

    Reply
  21. I love this posting! It really made me giggle! I have always wondered if Butterbeer really existed after reading Harry Potter and also if it was indeed alcoholic. Thanks for passing along the recipe. I am most definitely interested in trying it out this holiday :)

    Reply
  22. nachturnal

     /  January 27, 2011

    Sigh, I’m getting a touch tired of repeating this over various Butterbeer recipe blog posts over the internet… :P

    Butterbeer is alcoholic. However, it has an extremely low percentage of alcohol — more like a lemon lime & bitters than an actual beer. It’s stated plainly in book 4 that even though it’s not strong enough to intoxicate a student (unless, I guess, they drink health-damaging levels of the stuff), but it certainly is enough to knock out a house-elf, especially when you take into account different constitutions and different body masses (and consequently, differing fat/muscle ratios, which does affect your ability to process alcohol). It frustrates the crap out of me to see this “oh JK Rowling encourages underage drinking” drivel when a) anyone who’s read enough of the books to know of butterbeer, would presumably understand how not-alcoholic they are, and b) cultural.differences.between.the.uk.and.us.

    /rant

    Oh, and I was one of those kids who cried when my Hogwarts letter didn’t arrive. ;)

    Reply
    • Jess

       /  January 27, 2011

      I don’t understand who you’re ranting at – me, or the guy who wrote the article in the Journal of the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry. Because even though it would be difficult for me to care less about Harry Potter in general, I was arguing against this guy’s article, which he clearly wrote just to get another high-impact publication in a reasonably fancy academic journal. I even said that maybe butterbeer only intoxicates elves. If you didn’t realise how tongue-in-cheek my critique of the whole butterbeer non-issue was, maybe you should have a few real-world beers to relax a bit, because it’s not me you need to be pointing this out to. Maybe you could contact Dr C.J. Welsh and educate him on the matter if you really need to, since he’s the one whose opinion you’re actually disagreeing with.

      And always remember, you don’t have to be this person: http://xkcd.com/386/

    • nachturnal

       /  January 27, 2011

      Meh, I won’t bother, since either he’ll not care and probably has already forgotten the article he wrote, or he’ll be steadfastly firm with his (imo wrong) views and I really cannot be bothered convincing those who cannot be convinced.

      Sorry for my misguided rant.

    • Jess

       /  January 27, 2011

      It’s all good. The author of that paper probably does deserve to be educated about the issue, since he’s blown it completely out of proportion, but like I said – he probably only wrote the paper to get another publication that he can put on his CV. If someone brought the topic up, he would probably have forgotten he ever had an opinion on it.

  23. Russki

     /  August 23, 2011

    This sounds awesome- bookmarking and off to find the ingredients for the non-alcoholic type (under 21 here unfortunately), sounds great for my HP nights that I do with my friends, so lets try it!

    Reply
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