[Sca-cooks] Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Savoury or Lemon Thyme Butter was Period fancy butters?

Johnna Holloway johnnae at mac.com
Thu Sep 16 10:40:38 PDT 2010

An activity for a rainy day.
Ok, so I took up the challenge this morning and after several hours  
came up with this recipe.

158 To make Parsley, Sage, Thyme, Savoury or Lemon Thyme Butter.

Clarify your Butter as before, then mix it with a. little of the  
Chymical Oil of any of the Herbs, till the Butter is strong enough to  
your taste or liking, then mix them well together ; this will be a  
great -rarity and will make the Butter keep a long Time, this will be  
much better than the Eating the Plants with Bread and Butter.
You may also do this without clarifying the Butter by taking Butter  
newly made, and working it well from its Water Milk and Wheyish parts  
before you put in the Oils.

This version of the recipe appears in
John Nott. The cooks and confectioners dictionary; or, The  
accomplish'd housewife's companion. 1723

I am lucky enough to own the facsimile of Nott that was edited by  
Elizabeth David, so I have fondness for the text. It's important to  
remember that Nott was a compiler. His book is dated 1723 but the  
recipes come from earlier texts. It's a great source for quickly  
finding 17th century recipes. The question is where did this recipe  
come from and what is the original date.

In this case we can determine that it also appeared in William  
Salmon's Family Dictionary of 1696   page 45. This work first appeared  
in 1695 and also appeared in other editions , inc. 1710.
The entry under butter in the 1696 edition includes how to preserve  
May butter which has been a topic of discussion before on this list.
The version of the recipe on page 45 reads:

To make Parsly, Sage, Savoury, Thyme, or Limon Thyme, Butter.
When the butter is newly made, and well wrought from its Water, Milk,  
and Wheyish parts, mix therewith a little of the Chymical Oils of  
Parsley, or Sage, or Savory, or Thyme, or Limon Thyme, so much till  
the Butter is strong enough in Tast to your liking, and then mix them  
well together, this will excuse you from eating the Plants therewith :  
and if do this with the aforesaid Clarified Butter, it will be far  
better, and a most admirable Rarity."
William Salmon's Family Dictionary of 1696   page 45.

The question now is where did Salmon's version come from. Now it is  
possible that Salmon reworked Hugh Platt's recipe from the Jewell  
House of Art and Nature of 1594 into his version or it could be we  
have some other 17th century source that has not yet been identified.

I went back to my facsimile of Platt and found the recipe here:

2. How to make sundry sorts of most dainty butter with the saide oils.

In the moneth of May, it is very usuall with us to eat some of the  
smallest, and youngest sage leaves with butter in a morning, and I  
think the common use thereof doth sufficiently commende the same to be  
wholsome, in stead whereof all those which delighte in this heabe may  
cause a few droppes of the oile of sage to be well wrought, or  
tempered with the butter when it is new taken out of the cherne, until  
they find the same strong enough in taste to their owne liking; and  
this way I accoumpt much more wholesomer then the first, wherin you  
will finde a far more lively and penetrative tast then can be  
presently had out of the greene herbe.

This laste Sommer I did entertaine divers of my friends with this  
kinde of butter amongst other country dishes, as also with cinnamon,  
mace, and clove butter (which are all made in one selfe same manner)  
and I knew not whether I did please them more with this new found  
dish, or offend them by denying the secret unto them, who thought it  
very strange to find the naturall taste of herbs, and spices conueied  
into butter without any apparent touch of color. But I hope I have at  
this time satisfied their longings.

Qre, [this word looks like an italic qre.]  if by som means or other  
you may not give a tincture to your creme before you chearne it,  
either with roseleaves, cowslep leaves, violet or marigold leaves, &c.  
And thereby chaunge the color of your butter. And it may be that if  
you wash your butter throughly wel with rose water before you dish it,  
and work up some fine sugar in it, that the Country people will go  
neere to robbe all Cocknies of their breakfasts, unlesse the dairie be  
well looked unto. If you would keepe butter sweete, and fresh a long  
time to make sops, broth or cawdle, or to butter any kinde of fishe  
withall in a better sorte then I have seene in the best houses where I  
have come, then dissolue your butter in a clean glased, or silver  
vessell & in a pan, or kettle of water with a slow and gentle fire,  
and powre the same so dissolved, into a bason that hath some faire  
Water therein, and when it is cold, take away the soote, not suffering  
any of the curds, or whey to remain in the bottome: and if you regarde  
not the charge thereof, you may either the first or the second time,  
dissolve your Butter in Rosewater as before, working them well  
together, and so Clarifie it, and this butter so clarified, wil bee as  
sweet in tast, as the Marrow of any beast,

found in the section titled Divers Chimicall Conclusions concerning  
the Art of Distillation. 1594. pp 10-12.

Well besides being a source for eating or making sage butter ("eat  
some of the smallest, and youngest sage leaves with butter in a  
morning"), it may or may not be a source for the later 17th century  
versions by Nott or Salmon.

The Nott recipe appears in Eleanour Sinclair Rohde's A Garden of Herbs  
which has been printed and reprinted.
The recipe in pretty much the same language also appears in the 1998  
Celtic Folklore Cooking by Joanne Asala. The recipe is not credited to  
Nott or Salmon but is listed as "A seventeenth-century recipe: ." This  
might have led readers or will lead readers to suppose it's early 17th  
century and perfectly appropriate.


On Sep 16, 2010, at 1:01 AM, David Friedman wrote:

> I got a few suggestions when I put the question to the list some  
> time back, but I could still use more period recipes for flavored  
> butter if anyone has them.
> -- 
> David/Cariadoc

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