Cumberland Rum Butter, Cumbria
The contrast between the Caribbean and Cumbria could hardly be greater, at least in terms of weather, but there is a long term link between the two areas in the warming dark rum produced in the former and loved in the latter, imported into Britain via Cumbrian harbours since the British first had sugar plantations on the sunshine islands.
Whitehaven in particular is associated with rum, and has a tourist attraction The Rum Story and its own rum shop and brand in Jefferson's.
The cuisine of Cumbria has been heavily influenced by this link, for example in the Cumberland Rum Nicky, a lattice covered tart whose rich filling of butter, dates, rum, spices and sugar is the best known antidote to crispbread.
But it is through Cumberland Rum Butter that the association is most commonly recognized. Unlikely ever to feature on a weightwatchers program, Cumberland Rum Butter uses about five or six ounces of brown sugar to a half pound of butter, mixed in with a good glass of dark rum (don't even think of using white), and an unfeasibly large amount of nutmeg grated in - about a third of a nutmeg to half a pound of butter. The ingredients are creamed together with a wooden spoon in a mixing bowl, although some advocate melting the butter and mixing the other ingredients in with it in that way.
There are commercial producers of Rum Butter, and very fine too, but it is perfectly simple to make some at home, and an excellent excuse to buy a bottle of proper rum. Locals use it on traditional oatcakes, though it marries well with scones, Christmas pud, and even on ice cream.
A nice folk tradition attaches to the foodstuff still in the region: expectant mothers were and are sometimes still presented with a bowl of the confection, a little treat or maybe for instant energy. Friends with whom the pot is shared are supposed to leave a silver coin in return for their little portion, these coins being retained and when the bowl is emptied put on its sticky sides, the money remaining fixed to the bowl symbolising future fortune for the baby.
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