And now for part two, in which I make a posset. See part one for some background on it. Here is the recipe, from The art of cookery refin’d and augmented by Joseph Cooper, published in 1654:
To make a posset
TAke a quart of new Cream, a quarter of an ounce of Cynamon, Nutmeg quartered, and boyl it till it taste of the spice, and keep it alwayes stirring, or it will burn to; then take the yolks of 7 Eggs beaten well together with a little cold Creame; then put that into the other Creame that is on the fire, and stir it till it begin to boyle; then take it off and sweeten it with Sugar, and stir on till it be indifferent coole; then take somewhat more than a quarter of a pinte of Sack (half a pinte will be too much) sweeten that also, and set it on the fire till it be ready to boyle; then put it in a convenient vessel, and pour your Creame into it, elevating your hand to make it froath, which is the grace of your Posset; and if you put it thorow a tunnell, it is held the more exquisite way.
Once again I decided to halve the recipe, since really I didn’t expect that the fiancé and I would want to drink a pint of the stuff each. In reality, even half a pint each was too much.
After assembling the ingredients I heated the cream with the nutmeg and cinnamon. The largest pot of cream I could find was 600ml, which is just over 1 pint, so I kept a little of it back for the “cold cream” to beat with the egg yolks. I couldn’t find whole nutmeg though I did have cinnamon sticks, so I used one cinnamon stick and about 1 tsp of ground nutmeg. In retrospect, this was too much and the resulting posset was very cinnamonny indeed.
I had large eggs, so I used 3 of them – since 7 obviously doesn’t divide easily into two. I boiled the cream with the cinnamon and nutmeg for about 4-5 minutes, stirring all the time. Then I added the egg and cream mixed together and stirred – this thickened up very quickly, you only need to do this for a minute or so. It should be the sort of thickness where if you lift some up with the ladle and drop it back down then a little crater is left in the cream that holds for a while. You are looking for the sort of thickness of a white sauce. I added 2 tbsp of caster sugar and stirred, then left it until it became “indifferent coole” – which I interpreted as “lukewarm”.
“Sack”, according to is an old term for sherry, take a look at this website for more background on that: http://www.winepros.com.au/jsp/cda/reference/oxford_entry.jsp?entry_id=2790
I put the sherry with another tablespoon of caster sugar in a different saucepan and heated it just until bubbles started to appear around the outside – there is not a lot of sherry so you will lose some of it if you boil it too much.
I put the sherry back in the measuring jug, then poured the cream into it. I whisked it together, “elevating” my hand then poured it into a glass to serve. I assume putting it through a tunnel means a funnel, but I don’t have one. I’m sure the effect would not be too different.
It was quite tasty, and if you like eggnog and custard tarts and the like you’ll probably enjoy it. The fiancé said it tasted like “rice pudding juice”. It was very rich and I couldn’t manage a whole glass though. Not wanting it to go to waste, I froze the remainder and turned it into posset ice cream, which was probably a better way of eating it in my opinion. So, why not make some to serve as a hot wintery eggnog alternative, or freeze some to add a Renaissance twist to a dinner party?
600ml single cream
3 egg yolks
100ml dry sherry
Sprinkling of nutmeg, to taste
1 cinnamon stick
4 tbsp caster sugar
Gently heat 500ml of the cream with the cinnamon and nutmeg for 5 minutes, stirring often to make sure it doesn’t burn. Mix the remaining cream with the egg yolks, then, while the spiced cream is still on the hob, add the cream and egg yolks and stir until it boils. It will increase in volume quite a lot. Take it off the hob and then add 2 tsbp of sugar. Leave it to one side for about 10 minutes.
Heat the sherry in a pan with the remaining sugar, just until it boils. Then whisk it into the cream. Pour into individual glasses (or cool and freeze), then serve.