Saturday 5 February 2011

Off on a Junket

Junket ... is another [like fruit creams and syllabubs] of the dishes fast becoming obsolete. In the west of England, especially, this preparation of milk is still locally popular, but elsewhere there are numbers of cooks who have no idea how to make it, although the process is such a simple one that no child who has been shown the way should fail. I found this quote of 1896 from M. M. Mallock's A Younger Son's Cookery Book while browsing through Classic Cheese Cookery by Peter Graham.

Junket (in french, le caillé) is a very light curd cheese, which is basically warm milk treated with the enzyme rennet. The name comes from the Norman French word la jonquette for a rush basket (les joncs are rushes) which was used to drain off the whey from the curds. Junket looks rather like milk jelly and is usually sweetened and flavoured. Rennet (la présure) is found in the stomach lining of an unweaned calf or lamb, and its purpose is to separate milk solids (which the animal can digest) from the liquid (mostly execreted). Nowadays much rennet is of vegetable origin, such as Vegeren derived from the mould mucor mehei. Tim and I are at the latter end of a chesty cold and didn't feel anything like cooking, but I was sure I had some rennet somewhere....

As Tim was going to Perruson, he went into LeClerc to enquire if they had any présure. The customer service assistant, a lady of 'about our age', replied that they did, because she had bought some there herself. She enquired of her computer, and got a surprise. "Computer says nooooooo...." Mallock's prediction seems to have reached France, albeit a century later. Probably the wholefood shop in La Roche Posay will have some. Meanwhile, it turned out we did have some Vegeren, best before February 2003. It's an enzyme! It'll be totally defunct! What the heck, give it a try! We have some La Borde unpasteurised milk. If it doesn't work we'll just end up with a pint of sweetish vanilla-flavoured milk, and I can make rice pudding out of it.

Vegeren's recipe for Junket is:

Warm 1 pint / 570ml of milk to 32° Centigrade / 90° Fahrenheit. Add 1 tablespoon (15ml) of sugar, a few drops of vanilla essence and 10 drops of Vegeren, stir well. Pour into a bowl, allow to cool and set. Serve with fresh fruit.

So I did that... except that I doubled the rennet, given its age. We used our thermometer from a sommelier's kit, rather than dipping a finger as implied by the Good Housekeeping Cookery book, to test the temperature. It was perfect! A pint of milk makes enough for four to six people.

The finished [and set] junket.

Next time I might try Peter Graham's recipe, which is basically the same, but with a different flavouring:

Warm 1 pint / 570 ml milk to blood temperature (about 37° C / 98°F, use a thermometer to be [on the safe side). Dissolve a tablespoon of caster sugar in 2 tablespoons (30ml) rum or cognac in a bowl and pour in the milk. Add 1 teaspoon (5ml) rennet - any more makes the junket taste salty - and stir gently. [I'd dissolve the sugar in the milk, much easier!] Leave the mixture undisturbed at a comfortable room temperature, i.e. about 20°C / 68°F, until set. If possible, transfer to a cool place for a couple of hours before serving. Peter Graham recommends serving this with clotted cream sprinkled with freshly ground nutmeg or cinnamon.

As served.. au nature [left] and with poached quince [right]


Susan said...

Gosh, I haven't had junket since I was a child. We had a house cow and my mother made it often. The rennet came in tablets (plain or flavoured and coloured) which you had to crush in a little milk. She always served it sprinkled with nutmeg and with some bottled fruit. I'm fairly sure I've seen it in SuperU.

Pollygarter said...

Maybe it could be a seasonal thing?

Jean said...

I have never eaten junket. I always thought it was something from a bygone age, nursery food for the Alice in wonderland generation.

Pollygarter said...

It's readily digested, so, yes, it could be nursery food or for an invalid (not the rum version of course, or slathered with cream). It's much nicer than Instant Whip though.