Lemon posset

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recipe in english & auf deutsch, s. u.

Possets have fascinated me for a long time. Like treacle, pemmican, ginger beer and peaches with condensed milk or Turkish delight they fuelled my childhood fantasies about English life and its ‘exotic’ delights courtesy of C.S. Lewis, Arthur Ransome, Lucy M. Boston & Enid Blyton. And a primrose coloured lemon posset is the ultimate lemon cream desert; light, delicate and absolutely addictive. Only three basic ingredients make light work and the result is this delightful nostalgic & quintessentially English pudding.

Being originally a medieval restorative drink, spiced hot milk or cream was set (curdled) either by wine, ale or sack (a fortified wine of the Sherry family, check your Sherry bottle for remnants of this expression: Dry Sack). Later versions – in their use of eggs more akin to zabaglione – got prepared & served in special posset pots & sets. The highly prized frothy, creamy top curd was skimmed spoon by spoon and the hot alcoholic liquid poured or drunk from a spout in the middle of the pot. According to Ivan Day, good possets had apart from foamy crust and boozy restorative a third layer: silky custard, which seems closest to today’s guise.

lemon posset

If you were not served spiked ones as in Shakespeare’s Macbeth, possets were considered a general pick-me-up and cure of colds – in fact very similar to today’s hot milk with honey or a stiff grog. Luxurious versions included spices like ambergris, musk, cinnamon & mace and were made with a huge amount of egg yolkes (Sack posset by Charles Howard, the 1st Earl of Carlisle; London 1670), other equally hearty examples used breadcrumbs as thickening agents (so the general posset recipe in Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt book from 1604) and were advised to be taken instead of a meal:

“Take the heade of yor milcke, boyle it then take the yelkes of 4 egges and beate them mingleinge them wth some cowld milcke, then put grated bred, Nutmeggs, and sugger, into yor milcke, when yor milcke boyles on the ffire putt it all in, stirringe it once Rownde then power it into A Bason, sett it on the fire till it boyle, then put in yor Secke and ale, and stir it once aboute to the bottome, and soe lett it stand until the Crudde Riseth.”
(Hilary Spurling (ed.): Elinor Fettiplace’s Receipt book (1604), p. 87.)

 

lemon posset with black sesame

 

Present incarnations are rather like set custard and have enjoyed quite the renaissance in recent years. Especially lemon possets, which are the most delicate, silky lemon cream puddings imaginable made from only a few ingredients. I like mine pure and lemony, no nutmeg, no vanilla, no mace, no cinnamon. Yours, of course, could be personalized according to your preferences: decrease or increase the lemon juice, add spices (I’d like to know about experiments with ambergris etc.), if your wary of washing up two pots: use the one-pot-version below inspired by Angela Hartnett, but I strongly recommend to strain the liquid for ultimate smoothness.

 


Lemon posset

Serves 4 (or 6 in small portions)

 

Zest of ½ lemon
juice of 3 lemons
125g (4.4 oz or ½ cup) raw cane sugar / golden caster sugar or just sugar
400ml (1¾ cups) cream

To serve: crème fraîche / sour cream & toasted black sesame seeds (as in my picture) or whipped cream & toasted almond flakes (all optional)

 

Mix lemon zest, juice and sugar in a small saucepan, stir and heat slowly over a medium-low flame until the sugar has dissolved (keep stirring). Keep warm and let the zest infuse the syrup. Bring the cream slowly to the boil in another heavy-based saucepan, pour into the warm lemon syrup and whisk. Strain through a sieve and pour into glasses, ramekins or bowls (either via a jug or the lemon syrup pan or directly). Chill in the fridge for at least 4 hours and serve with a dollop of crème fraîche or whipped cream and decoration of choice.

Easy one-pan-version: Mix all ingredients except the lemon juice in one saucepan and bring it to a simmer, stir until the sugar has dissolved. Add the lemon juice and bring to a quick boil, then reduce the heat and simmer for about 5 minutes. Strain the mixture – or not, if you are not bothered about lemon zest – and pour into glasses, ramekins, bowls. Chill and equally serve with a dollop of cream etc.

 

 

lemon posset


Zitronencreme

4 Portionen (oder 6 kleinere Gläschen)

geriebene Schale von ½ Zitrone
Saft von 3 Zitronen
125g Rohrohrzucker oder Zucker
400ml Sahne

zur Dekoration: Crème fraîche & geröstete schwarze Sesamsamen (siehe Photo) oder geschlagene Sahne & geröstete Mandelblättchen (optional)

 

In einem kleinen Topf Zitronenschale, -saft und Zucker langsam bei niedriger Flamme erhitzen und rühren bis der Zucker aufgelöst ist. Den Sirup warm halten und ziehen lassen. In einem anderen Topf mit schwerem Boden die Sahne zum Kochen bringen und in den warmen Zitronensirup gießen und kurz mit dem Schneebesen verrühren. Anschließend durch ein Sieb passieren und in kleine Gläser, Tassen, Förmchen oder Schälchen füllen. Für mindestens 4 Stunden im Kühlschrank stocken lassen und mit einem Klecks Crème fraîche oder Schlagsahne & gewünschter Verzierung servieren.

Einfache Methode in nur einem Topf: Alle Zutaten bis auf den Zitronensaft in einem Topf mit schwerem Boden mischen unter ständigem Rühren erhitzen bis sich der Zucker aufgelöst hat und für einige Minuten köcheln. Den Saft hinzugeben und die Mischung schnell zum Kochen bringen, dann Hitze reduzieren und für ca. 5 Minuten köcheln lassen. Die Zitronensahne durch ein Sieb passieren (oder nicht wenn man die Zitronenschale in der Creme behalten will), in kleine Gläser etc. füllen und ebenfalls einige Stunden im Kühlschrank ruhen lassen und mit einem Löffel Crème fraîche oder Schlagsahne etc. servieren.

 

 

 

 

 

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10 thoughts on “Lemon posset

  1. What an interesting history. I really am new to such an old treat, not having grown up in or near England. I’ve only discovered these culinary wonders at a delicious English pub near me. What gorgeous photos you have here. I really want to try these. I even love the name. Yum. Thanks so much for sharing your love of these!!

    • Thank you so much Amanda! The name is charmingly quaint-exotic, isn’t it? I am amazed every time how some recipes could stay the same for centuries and only transform slightly. Especially when they are so simple and absolutely delicious at the same time. Shame to deprive the pub of your posset consumption though. N xx

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