Sunday, September 14, 2008

Invalid cooking - and the joy of junket

Up until the early years of the 20th century, when medical care was removed from the home and firmly established within hospital walls, there was a branch of food preparation known as ‘invalid cooking’. Almost every household cookbook had a section devoted to dishes that were expressly for the sick, all accompanied by helpful hints on when to administer them …
- Pat Willard, A Soothing Broth (1998)

The above book is what I've been reading over the last few days.

Interested in the concept of 'Invalid Cooking', I looked up my edition of the iconic Victorian cookbook Mrs Beeton’s Family Cookery, and it does indeed have a chapter devoted to that – full of beef teas, jellies, eggnogs and junkets.

Junkets! I never got to try junket as a child, and I recall feeling quite deprived. I read about it in books and dreamed of its sweet milky puddingness - but could I persuade Mum to make it? (Sorry Mum, if you’re reading this – it’s nothing personal!)

So yesterday, after perusing Mrs Beeton's recipes, and bursting with pent-up childhood longing, I set out to make junket. I used Mrs Beeton’s version as a base:

1/2 pint milk
1/2 - 1 teasp. rennet (see directions on bottle)
Sugar to taste

Heat milk to blood heat; stir in rennet and sugar. Pour into 2 small glasses. Leave in a warm place to "clot"
NOTE: With pasteurized milk it is advisable to use double quantities of rennet.
Never put junket into a refrigerator until firm.

The results were good! (Junket-making could become addictive.)

A few notes:

* I used vegetarian rennet from Curds & Whey cheesemaking supplies - and you only need a few drops, rather than the half teaspoon in Mrs Beeton's recipe.

* I took blood heat to mean 31 degrees, and I kept track of it with a thermometer (again following the existing instructions I had for this rennet).

* At my children's behest I added vanilla along with the sugar.

* I sprinkled cinnamon and nutmeg onto it.

* Mrs Beeton's book can be found online.

* I can't wait for the blackberry season! I think vanilla junket would be delicious with a blackberry topping!


Nikki said...

Oh, sounds yum. I love these sorts of desserts. Shame no one else in my family does! Bwahahah.

Since I have my rennet from my cheese making, I'll have to give it a go.

I'm sure Lynda will be pleased to know where you got your vege rennet from since she was asking me a few weeks back.

Johanna Knox said...

Hi Nikki - I didn't know Lynda was after that - I'll drop her a line.