“Be cheerful knight: thou shalt eat a posset to-night at my house” William Shakespeare, Hamlet
Dating back to the middle ages, the posset is making a comeback. Perfect for when you want to whip up a special dessert with minimal effort, it’s made with three ingredients, honey, cream and lemon juice. These are boiled together and chilled overnight. That’s it. And if that isn’t wonderful enough, try infusing your posset with spring flowers like lilac, wild rose or elderflower. Simply divine.
If you follow Gather’s fb page you’ll likely have noticed we’ve become smitten with possets. This began when I discovered this amazing recipe for Lemon Lavender Posset. Because lavender wasn’t yet ready, I decided to use what was in full bloom at the time -the glorious fragrant blossoms of lilac. The results were delicious.
This inspired Jennifer to create Elderflower Posset (she tossed in a few of our native red elderflowers as well) and now we’re both enamoured with rose. Lately I’ve been eyeing the peony which is reputed to make a delightful jelly.
Today’s posset is very different from the one often referred to by Shakespeare, a drink made from curdled milk, sugar, alcohol and sack, (a fortified wine or sweet ale similar to sherry). I like this 1596 recipe from The Good Housewife’s Jewel “Take a pint of thick cream, and season it with sugar and ginger, and rose water. So stir it as you would then have it make it luke warm in a dish on a chafing dish and coals. And after put it into a silver piece or a bowl, and so serve it to the board.”
By the 18th century, possets are made from milk, but thickened with egg yolks (like custard) or bread (like a trifle). But the modern posset recipes now making the rounds, are more like basic puddings (no, not the Jello). And they’re often served slathered on scones or with shortbread biscuits.
Puddings today are not thought to be good for the health, but possets certainly were. Used as a general “restorative” to fortify the body, or as a curative to banish colds and illness, possets were a delicious way to make the medicine go down. A 19th century recipe mentions a black pepper flavoured posset that will ‘promote perspiration’ in order to sweat out a fever. Flowers of course, bring their own healing properties, elderflower and rose for example are both known for their anti-inflammatory constituents.
Possets were often served at weddings and used in toasts at all levels of society. Which means you just might find them served at upcoming Gather nuptials. Like, lets say a Rose Posset made with rose brandy and a yarrow infused honey (good for ensuring love, fidelity and marital bliss).
Sometimes a wedding ring was thrown in the posset pot and the person who found it was next to head to the altar. You would use a spoon to eat the top layers and then drink the wine through the spout in the cup. With an alcoholic base at bottom and creamy layer on top, it actually sounds quite delicious. Needless to say I’ll be experimenting with a boozy wedding-inspired posset shortly.
So if you’re in a part of the country where lilac still blooms, you’ll be enchanted by this Lilac Honey Posset. But is you’ve got roses, well that’s heavenly too. I’m moving on to lavender, whose buds are plumping and readying for harvest. But whatever floral you choose, I’m willing to bet you’ll soon find yourself (like us!) enthralled with the old-fashioned charm of the posset.
Lilac Honey Posset (or Rose, Elderflower etc.)
Makes about 6 portions.
- 4 cups cream (heavy or regular whipping cream both work)
- ½ cup honey
- ⅓ cup lemon juice
- 1-2 cups fresh blossoms (be sure to remove all stems, especially from Elderflower…and if you’re using lavender, you’ll need just half a cup!)
- wee pinch of salt & cardamom (if you’re so inclined)
- Bring cream and honey to boil over medium-high heat. Stir continually until honey is fully combined.
- Keep at a low boil for 3 full minutes, and keep stirring! Then add lemon juice and stir some more.
- Remove from heat and mix in your blossom thoroughly. Allow to infuse for an hour.
- Strain off flowers and pour into small jars or ramekins.
- Cover tightly and chill overnight.
Some say you can stick in the freezer for 30-40 minutes (if you’re in rush to sample your just desserts) but we’ve both found they won’t decently set unless left for 24 hrs.