So far as unfortunate synonyms go, a dessert sharing its name with baby vomit has to right up there in the top five or so. ‘Posset’ may refer to milk regurgitated by a baby, but it also refers to a dessert with its origins in the 1300s.
In 1888, Thomas Austin recycled a pair of late medieval cook books. Within their pages was a 14th–15th Century drink known as a ‘posset.’ This drink is similar to the point of indistinguishable from syllabub. Syllabub was a loose drink of curdled cream in which the solids were allowed to rise to the surface. The same process, when subjected to modern refrigeration, results in the set cream dessert that we understand today as a posset.
In the 2000s it was impossible to read a menu in a British ‘gastropub’ and not find a posset on it. Among these desserts, lemon was the kingpin – the Top Cat of possets. These possets were invariable served with shortbread. The shortbread was there for a reason. Shortbread is buttery and grainy – lemon posset is the opposite of all that, so the two complement each other perfectly.
Making a lemon posset is so easy it almost does not warrant the dignity of being called ‘cooking.’ This simplicity is why it was all over gastropub menus – it has three ingredients, it can be prepared in advance, and it tastes really, really good.
Have a go at our lemon posset recipe, and then go messing with it. Switch the citrus, add vanilla, chuck in some nuts … go mad.
- 600ml double cream
- 150g caster sugar
- Juice and zest of 2 lemons
Slowly warm the cream with the sugar to dissolve the caster and bring the cream to a boil. Boil the cream for 3 mins to activate it.
Cool a bit and add the lemon.
Cool a little more (we are only cooling so as to not shatter the glass serving receptacle), and pass through a sieve into a jug to remove any solids.
Pour the posset into six glass serving glasses and chill for at least 3h.
Serve with a piece of shortbread.