My Lord of Carlisle’s Sack-Posset

Written by: Mistress Huette

Take a pottle of Cream, and boil in it a little whole Cinnamon, and three or four flakes of Mace. To this proportion of Cream put in eighteen yolks of eggs, and eight of the whites; a pint of Sack; beat your eggs very well, and then mingle them with your Sack. Put in three quarters of a pound of Sugar into the Wine and Eggs, with a Nutmeg grated, and a little beaten Cinnamon; set the Bason on the fire with the Wine and Eggs, and let it be hot. Then put in the Cream boiling from the fire, pour it on high, but stir it not; cover it with a dish, and when it is settlede, strew on the top a little fine Sugar mingled with three grains of Ambergreece, and one grain of Musk, and serve it up. From Sir Kenelm Digby The Closet (London: 1671)

1 pint cream
18 egg yolks
8 egg whites
1 cup + 1 tsp granulated sugar
1 whole mace
1 stick cinnamon
2 tsp nutmeg, grated
1 tsp cinnamon, grated
1 pint cream sherry

Scald the cream in a pan with the whole mace and stick cinnamon. Beat egg whites until frothy. Beat egg yolks until lemon colored. Fold in together and then fold in one cup sugar and grated spices. Remove mace and cinnamon from cream. Temper eggs with a bit of cream, then mix the cream and egg mixture together continually beating all the time. Place over a medium-low heat and cook until mixture coats the back of a metal spoon. Remove from heat and add the sherry. Pour into posset pots and let cool somewhat, allowing it to settle/separate. Sprinkle one tsp sugar on top of all and serve. I have deliberately left off the ambergris and the musk, as I don’t like the taste, they are hard to find, and are expensive. This posset tastes just fine without them.

A well made posset was said to have three different layers. The uppermost, known as ‘the grace’ was a snowy foam or aerated crust. In the middle was a smooth spicy custard and at the bottom a pungent alcoholic liquid. The grace and the custard were enthusiastically consumed as ‘spoonmeat’ and the sack-rich liquid below drunk through the ‘pipe’ or spout of the posset pot. At weddings a wedding ring was sometimes thrown into the posset. It was thought that the person who fished it out would be the next to go to the altar.

The Oxford English Dictionary, Second Edition, defines posset as a drink composed of hot milk curdled with ale, wine, or other liquor, often with sugar, spices, or other ingredients; formerly much used as a delicacy, or as a remedy for colds or other affections. Its use predates Digby by a couple hundred years; it was referenced in the mid-1400s by J. Baker’s Boke of Nurture. It said, Milke, crayme, and cruddes, and eke the Ioncate, they close a mannes stomake and so doth the possate. (Translation: Milk, cream, and curds, and also the junket, they close a man’s stomach, and so does the posset.)

One response to “My Lord of Carlisle’s Sack-Posset

  1. Eggnog just wishes it was this rich and good!

    I think the animal protection agencies have a few choice words about ambergris and civet these days anyway. If I want to eat perfume, I’ll dine at Black Phoenix Alchemical Laboratory.

Leave a Reply

Please log in using one of these methods to post your comment:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s