What's old is new again.... at least to me. I love moments of discovery- especially when they are food related.
The topic of dessert came up in conversation last night while having dinner at Cap City with Kevin and my mother-in-law-- a born and bred Bostonian who has no shortage of fun tales from the 50s and 60s. After explaining my intentions to use an amazing home made Chocolate Pudding and Baileys Irish Cream recipe (see previous post) to make my husband a pudding convert, she asked if I ever had Junket?
I thought she was joking. Junket does not sound delicious and I would have remembered if I ever ate something named such. We launched into a discussion about puddings- both the milky types and bread puddings- brulees, custards, tapioca, and curds, but still Junket didn't ring a bell. Moments like this call for the smart phone and 30 seconds later... voila! We are on junketdesserts.com
As a child of the 70s, I understood her loose comparison to the Jell-O packs of pudding mix, but even after 5 minutes of research I still wasn't sure what this junket stuff was all about. I understand curd. I understand whey. Just add milk. No eggs. (I was in too much of a food coma to 'get it.') I also noticed Junket's mascot is a Little Miss Muffet styled girl (not coincidentally named Little Miss Junket) with a giant spoon of pink stuff. Any pink food has got to be delicious.
Call in Wikipedia. "Junket is a milk-based dessert made with sweetened milk and rennet, a digestive enzyme which curdles the milk. Akin to a custard, or a very soft, sweetened cheese"
OH- it's practically custard. I grew up on the stuff, but it was frozen and we called it Glen's Custard. (I guarantee my mother would never have gotten any of us to eat anything called Junket. But frozen custard "ice cream"? By the truckload!) As a grown-up with a palate for curd I am all over this junket stuff.
Being a history buff, I dug around to see if there was more to the story. I guess junket is the loose term for any milky, sweetened, curdled dessert, which in medieval England was made using cream and was, not surprisingly, found on noble tables. The etymology of the word supposedly derives from the Norman French word jonquette: a cream made from boiled milk, egg yolks, and some form of sweetener.
In the fifteenth century, Henry VIII changed it up a bit. He became a fan of syllabub (also not delicious sounding)- fresh cow's milk boiled with cider and left to sit for a few days. It was, so they say, the Tudor cappuccino. Doesn't sound terribly appealing, but if anyone served this Peach Raspberry Mascarpone Syllabub. I wouldn't think twice about devouring it.
Junket is also a brand name, which has been around since 1874 (read the company history here). During the early to mid-twentieth century , junket's popularity was confined to specific places like southwestern England (which I interpret as Cornwall) and the East Coast (hence my Wellesley-based MIL's familiarity.) It was often used to treat stomach ailments. Come to think of it, whose grandparents didn't down a pint of heavy cream when their tummy's bothered them- right? Why not make it taste better-- just add junket.
|1970 Jello-O advertisement|
coast enough" to have fallen within the realm of junket. I asked my mother if she ate it or served it to us as kids. She confirmed that she grew up on the milky custard and thoughts of it stir up old memories. She recalls getting a hand-cranked ice cream machine with little packs of Junket for Christmas (but said "it was no Easy Bake Oven"). However, Jello-O was the "pudding of choice" by time I came into the world in 1970. (This ad's recipe is for Boston Cream Pie).
Junket's website is rather nostalgic and carries only a handful of products: flavored junket mix, ice cream mix, Danish dessert filling, and rennet tablets. The recipes are simple-- and they remind me of my grandparents and my mother. I already resolved to make at least two of these desserts for our Fourth of July shindig. Seriously. Ambrosia Pie screams of balmy summer evenings.
Maybe, if I frequented more Renaissance festivals, I might have spotted this custardy dessert on the feast table. Or perhaps, if I ever made cheese, I might have had the need for rennet enzyme tablets (which Junket also makes) therefore discovering the company a while ago. Alas, neither is the case.
Perhaps many of you are already familiar with this brand, but it was completely foreign to me. I owe our Moms a big thanks (and a gallon of Pink Cloud Pudding) for bringing Junket back.