Blueberry and Lemon Posset
Posset, once a popular drink, dates back to the medieval period. Historically, this English drink was made of hot curdled milk blended with wine or ale and flavored with spices. In the Middle Ages, posset was medicinal, used mainly for the common cold and flu. In the 13th century, monks added eggs and figs to this concoction.
The drink was popular among the highbrow as the ingredients were expensive and difficult to obtain. Since there was an expense to the drink, it was often reserved for celebratory times and toasts to prosperity and good health. Not only was posset hot, but the addition of the liquors also kept the drink from spoiling and could be kept in the winter months for extended periods. A bit of a chemical reaction with the ingredients in posset allows for this. It has to do with the egg proteins mixing with the alcohol and the sugars from the milk. Once these mixtures join forces, the drink could stick around a little longer and improve with age as the flavor of alcohol softens. In the fifteenth century, posset was made with easily accessible ingredients like milk, wine, or ale; it was seasoned with ginger—no salt, please. A century later, new ingredients, such as lemon (or other citrus juices), cream, and sugar, found their way into the sweet drink recipe.
A modern-day posset is the winter drink eggnog. Eggnog was considered a convenient drink for American colonists on cold winter mornings. The drink would not only be filling, but the alcohol would leave a spring in the drinker's step. This food origin may account for why we, in modern times, reserve this drink for the winter.
Today, the texture of a posset is similar to a panna cotta; however, unlike gelatin as a setting agent, posset uses citric acids to firm up the ingredients. Modern-day posset is more like a dessert than a drink, similar to its dessert cousin, the favorite victorian syllabub.
My version of posset is bright and crisp and palate cleansing. The combination of lemon and blueberry burst with flavor. I wrote this recipe for my cookbook, the Unofficial Poldark Cookbook. Possets were mentioned often in the Poldark books and television shows due to their popularity at the time. The drink is also mentioned in other literary works, including Shakespeare’s Macbeth.