Fourteenth Century Junket

The Oak (A&S Newsletter of Atlantia) Countess Elizabeth Beaufort
Issue #8

Junket is coagulated milk which got its name from the reed baskets (giunco in Italian) in which it was put to drain. The best junket is made from the milk of young animals and makes the blood phlegmatic. It is useful in treating swelling of the stomach, but it lies heavily on the stomach and is therefore more suitable for robust, young people with hot temperaments. In any case eat it infrequently, at breakfast, sprinkled with sugar or a pinch of salt to prevent somewhat its heaviness in digestion.

The above description is taken from The Four Seasons of the House of Cerruti (page 50), which is a translation of a 14th century Latin manuscript known as Tacuinim Sanitatis in Medicina (Tables of Health in Accordance with Medical Science). The manuscript is an exploration of the medical arts and sciences, based on the wisdom of the medieval alchemists, and attributed specifically to the teachings of Ellbochasm de Baldach, a sage of the 11th century.

I've eaten junket all my life. Recently I was delighted to discover that it existed in the Middle Ages. Modern junket is a light and refreshing custard made with milk, rennet, sugar, and vanilla. It is very easy to prepare. Junket rennet tablets (manufactured by Redco Foods, Inc., Windsor CT) are available in many grocery stores. They are usually found in the gelatin and pudding section.

Omitting the vanilla would more closely approximate the medieval recipe, but the result is a bit bland. Since medieval cooks didn't have vanilla, I decided to test some variations on the basic recipe, replacing modern vanilla with flavorings that were available to medieval cooks: cinnamon, almond milk (well, almond extract, in my case), nutmeg, rosewater, and saffron. I made up batches of each flavor and forced my friends to taste-test them. Cinnamon and almond were the favorites, but the others were good too. Each flavoring was tested separately. The amounts shown below were used for four half-cup servings.

-- Cinnamon ( tsp)
-- Almond extract ( tsp) - the modern recipe mentions this also, but they say to use 1 tsp, which is too strong.
-- Nutmeg ( tsp)
-- dash rosewater and pinch saffron

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