I have to confess, right from the start, that I have never eaten junket. My dad found it repellent so we never had it at home – I don’t know whether my mum knew of it or liked it… it just never was mentioned, and we had so many other delicious things, all home-cooked, that although I read about it in old story books, I never came across it.
The old word, very old word comes originally from the late 1300’s where a jonket was a fish trap or basket; I remember seeing old eel traps in museums made out of rushes and willow, which I guess were jonkets. The origins of that word is even older, and goes back to Latin – probably I guess from the Normans. The distant origin meant rushes, and when rushes were made into baskets the word transferred, and then later It came to mean a meal carried in a basket, and then a feast or a banquet – and that today is another meaning of the word something fun, a trip or adventure, possibly with someone else paying!
So how did junket also come to mean the wobbly milk dessert – possibly because they were served on a ‘plate’ of rushes, like the Italian giuncata which is almost the same as junket, and is also served on rushes!
I wonder if I should try making junket? here is a recipe:
- 1 pint milk
- 1 tbsp castor sugar
- 1 tsp rennet
- 1 tbsp rum or brandy
- nutmeg or cinammon, toasted almonds and or soft fruit to serve
- heat the milk very gently for about five minutes until blood temperature
- add sugar and stir to dissolve
- add the rennet and stir in carefully then add the rum or brandy
- pour into a serving dish and leave to set (not in the fridge)
- sprinkle surface with the nutmeg or cinnamon, the toasted almonds and serve with the soft fruit if wanted
A west country addition is to spread the surface of the junket with clotted cream and then the spice and nuts. Another variation, which sounds nice is to add the zest of a lemon or an orange to the milk while heating – I guess you could add other flavourings such as rose-water or vanilla!
I’m not sure why my dad didn’t like it, but I guess it was the texture, he had very particular reactions to the texture of food!