Lemon Posset

May 2nd, 2011 § 6 comments

Friday’s royal nuptials seemed as good an occasion as any to try a bit of British dessert cookery.

Possets go back to at least the 16th century, when it referred to a drink of hot milk curdled with ale and sometimes spiced, and sometimes used as medicine. These days the only posset you’ll find is the lemon dessert, which is just as well.

I’ve been wanting to make it since I had it at Le Bal a few weeks ago. There it was explained in vague terms to be a sort of custard. It’s really closer to cheese: The acid in the lemon juice sets the cream which, because it’s high in fat, doesn’t curdle in the same way that milk does. The result is a thick, silky cream with the tang of lemon curd.

But seriously, if you enjoy creamy desserts, this is as easy as they come. There are no eggs as in pot de crème, no gelatin as for panna cotta.

The dozen or so recipes I looked at were almost identical. The amounts of sugar and lemon juice varied only slightly, and all said to boil the cream for about three minutes. Use an ample pot and keep an eye on it so that it doesn’t boil over.

I’d like to experiment with different flavors. The lemon juice is necessary, though I think lime juice would be acidic enough. Next time I’m going to infuse the cream with ginger, or maybe almonds.

Serve this plain, with fruit (it’s rhubarb season, people), or with shortbread.

Lemon Posset

500 ml (2 1/8 c) heavy cream

150 g (3/4 c) sugar

75 ml (5 T) freshly squeezed lemon juice

A few drops of vanilla extract

Put the cream and sugar in a heavy saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Boil for three minutes, stirring constantly, and lower the heat if the cream wants to boil over. Remove from heat and stir in the lemon juice and vanilla. Let the mix cool and settle for about 10 minutes, then pour into serving dishes (ramekins, tea cups, whatever), cover and refrigerate for at least four hours, until thoroughly chilled and set, or overnight.

Serves 4-6, though I recommend smaller serving sizes.

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§ 6 Responses to Lemon Posset"

  • PieR says:

    Hummm, looks good, sure it tastes very good…

  • Louise says:

    I can’t tell you how excited I am to see this post. I also made lemon posset last Friday for my royal wedding celebration in Australia! The recipe I followed was very similar to yours, although had 600ml of cream instead of 500, and included lemon juice and zest. The lemon zest did interfere with the texture a little bit but the lemony flavour was amazing. I used castor sugar, and since I always have a vanilla bean in my castor sugar jar, then it was actually vanilla sugar. My friends and husband absolutely loved posset, and I’m sure I’ll be making it again some time soon. I haven’t got to doing my royal wedding post yet, but must get to it soon(ish).

  • Joe says:

    Yum! I have a couple potlucks coming up, and this may be on the list for one. Or somewhere else I want to show off, with something secretly easy.

  • Stephen says:

    Barbra – if you like posset, you should also try syllabub which is dry white or fortified wine (e.g,, sherry, madeira, or marsala), sugar, perhaps some lemon juice, and cream that is then whipped to a soft peak.
    I think the next time I make a trifle, I’ll substitute posset for the custard as it doesn’t increase the alcohol content. I already use syllabub in place of whipped cream.

  • Barbra says:

    Louise – I like the way vanilla rounds out citrus flavors. If I had had a vanilla bean I would have used it, for sure.

    Stephen – I will try syllabub, if only so that I can work the word ‘syllabub’ into casual conversation.

  • hi – I attempted this infused with rosemary. While the flavour was excellent, the texture was a problem. I think it was because I am in France and used a liquid creme fraiche. Did you use English cream?

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