Lemon Posset is a ridiculously easy British dessert of chilled cream, needing only 3 ingredients. It started life in the 15th, possibly 14th, century, as a restorative drink of milk curdled with alcohol.
Estimated reading time: 7 minutes
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And it has long been a favourite dessert of mine because I love all things creamy. The fact that it’s mindblowingly easy to make, puts it in the superstar category!
Lemon posset is perfect for parties, as making it the night before allows it to set to a firmer consistency.
And since many lemons come into season in late winter, isn’t it just perfect for Valentine’s day?
So what is a Posset?
In the modern history sense of the word, a posset is a chilled, sweetened cream, flavoured (or soured, technically), with lemon juice, or other citrus juice.
But, as mentioned above, the lemon posset goes back a few hundred years, when it was a warm drink served to restore one’s health, or even just as a night time fortifying drink.
Possets featured regularly in popular culture through the years; Shakespeare alone could have made this drink famous through the many mentions in his plays! Here is a quotation from one of my favourite plays of all time, Macbeth; the Lady is waiting for him as he does away with Duncan:
The doors are open; and the surfeited groomsLady Macbeth, Act 2, Sc 2
Do mock their charge with snores: I have drugg’d their possets,
That death and nature do contend about them,
Whether they live or die.
How was the old Posset Made?
Milk (later, cream) was warmed, then curdled with some sort of alcohol, whether it was ale, cider or sack, a Spanish fortified wine (sherry). The latter was known as Sack Posset.
Take a look at the extract below, taken from The Experienced English Housekeeper, by Elizabeth Raffald, published in 1769.
You can see that by this time (the 18th century), possets were also thickened in different ways, whether with biscuits, egg yolks or bread. Interesting, isn’t it? Watch this space for the Regency recipe for Naples biscuits!
The Posset drinks of old, which were thinner than our lemon posset here, were served in special cups with little spouts on one side. As the posset cooled down, it formed a creamy layer on top, like skin on custard. The spout allowed the posset to be drunk while the skin was scooped up and eaten with a spoon.
Imagine doing that now!
Lemon Posset Recipe
Lemon posset only needs 3 ingredients:
- Heavy Cream
That’s it. After cooking the cream for a few minutes, we add lemon juice to it, effectively curdling (souring) and thickening it. It’s the same process for when making the filling for Key Lime Pie and Lemon Tart, except that here, we cook the cream first.
You’ll find some people adding vanilla, nutmeg, ginger, cloves, cinnamon or star anise to their lemon possets. And if that’s the way your boat rocks, by all means, try it with the above mentioned spices. But not all at once though, ok? Let me know what you like best.
Me? I much prefer the clean, crisp flavour and aroma of lemon posset as it is, with just the 3 ingredients.
How much lemon juice to use?
With the amount of cream here, I find that 1 and a half lemons is perfect; that’s about 4 tablespoons of lemon juice. However, it’s a matter of taste, add more as you are making it, if it’s not lemony enough.
What about the lemon zest?
You could add some zest to the cream as it is boiling, then strain the mix before adding the lemon juice, unless you want bits in your posset. The straining is also a great way of getting rid of any odd lump that you might have from the edges of the pan (don’t scrape the pan sides).
Lime Posset, Anyone?
Or Lemon-Lime Posset. Just use lime juice to make lime posset, or a mix of both.
It really is the easiest of recipes, so shall we get our aprons on?
More Dessert Recipes on LinsFood
Whether you’re looking for easy desserts, or more challenging ones, you’ll find a great collection from all over the world, on the Desserts page. Like the following:
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Lemon Posset (an easy, 3-ingredient, old British Dessert)
- 300 ml double cream (heavy cream for whipping)
- 75 g caster sugar
- 3-5 Tbsp lemon juice 1-2 lemons
- any type of berries
- grated lemon zest
- crushed nuts
- crumbled biscuits (like shortbread or ginger cookies)
- Place the cream and sugar in a saucepan and bring to a simmer over medium-low heat.
- When it's simmering, lower the heat and cook away for 5 minutes, stirring from time to time.
- After 5 minutes, remove from the heat and pour in 3 Tbsp of the lemon juice, stirring quickly with a wooden spoon. You'll notice the cream souring and thickening at the stage.
- Taste your posset, and add more lemon juice if you think it needs it.
- Serve into your chosen glasses and chill in the fridge for at least 3 hours. Chilling the posset overnight thickens the consistency considerably. Little dessert, wine or sherry glasses are perfect for this. Top it with any of the suggested garnishes above, or leave it plain if you prefer.