Junket is an English dessert that is not often seen anymore. It is a custard made with milk, sugar, and other flavorings, where the milk is coagulated with rennet (rennin enzyme), which gives it a soft, creamy, pudding-like texture. It is served chilled and can be used in various ways. The more familiar use of the term junket to refer to a trip taken by an official and payed for by a corporation or by taxpayers, actually comes from this dessert. Junket used to be served at picnics, feasts, or banquets, so the events themselves came to be known as junkets.
Origin of the Word Junket
The name of junket comes from the fact that it used to be made in a rush basket, the Medieval Latin word for which is iuncāta, the French jonquette and the Middle English jonket.
How is Junket Made?
Junket is simple to make. Milk and sugar are heated in a saucepan to 98°F (37°C). Then, rennet and flavorings are added, if desired, the mixture can be strained through a fine sieve into serving bowls and allowed to set.
Junket Ice Cream
Junket ice cream used to be served in old soda fountains. It can be made much the same way as regular junket, except the fat must be increased substantially by the addition of heavy cream. Below is a recipe for Vanilla Junket Ice Cream. An ice-cream machine is recommended for best results.
Vanilla Junket Ice Cream
1 1/2 cups heavy cream (heavy whipping cream)
1/2 cup milk
1/2 cup sugar
1 tsp liquid rennet or 1 tablet rennet
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
Mix the cream, milk, and sugar in a heavy saucepan over low heat until the mixture reaches 98°F (37°C), as confirmed by a thermometer. Remove the pan from the heat and stir in the rennet — a tablet can be dissolved in a small amount of milk before adding — and the vanilla extract. Pour into a dish and allow the junket to set in the fridge until it is chilled. The junket will be set, so stir it before pouring it into the ice-cream machine and allow the machine to work for 15 minutes or until the mixture is the consistency of whipped cream. Scrape the frozen junket out into shallow dishes and cover. Allow it to stand in the freezer at least one hour before serving. It may become quite hard after continued freezing, so it can be placed in the fridge for around 20 minutes to soften, if needed.
Rennet for Junket
You may already be familiar with the term rennet from its use in cheese. It is an enzyme that originally came from the lining of calve’s stomachs, and causes milk to coagulate and form curds. Rennet is available in liquid, powder, and tablet form. There is even a brand called Junket Rennet Tablets. Check the baking or pudding section of your grocery store.
Some rennet powders or tablets may not be “pure” rennet. They may have some added ingredients. Junket purists may object, but you may not be able to find anything else, and these products will work just fine.
Junket Custard Mix
The image above is a box of Junket Rennet Custard Mix, a product which makes the whole process of making junket easy. It comes in vanilla, chocolate, and strawberry. It contains sugar, gelatin, calcium gluconate, flavor, rennet powder, and lactose. The gelatin is probably present to speed up the setting.
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