Tuesday, 21 January 2014

Junket (cuajada,requesón) "Just not like Mama used to make it!"



Another new year is here and there is nothing better than starting  with something that makes you happy.Food  can have a great impact on our moodswings,and our mood can effect everything in our daily life.If you want to look and feel good then you need to be sure to include some of the foods that will naturally lift your spirits.One particular childhood pudding comes to mind
Junket was a love-it-or-hate-it dessert. I for one, LOVED it and miss it terribly!
Traditionally, junket was known as an invalid’s food. Children like myself were especially fond of the custard-like consistency and it was a good way to get nourishing milk into little people who had little appetites.New mothers would also make junket to feed to their babies who were being weaned off breast milk and on to cows’ milk.
We used to have our milk delivered every morning, so there was often some milk leftover which needed to be used up before new milk arrived the next day. Making junket was the perfect way to use up this extra milk.
Part of its comfort factor for me comes from the memories I associate with it; the sense of taste is closely linked to the sense of smell,and related more strongly to memory than visual stimulus or flashback,so up until this morning, I had never physically journeyed into the world of making my own junket before.It is not one for the faint hearted and certain rules need to be observed,so here I am putting in a disclaimer that there is always a possibility of failure in junket making,particularly if you are not observing these rules.
Rennet is an enzyme found in a calf’s stomach to help it digest its mother’s milk – so it’s best not to think about that as you make this delicious, healthy dessert. If you’re a regular cheese maker,you will be blessed by having a bottle of rennet in your fridge, otherwise you will have to search for it online.Health food and online suppliers all offer vegetarian varieties.
It is most important the type of milk you use.Most modern supermarket milk is full of vitamins and minerals,calcium salt and proteins and these will prove to be an obstruction to your junket making and prevent it from setting.You need a good pasteurized whole farm milk or organic milk free of these additives.It is also vital to heat the milk to exactly the right temperature,so an accurate cooking thermometer is a prerequisite.
So with those words of warning aside let’s give junket a second chance. Sadly one seldom comes across Junket especially when eating out and I think there should be a revival.
I’m jousting for junket or ‘junkit’ as I used to call it when I was a child.Maybe you’ve had it, maybe you’ve at least heard of it. Maybe you’re thinking what is he on about now?  The thing is, junket is not new. It’s old enough to be a classic. Still, the jolly joy of  junket has never lost me. Despite being a particularly popular pudding in the fifties, junket evolved over the years and began to mean many things to many different countries and many different people.The word derives from an old french word Jonquette,used to describe a curd cream cheese and also the basket in which it was made.
It seemed to disappear around the time that instant desserts such as Angel Delight were introduced. Younger mothers, mine not included, tended to use the 'new fangled' powder mixers in a packet such as “Little Miss Muffet Junket” and "Milk made"- thank god for my mother, at least true Junket survived for a few more years.
How can I describe junket? Well it looks like a cross between a thin jelly and a blancmange ( man jar branco in Brazil and Portugal) and tastes,for those of you old enough to remember,somewhat like those milk gums that came in the shape of bottles.Blancmange unlike junket is not thickened with rennet.
There is  a type of Junket called 'Damask Cream', now whether that came from the rose water that was added I can´t be sure, but rosewater is one of the many flavours that can be added to junket,and while researching junket I stumbled on an old Indian home remedy Haldi ka doodh, which translates into turmeric milk, which is just that, turmeric (haldi) with milk (doodh). A new way with junket i thought….
So without further ado I set about flavouring my junket in this way far removed from my mothers whey.Even the sight of turmeric colouring and adding a beautiful golden hue to food it touches is as healing and therapeutic. Well, I can't say the same thing about my turmeric stained wooden cooking spoons, but they have now become a part of daily cooking routines and there´s nowt much you can do about it. 

Classic Junket
My mother always made her junket in individual bowls.if you want to to make up one large quantity,which personally I think is a lot easier,you will need a 750ml bowl 
600ml Whole cows milk
3 tbsp caster sugar
1 tsp vanilla essence(not extract)
1 tbsp rennet

Pour the milk and sugar into a pan and heat to 37ºC /99ºF
Stir constantly to ensure the sugar is dissolved completely,then add the vanilla and taste to check its strength.Take your temperature reading and when correct pour into a bowl.Add the rennet,stirring for no more than 3 to 5 seconds until it starts to set.Do not so much as touch the bowl again for at least 15 minutes.Now put it aside somewhere to cool until you are ready to serve it.Do not chill in the fridge as it makes junket tough.


Turmeric milk junket
Follow the method as above but add the following quantities of spice to the warm milk.Before adding the rennet strain the spiced milk until smooth.
1 teaspoon turmeric powder
2-3 cardamom pods cracked and crushed
1/2 teaspoon ground ginger
                                                                                    

                                                                                 

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