Victorian Cooking

Victorian Cookbook: Curds and Whey

Little Miss Muffet by Arthur Rackham

Curds and whey seem like a neat step up from Workhouse Gruel. They’re almost as simple but way more nutritious. You can eat them outdoors while sitting on a tuffet or, if you’re the heroine of an historical romance, from your sickbed as a medicinal posset. If you’re the hero of said novel, eat them sitting up in bed as you recover from a flesh wound. Don’t forget to mutter manfully about “sickroom pap” while downplaying the severity of your injury.

The recipe I used is from Victorian chef Charles Francatelli’s “A Plain Cookery Book for the Working Classes.” If you’ve ever made your own cheese, you’re probably familiar with the process, but lots of people (me included) only know the nursery rhyme “Little Miss Muffet.” Our practical experience of curds and whey is nil.

But that’s all about to change. (Are you excited yet? I’m excited!)

For Curds and Whey, you will need:

200ml of milk,

25ml of white wine,

Sugar to taste

Method:

Boil the milk in a small saucepan.

Add the wine and allow the milk to boil up like this:

Curds and Whey separating = witchcraft!

Once the curds and whey have separated, strain them into a glass until you have something that looks like this:

Curds and Whey

Do the curds resemble very thick porridge/baby vomit?

They do? Excellent! Then it’s time to present them to your test subjects.

Here we have (from the bottom): one small ramekin of curds with sugar sprinkled on top, one small ramekin of curds and whey like in “Little Miss Muffet,” a small glass of whey, and one ramekin containing two ginger biscuits in case you need to bribe your test subjects.

Smorgasbord

Verdict:

Whey: No one liked this much, though Mr. Bennet said he could “acquire the taste.” Fortunately, it makes an excellent, nutrient rich plant food, so I fed it to our geranium.

Curds and whey without sugar: “Perfectly pleasant” according to Mr. B, but 15 yr old grimaced and said they’d be better cold. 8 yr old begged to be excused and not even the promise of a biscuit could move him.

Sugared curds: Actually quite nice, if a bit bland as befits “sickroom fare.” Everyone liked them, except 8 yr old who only ate one speck. He said it was “a bit horrible” but that he still loved me.

So, that’s reassuring.

If you try curds and whey, I hope you’ll let me know how you got on.

Next time: Syllabub!

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