Junkets are an ancient milk-based dessert, similar to a panna cotta, which are said to take their name from the French word ‘jonquette‘. They’ve existed in Britain since at least the medieval period but have since become a speciality of certain regions of the country, these days being mostly associated with Devon and Cornwall.
To make junket, rich whole milk is mixed with a flavouring such as brandy or rosewater, set with rennet and chilled. Also called ‘curds and whey‘, traditionally it was served in a large ceramic bowl known as a ‘basin‘ and often eaten with fruit and cream.
It’s hard to tell if junkets were any different on the Isle of Wight but the Island certainly seemed to develop a reputation for them. This may have been down to the way they were made but the Island’s famously rich milk could’ve had something to do with it too.
The British author George Mogridge praised the ‘basins of curd of whey’ that he tried at a thatched cottage in Binstead during his tour of the Island in the 1840s. Similarly, the novelist Edith Nicholl Ellison remembered the dessert from her mid-19th century childhood, writing that “No one in the world has tasted junket as these island people make it“. Recalling a child’s birthday party at a farm in Freshwater, she explained how there was cake and Isle of Wight Doughnuts laid out on a low haystack, as well as Isle of Wight Junket, covered an inch deep in thick clotted cream. Sadly, like other traditional Isle of Wight desserts, junkets seemed to fall out of favour by the turn of the 20th century and there’s little mention of them in the years that followed.
How to Make Them
A recreated recipe for making Isle of Wight Junket
Serves 4 – 5
500 ml of whole milk (preferably from Jersey or
Flavouring such as 1⁄2 tbsp brandy or 1⁄2 tsp. orange
flower or rosewater
1 tbsp. caster sugar
1 tsp. liquid vegetarian rennet
Nutmeg or cinnamon to dust
Clotted cream and fruit to serve
There seems to be no surviving recipe for Isle of Wight Junket so this recreation uses contemporary descriptions of the dessert and West Country junket recipes as a guide.
- Heat the milk in a saucepan with a generous pinch of nutmeg and any other flavouring, until it reaches 37°C (about body temperature).
- Add the vegetarian rennet to the mixture and stir it quickly throughout before pouring into a china bowl or individual portion sized glasses.
- Allow the junket to set for 15 minutes at room temperature, then chill in the fridge for about an hour before serving. When it’s ready, dust with nutmeg or cinnamon and serve with clotted cream and a scattering of fuit
To find out more about Isle of Wight Junket and other lost Isle of Wight desserts, take a look at my latest book Historic Isle of Wight Food available from local retailers and online here.