In her 1796 “American Cookery,” Amelia Simmons greatly simplifies the process of making syllabub by sweetening a quart of cider, adding grated nutmeg and then milking your cow directly “into your liquor.”

Colonial era’s frappuccino concocted ‘under the cow’



By Merry Post

Syllabub is a festive, vintage treat that is perfect for winter entertaining. Some of the earliest syllabub recipes, dating from the 1700s, describe a sweetened milk punch laced with sherry and wine. Later recipes were based on cream, whipped to a froth with fruit juice, sugar and wine.

The most amusing recipe for syllabub that I have read comes from Amelia Simmons’s 1796 “American Cookery.”

In the 1700s, syllabub started as a sweetened milk punch laced with sherry and wine. The festive drink later evolved into a creamy concoction whipped to a froth with fruit juice, sugar and wine.
LEARNING LARK PHOTO BY ABIGAIL YOUNG

“Sweeten a quart of cyder with double refined sugar, grate nutmeg into it, then milk your cow into your liquor,” Simmons instructs. “When you have thus added what quantity of milk you think proper, pour half a pint or more, in proportion to the quantity of syllabub you make, of the sweetest cream you can get all over it.”

In her 1851 cookbook “Miss Leslie’s Directions for Cookery,” Eliza Leslie also called for sugar, nutmeg and cider or white wine to be mixed up in a syllabub bowl just before milking time. “Then let it be taken to the cow, and have about three pints milked into it…. Let it be eaten before the froth subsides.”

I wonder how many cooks actually tried this technique and how often Bossy kicked over the punch bowl.

Early American home cooks used first twigs and later narrow hardwood rods or whisks to beat air into batters. So if the cow provided the froth, some hard work could be avoided. Or maybe these cookbook writers just liked the idea of using the freshest milk possible.

Later recipes called for cream, which makes a more solid syllabub when whipped to a froth with white wine, fruit juice and sugar. Sometimes syllabub with cream was made hours ahead of time, chilled, and allowed to separate into distinct layers, like a parfait with a foamy head. Eliza Leslie suggested adding a tablespoon of a colorful fruit jelly to each glass before ladling in the syllabub.

 

Traditional Syllabub

1 cup heavy cream, chilled

1/3 cup white sugar

½ tsp. grated lemon rind

4 tsps. fresh lemon juice

¼ cup white wine, chilled

ground cinnamon or nutmeg for garnish

 

Beat the cream in a cold bowl, while gradually adding the sugar on high speed until the cream begins to thicken. Gradually beat in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and the white wine. Beat a little more until light and fluffy. Do not overbeat or you will have butter.

Serve immediately in punch glasses, demitasses, or small bowls with a drift of cinnamon or nutmeg on top. Or refrigerate until serving.

 

Nonalcoholic Syllabub

1 cup heavy cream, cold

1/3 cup white sugar

½ tsp. grated lemon rind

4 tsps. fresh lemon juice

1/3 cup cider, cold

ground cinnamon for garnish

 

Whip the cream in a cold bowl on high speed, while gradually adding the sugar, until the cream begins to thicken. Gradually whip in the lemon zest, lemon juice, and cider. Continue to whip until light and fluffy, but not grainy. Do not overbeat or you will have butter.

Serve immediately or cover the mixture and chill until serving time. Serve with a spoon in punch glasses, demitasses, or small bowls. Dust the top of each serving with a drift of cinnamon.

 

Editor’s note: Merry Post has lived in Sullivan on Flanders Pond for two years. She worked as a book editor for more than 25 years. She has a master’s degree in museum studies, has worked in historic house museums and has published articles on regional Civil War history and on Shaker history.

A member of the Culinary Historians of Boston, she is currently researching and writing a book on New England recipes and food fads of the 19th century.

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