When thinking about a suitably delicious but prepare-ahead dessert for Christmas day, lemon posset sprang immediately to mind. I first made it last January and was amazed at how quick and easy it was. After that, I took it along as my contribution to a couple of cooking clubs, and was delighted at the extremely positive feedback.
On those occasions I served it with a single long strip of candied lime in each serving. (I stuck it upright into the little black and white espresso cups, above, but forgot to take another picture).
This time I was determined to bring one of my favourite winter citrus, the wonderful clementine, into play but I didn't think candied clementine peel would work.
At first, I thought about making a two-layered posset – lemon underneath and clementine on top. But I wasn't sure whether pouring a second layer of hot posset would cause the previously set layer below to melt and result in a messy mix.
Luckily, I found inspiration in my RSS feed when I saw a post in which blogger Atomic Shrimp preserved whole clementines in sugar syrup. Essentially, the recipe creates candied or confit clementines which are soft and yielding and break apart easily.
Knowing the preserved clementines would be tooth-achingly sweet I made the lemon posset with a little less sugar and a touch more lemon juice than usual, to balance the sweet with more sharp. My unadjusted recipe is below; drop sugar by 30-40 grams and up lemon juice by about 20 ml for a slightly sharper posset.
The dessert went down well! Everyone enjoyed the rich, thick, silky creaminess of the posset and most also really liked the clementines. I particularly loved the way my clementine oozed thick, sweet syrup as I tore into it with my spoon and how the distinct flavour of my favourite orange citrus came through loud and clear.
In medieval times posset referred to a hot drink of milk curdled with wine or ale, often with treacle and spices added for flavour. It was considered to be a general restorative and a remedy for various illnesses. Later, in the 16th-century, posset was often made from citrus juice; cream and sugar, sometimes with the addition of egg; it sounds rather like lemon curd to me, but was apparently served as a sauce to accompany meat. These days posset most commonly refers to a cold set dessert containing cream, sugar and citrus juice, similar to a syllabub but without any wine.
600 ml double cream
180 g caster sugar
90 ml lemon juice
Note: I nearly always double the recipe to make twice the amount.
Note: Extra portions can wrapped in clingfilm and frozen. Defrost overnight in the fridge before serving.
- Put the cream and caster sugar in a large saucepan (that allows for the liquid to double in volume) and bring to the boil, stirring occasionally to dissolve the sugar.
This takes several minutes but keep a close eye, as when it reaches boiling point, it expands very fast.
- Reduce the heat so that the mixture doesn't boil over, but not too low as you want to allow it to bubble enthusiastically for 4 to 5 minutes, stirring regularly.
- Remove from the heat, stir in the lemon juice and leave to settle for a few minutes.
- Pour into small serving dishes or cups and leave to cool. Refrigerate for a couple of hours before serving.
Confit Clementines in Syrup
Approximately 750 grams whole, small clementines
500g white sugar
Optional: 100 ml gin or other spirit
Note: AS' recipe used cloves and cinnamon in the syrup to add spiced flavours. I chose to omit these, as I wanted the pure clementine flavour to dominate.
- Prepare the clementines by washing them well, picking off the woody stalk remnants and cutting a small cross into the non-stalk side with a sharp knife. This will allow the syrup to penetrate the clementine and ensure it's fully softened and saturated all the way through. Take care not to make the crosses too large or the clementines may split during cooking. An alternative might be to prick the skin all over with a thin skewer instead, though I've not tried this yet.
- Choose a pan that fits all your clementines in a single layer. Personally, I'd pick a pan that fits them all in fairly snuggly, as a smaller pan means a greater depth of syrup. My pan was a little larger.
- Put the sugar and water into the pan over a gentle heat and stir until the sugar is full dissolved.
- Carefully place the fruits into the syrup, to avoid splashing hot sugar syrup. I put all mine the same way up (see later).
- Bring the sugar syrup to the boil, and then reduce the heat to a very low simmer and cover.
- For the next hour, continue to cook the clementines at this low temperature, returning to the pan every ten minutes or so to turn all the fruits over. By keeping mine all the same way up, I found it easier to quickly identify which ones I'd not yet turned each time, though towards the end of the cooking time, a couple of them spun around quite contrarily!
- Sometimes, just before turning, I gave each clementine a gentle squeeze down on the base of the pan, to squeeze a little of the juice out and encourage more syrup to take it's place, however take care as too much pressure will cause your clementines to split apart.
- If the clementines have had enough cooking time, you should see that the skins look a little darker in colour, because they are saturated with sugar syrup. The fruits will also be fairly soft to the touch, if you squeeze them gently with a spoon.
- If your clementines were larger than average, or the fruits don't seem to be soft, continue cooking for another half an hour, turning regularly, as before.
- When the clementines are ready, turn off the heat and lift them carefully out of the pan with a slotted spoon and pack them into sterilised jars.
- If you are adding alcohol, stir this into the sugar syrup now. The amount above will not give a strong alcoholic kick so increase by taste if you wish.
- Pour the sugar syrup over the fruit in the jars to cover them completely.
- If there isn't enough syrup to cover the fruit, you can make more up by dissolving sugar into water.
Having preserved enough clementines for Christmas day dessert the first time around, I made some more a few days later. These ones I stored in sterilised jam jars and kilner jars, as above. I sterilised the jars (and lids) as I usually do for jam and chutney making and put the fruit into them whilst both fruit and jars were still hot. I am assuming that the high sugar content saturating the fruit should preserve them for medium to long term storage, however if you are at all unsure, you may wish to boil the sealed jars in a hot water bath.
My next project is to try the same technique to confit thin-skinned lemons and limes. I'll let you know how it goes!