Monday, July 07, 2014

Bristol Milk.

This week I am in Bristol, in the South-West of England. Those of you who love fortified wines will know it as the home of Bristol Milk.

According to the Oxford English Dictionary, Bristol Milk is first recorded in 1634. Our old friend Samuel Pepys was in the city in 1668, and mentioned in his diary on June 13th that he was much satisfied with a “good entertainment of strawberries, a whole venison-pastry, cold, and plenty of brave wine, and above all, Bristol Milk.”

But what, exactly, is Bristol Milk? Here are a couple of accounts of the famous beverage:

The Beer brewed thereof is wholesome against the Spleen. If it should chance that the Crudity of the Waters trouble the Stomach, there is a remedy in this City, and that is Bristol Milk, (a Prov.) or Sherry-Sack, which the Courteous Inhabitants present to all Strangers, when first visiting their City.
Anglorum speculum: or The worthies of England, in church and state, Thomas Fuller (1684)

“The hospitality of the city was widely renowned, and especially the collations with which the sugar refiners regaled their visitors. The repast was dressed in the furnace, and was accompanied by a rich brewage made of the best Spanish wine, and celebrated over the whole kingdom as Bristol milk. This luxury was supported by a thriving trade with the North American plantations and with the West Indies. The passion for colonial traffic was so strong that there was scarce a small shopkeeper in Bristol who had not a venture on board of some ship bound for Virginia or the Antilles. Some of these ventures indeed were not of the most honourable kind.”
History of England, Thomas Macaulay (1848)

Sherry has featured on numerous menus and in many recipes on this blog, and a few years ago had its moment in the spotlight in a post called Sherry Therapy (which included a recipe for Sherry Macaroni.) Sherry has many uses in cookery, of course, and today I want to give you a pleasant idea for your next dinner party from Life magazine, on 25 June, 1945.

Sherry Sundae Pudding.

Soften 1 ½ tsps. gelatin in 2 tbsps. cold water. In double boiler mix 4 egg yolks, 4 tbsps. sugar, ⅓ cup California Sherry or Muscatel, 1 tsp. grated lemon peel, 2 tbsps. lemon juice; cook, stirring, until thickened; add gelatin, stir until dissolved. Beat 4 egg whites stiff with a dash of salt; gradually beat in 6 tbsps. sugar. Fold in hot mixture, mix well; pour into bowl and chill. Top with berries or other fruit. Serves 5 or 6.

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