Mamia

Burnt Junket with Honey

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I ONCE MET A BASQUE FARMER WHO NOT ONLY MADE HIS OWN CHEESE BUT ALSO HIS OWN RENNET — AN ENZYME FROM THE STOMACH OF LAMBS. HE HELD AN ORANGE-SIZED BALL OF THE STUFF, PRESERVED WITH SALT, IN THE PALM OF HIS HAND. HE AND I SOON FOUND WE SHARED A LOVE OF MAMIA AS HE CALLED IT — OR CUAJADA AS IT WAS KNOWN IN MY HOUSEHOLD, AND MOST LIKELY AS JUNKET IN YOURS. HE STILL DID THE TRADITIONAL BASQUE THING AND WARMED HIS MILK — RAW SHEEP’S MILK — WITH A STONE HEATED IN THE FIRE AND THEN DROPPED IT INTO THE JUG, SIZZLING AND BUBBLING AS IT SANK TO THE BOTTOM. SADLY, MOST SUPERMARKETS HAVE STRIPPED JUNKET OFF THEIR SHELVES, BUT YOU CAN STILL BUY IT IN SOME FOOD STORES AND ONLINE.

Ingredients

  • 1 litre (35 fl oz/4 cups) milk
  • 2 ml (about ⅓ teaspoon) rennet (see glossary)
  • 125 ml (4 fl oz/½ cup) light honey, such as clover honey

Method

Pour the milk into a heavy-based saucepan. Heat a solid metal object such as a carefully cleaned meat mallet or fire poker over the flame of the stove until hot, then place into the milk. Check the temperature of the milk — it should reach 37°C (98°F). (If you don’t have a thermometer, the milk should feel just warm — at blood temperature.) Alternatively, place the milk over low heat and heat briefly.

Stir the rennet into the milk, then divide the mixture among six 200 ml (7 fl oz) glasses. Cover each glass with a small cloth and secure with a rubber band, then leave to stand in a warm place for 10 minutes. Refrigerate for 4 hours, or until set.

Drizzle with the honey just before serving.