Milk, cream, butter and cheese were known as "white meats" in medieval England. During the Tudor era the cow became the favorite animal for milking, mostly, but not entirely, replacing goats and ewes. It was much easier and less time consuming to milk one cow than, say, ten or twelve sheep.
White meats were used to produce rich, smooth cheesecakes and cool silky syllabubs and junkets. Tart de Bry, made with soft rich cheese, cream, sugar and spices was a favorite dish at the medieval feasts of the wealthy nobility, as was junket, a very rich delicacy of pure cream curdled with rennet, sweetened with sugar and flavoured with rosewater, which was enjoyed at the end of the meal. Syllabub, a frothy confection of cream or milk, white wine, cider or ale sweetened with sugar was originally a favorite drink in the Tudor and Stuart periods.
In the Elizabethan era, junket was flavoured with spices as well as sugar and was accompanied with fresh cream. Syllabubs came into vogue in the Tudor and Stuart eras; the clear liquid was drunk from the spout of a syllabub pot and the frothy cream eaten with a spoon. By the eighteenth century the proportion of cream had increased and was worked through a chocolate mill, (which had just come into general use) to produce thicker syllabubs, which soon became fashionable desserts. Syllabubs, along with other unrenetted creams and custards ousted junket from banqueting tables and junket became an everyday dish sold in the London streets.
These elegant confections provided a feast for the eyes as well as the palate and are an important part of the great heritage of English culinary history.
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