Bookish Matters

The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be intolerably stupid.

—Jane Austen, Northanger Abbey

Friday, May 4, 2012

In the Kitchen—May Day Feast and Syllabub

On Tuesday, my gentleman and I had a Beltain/May Day feast. It was a simple affair, since Dead Week isn't the best time for extensive cooking. We had a white wine from Camas Prairie (our local winery), dandelion salad, honey cake, and syllabub.

May Day foods are basically foods that are in season, and eggs and dairy to symbolize new life and growing babies. Thus we picked dandelion greens from my yard and then mixed them with what I had on hand—tomatoes, chickpeas, olive oil, balsamic vinegar, and dried basil. Ideally the May Day dandelion salad would include strawberries. I used this recipe for the honey cake. It was delicious, but I'll probably play around with it and eventually post a version specialized to my preferences (egg-free, and lots of rum).

Syllabub is an English dessert. I first learned about it in that charming book The Little White Horse, set in Victorian England. It is milk or cream lightly sweetened and curdled with wine. Originally, you milked the cow straight into the bowl of wine. Unfortunately, I didn't have a cow on hand, so I bought heavy cream from Washington to use (the co-op was out of Idaho cream!). I decided to make this for May Day when, while perusing recipes for the foods in The Little White Horse, I discovered syllabub on this May Day page. The first time I made it according to the directions for simple syllabub sans cow. I used agave instead of sugar. I'm not sure it worked right, because it didn't curdle or thicken, but the gentleman and I still thoroughly enjoyed it. It basically tasted like sweet cream with an alcoholic undertone—how can you go wrong?

I just tried making syllabub again. This time I added a tablespoon of lemon juice and between a 1/2 and 1 teaspoon lemon zest to a half cup of white wine. I let that steep (in my fridge) for a few hours. I heated up a half cup of heavy whipping cream mixed with two teaspoons agave nectar, then added that to the lemony wine. I whisked with an electric mixer until it was all bubbles.

This second attempt is much like the first, except pleasantly lemony. The bubbles didn't last long&mdah;it's just a liquid. A very tasty liquid, granted. Am I heating the cream too hot? Am I whipping it on too high of a setting? I've found another recipe that gives a bit more detail on the whisking so I'll try again next May Day. If you have any syllabub or whip cream tips, tricks, or stories, leave a comment or send an email!

How did you celebrate May Day?

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