Saturday, September 17, 2011

Thunder and Lightning

No, not stormy weather. Thunder and lightning is what the Cornish call a slice of bread spread with treacle then topped with clotted cream.  And delicious it is too.  Though it was usually farmer’s wives who made butter, the money they made from sales being one of their perks, almost every Cornish housewife made her own clotted cream.  The method hasn’t changed in centuries. I remember as a child watching our next-door neighbour make pasties while the cream ‘scalded’ on the slab of her old black range. 
After the milk girl had been – she carried two large silver milk churns in the back of a small grey van and every day we took out a jug for her to fill with either a pint or half-pint dipper - the milk to be used for cream (and it was always whole milk then) would be poured into a shallow dish and set aside for a few hours to allow the cream to rise to the surface.  When this had happened, the dish was placed in a pan of simmering water over a low fire for several hours – sometimes overnight - to “scald.”  By morning a thick yellow crust would have formed.  Skimmed off into a glass dish this would keep for 24 hours (no one had a fridge then) or a day longer if a little sugar had been added to the pan before scalding began.
Though delicious on fresh fruit or fruit pies and puddings, some old recipes used it differently.
Chocolate cream: the thick cream was whipped together with eggs and melted chocolate until light and frothy.  Chilled this makes a wonderful chocolate mousse.
Almond blancmange: the cream was heated with lemon rind, sugar and ground almonds, then left to set in an oiled mould.
Another recipe called for cream boiled with egg yolks, sugar and rosewater to be poured over breadcrumbs, sprinkled with sugar, then left to set.
Though we ate cream, butter and whole milk when we were children, we did so much running about, climbing trees, hiking through the woods, and walking a mile along the creek side to the shingle beach beyond the harbour where we built a fire and cooked ‘dampers’ (a flour and water dough wound around a stick and toasted until brown then filled with jam) we were all as slim as greyhounds. 

Jane Jackson.

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Elizabeth Hawksley said...

Your account of the delights of clotted cream made my mouth water just reading about it! Eating clotted cream with scones and strawberry jam is one of the delights of visiting Cornwall - even if you then have to go on a five mile hike to walk it off!

Jane Jackson said...

Thanks, Elizabeth. It's the best of both worlds - a delicious indulgence then a walk along the coastal path with glorious views. What better recipe for health and happiness?!