Devonshire Junket, Devon
Devonshire Junket, once considered more invalid fodder than fine cuisine, is a lovely delicate dish that depends much on the quality of the milk used in making it. Thus junket is most closely associated with Devon in this country, where the quality of dairy products is sans pareil.
This is a dish more prepared than cooked – the heat required to warm the milk is very gentle. Rennet and a little sugar are added to the warmed milk, and to be a proper Devon Junket brandy is needed, just a slug or two. When the curds and whey separate you have your dish: it can be left to cool in small dessert bowls, tall glasses, or a large bowl, to be spooned into individual servings at the table. To decorate a little nutmeg is grated on the top, and it should be served with a dollop of clotted cream to complete the Devon picture.
Though junket sounds a very English word, it probably derives from an Italian word denoting a cream cheese, giuncata. A rather fancy, 1930s name for the dish was Damask Cream, an appellation that was still to be heard at least into the 1970s, though what it has to do with Damascus or the damask cloth I am not sure. A rather more local association comes with the Devonshire mass murderer Tom Austin, from Cullomtpon – he killed a man he robbed on the highway, his aunt and five children, and finally his own wife and two toddlers. On the gallows he spotted a woman eating Devon Junket, and when asked if he had any last words said he wished he had some of it as he was not likely to see it again.