Snow Pudding with Custard

by Katherine Perry

The Victorian era abounded in puddings and jellies—jellies as a spoon dessert, not for spreading on toast. Kathleen Fitzgerald and Keith Stavely, authors of Northern Hospitality: Cooking by the Book in New England say, “The skill at making clear jellies is descended from the kitchen arts of the days of the medieval and early modern English court, when aristocratic ladies made delicacies to show off their culinary artistry... Essentially the same skill, albeit descended in a somewhat pared-down form (that is, without the addition of many of the costly spices and wines), was sometimes put to use in neighborly ways in New England when someone was sick.” When packaged gelatin became widely available in the mid-1800s, it became an easier skill to master, now that cooks didn’t have to make their own gelatin from fish bladders or animal hooves. Snow Pudding must have been a particularly popular pudding of its day, as it makes appearances in all three manuscripts. Light, airy, pristine, it’s a Victorian ideal. And topped with a thin custard and “sparkling jelly”—a fruit or wine jelly broken up to give a jewel-like effect—it makes a dramatic centerpiece.
Snow Pudding with Custard

Elizabeth Cecil

FROM COMFORTS FOR THE SICK
½ box gelatine, ½ pint cold water, 1 pint boiling water, 1 cup sugar, juice of 2 lemons. When nearly cold, add beaten whites of 4 eggs. Make custard of yolks of 4 eggs, 1 pint of milk, sugar, and pour over.


MODERN ADAPTATIONS
Soak the gelatine in the cold water until quite soft before adding the boiling water, sugar and juice. Beat the egg whites until quite stiff, and then beat in the gelatine mixture. Once light and fluffy, the mixture can either be scooped into bowls, like clumps of snow, and refrigerated until set, or poured into a mold. (If you’ve forgotten your everyday custard recipe, you can follow the one below, which uses a double-boiler.)


CUSTARD FOR SNOW PUDDING


FROM UNKNOWN MANUSCRIPT, 1887
Put the milk in a kettle of boiling water. When near a boiling point, put the eggs (after beaten) and three tablespoons of sugar in. Let it begin to thicken and pour over the pudding when cold.


MODERN ADAPTATIONS
Whisk a small amount of the hot milk with the egg yolks to temper them before adding to pot. A pinch of salt and a ½ teaspoon of vanilla greatly enhance this custard.