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Starchy set-jelly dessert made originally made by soaking oatmeal overnight in water, boiling the strained liquor with sugar and flavourings such as rosewater and allowing to set cold in a mould. Other setting agents, such as calves's foot jelly have been used. Served with cream, honey etc.
The first known reference (OED) is in G. Markham's 1623 'Countrey Contentments, or English Huswife' (new ed.) vi. 222 "From this small Oat-meale, by oft steeping it in water and clensing it, and then boyling it to a thicke and stiffe jelly, is made that excellent dish of meat which is so esteemed in the West parts of this Kingdome, which they call Wash-brew, and in Chesheire and Lankasheire they call it Flamerie or Flumerie."
The origin of the word is obscure, it has been conjectured that it might derive from the similar Welsh dish llymru. But as 'flummery' can also mean 'empty nonsense', the desert name may equally derive from the custom of giving end-of-meal sweetmeats some sort of slightly comic title to indicate 'unimportant or trivial thing', as is the probable derivation of 'flan', 'trifle' and 'fool'.
The word has, since about the beginning of the 19th Century, occasionally been applied to other types of semi-set desserts.
Original Receipt in 'The Closet Of Sir Kenelm Digby Knight, Opened ' (Digby 1669)
In the West-country, they make a kind of Flomery of wheat flower, which they judge to be more harty and pleasant then that of Oat-meal, Thus; Take half, or a quarter of a bushel of good Bran of the best wheat (which containeth the purest flower of it, though little, and is used to make starch,) and in a great woodden bowl or pail, let it soak with cold water upon it three or four days. Then strain out the milky water from it, and boil it up to a gelly or like starch. Which you may season with Sugar and Rose or Orange-flower-water, and let it stand till it be cold, and gellied. Then eat it with white or Rhenish-wine, or Cream, or Milk, or Ale.
Original Receipt in 'The Art of Cookery, Made Plain and Easy' by Hannah Glasse, 1747 (Glasse 1747);
To make Hartshorn Flummery
BOIL half a pound of the shavings of harts-horn in three pints of water till it comes to a pint, then strain it through a sieve into a bason, and let it by to cool; then let it over the fire, lest it [settle?], and put to it half a pint of thick cream, scalded and grown cold again, a quarter of a pint of white wine, and two spoonfuls of orange-flower water; sweeten it with sugar, and beat it for an hour and a half, or it will not mix well, nor look well; dip your cups in water before you put in the flummery, or else it will not turn out well. It is best when it stands a day or two before you turn it out. When you serve it up, turn it out of the cups, and stick blanched almonds, cut in long narrow bits, on the top. You may eat them either with wine or cream.
A second Way to make Hartshorn Flummery
TAKE three ounces of hartfhorn, and put to it two quart of spring water, let it simmer over the fire six or seven hours, till half the water is consumed, or else put it in a jug, and set it in the oven with day-old bread, then strain it through a sieve, and beat half a pound of almonds very fine, with some orange flower water in the beating; when they are beat, mix a little of your jelly with it, and some fine sugar; strain it out, and mix it with your other jelly, stir it together till it is little more than blood-warm; then pour it into half pint basons or dishes for the purpose, and fill them up half full. When you use them, turn them out of the dish as you do flummery. If it docs not come out clean, set your bason a minute or two in warm water. You may stick almonds in or not, just as you please. Eat it with wine and sugar. Or make your jelly this
way; put fix ounces of hartshorn in a glazed jug with a long neck, and put to it three pints of soft water, cover the top of the jug close, and put a weight on it to keep it steady; set it in a pot or kettle of water twenty- four hours, let it not boil, but be scalding hot then strain it out, and make your jelly.
To make Oatmeal-Flummery.
GET some oatmeal, put it into a broad deep pan, then cover it with water, stir it together, and let it stand twelve hours, then pour off that water clear, and put in a good deal of fresh water, stir it again in twelve hours, and soon in twelve more, then pour off the water clear, and strain the oatmeal through a coarse hair-sieve, and pour it into a saucepan, keeping it stirring all the time with a stick till it boils and is very thick; then pour it into dishes; when cold turn it into plates, and eat it with what you please, either wine and sugar, or beer with sugar, or milk. It eats very pretty with cyder and sugar.
Original Receipt in 'The Cook and Housekeeper's Dictionary' by Mary Eaton (Eaton 1822);
FLUMMERY. Steep in cold water, for a day and a night, three large handfuls of very fine white oatmeal. Pour it off clear, add as much more water, and let it stand the same time. Strain it through a fine hair sieve, and boil it till it is as thick as hasty pudding, stirring it well all the time. When first strained, put to it one large spoonful of white sugar, and two of orange flower water. Pour it into shallow dishes, and serve it up with wine, cider, and milk; or it will be very good with cream and sugar.
See: Flummery Caudle
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