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Some Love For Shirley And Holly - Posset

Updated: Sep 19, 2023

So many foods are a sense memory for us, aren’t they?

I went to a celebration of life ceremony recently. I don’t want to call it a funeral, because it was for a lovely lady that had lived a long life and was utterly beloved by the multitudes that came to pay their respects - not just at the church but for “loving fellowship” back at the house. Amazing. I’ve never felt more love (or seen more food) in one house, but there was one dish I didn’t recognize. I LOVE when that happens! As it turns out, the dish I didn’t know was an English dessert with quite a history. And since Shirley was a serious anglophile, I thought it was fitting to make the posset.

A posset, or syllabub, was originally a popular British hot drink in the 16th century, made of milk curdled with wine or ale, often spiced, which was sometimes used as a remedy for colds, etc. But by the 17th century, it had evolved from a drink to a thicker dessert that was used for trifles, or served with spongecake which you would dip into it. It’s actually mentioned in several older novels like Poldark, and a few that were written by Jane Austen.

I promise - it is the easiest dessert you will ever make.


20 ounces heavy whipping cream*

7 ounces sugar

2 tbsp lemon zest

2.5 oz fresh lemon juice

6 fresh lemons, large, optional**


* I tried to use clotted cream instead of heavy cream, thinking it would be thicker. Don’t do it. My lemon halves looked like they were filled with melted butter,

** You’ll only need these 6 lemons if you’ll be serving the posset in them. If you decide to use ramekins, you won’t need these.

If you DO use the lemons as vessels, follow these 5 steps first:

1. Zest a bit from one side of each lemon, then the other side - not the whole lemon. This will save you from wasting an extra lemon for the zest.

1. Cut the lemons in half lengthwise.

3. Using a sharp paring knife, cut the meat out of the fruit into a bowl. Use a grapefruit spoon to get the remaining bits out.

4. Dry the lemon halves with a paper towel.

5. Use the bowl of lemon “innards” to get your 2.5 ounces of fresh lemon juice.

Place the cream and sugar in a saucepan. Heat over medium heat, stirring in order for the sugar to be dissolved. When fine bubbles appear on top of the heavy cream, remove from the heat.

Add lemon zest and lemon juice.


Let the mixture cool for 10 minutes, then strain into cups (lemon shells).

It makes about 12 lemon shells or 6 sups/ramekins.

Cool completely at room temperature.

You may cover with plastic wrap.

Refrigerate for at least 1 hour or for up to 3 days.

Garnish as you wish, with fresh mint, a few berries or a thin slice of lemon.

I’ll definitely make this again and again. And when I do, my memory will not be of a “funeral” but of the love that my friend Holly and her family cultivated and shared - luckily, with me as well.

Now I’ll take these across the street to Eadie and Joe. For more love.

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