I spent some of my childhood living in Charlottesville, Virginia, and when guests came to visit us, we often visited colonial sites like Jamestown and Monticello. We amassed souvenirs like bonnets and aprons, and my older sister and I would roam the woods surrounding our country home, pretending we were Revolutionary War-era young ladies, relying on the wilderness for sustenance. When presented with an opportunity to review Laura Kumin’s (of the food blog Mother Would Know) new cookbook: The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World (Post Hill Press), I jumped at the chance to see how our forefathers ate, drank, and made merry.
Kumin’s cookbook is a must-read for any American history buff, especially a food-obsessed one, as it is one part Hamilton biography and one part Colonial cookbook. I particularly enjoyed an anecdote about the “Meal that Changed History”: a dinner Hamilton hosted with Madison and Jefferson as the only attendees. During this meal, the three men made a monumental agreement: Hamilton would agree to support the nation’s capital location in DC if Madison “rallied Virginia’s support for Hamilton’s plan to have the federal government assume state debts…” They began this historical meal with a variation of Lemon Syllabub, a mixture of lemon juice and zest, white wine, sugar, and cream, a recipe Laura included in the Beverages section of the cookbook.
I couldn’t resist making it myself, especially after reading the description: “its creamy froth rises to the top of a glass, leaving a refreshing lemony wine on the bottom…use glasses wide enough to allow a spoon for eating the topping, which is similar to a lemon mousse.” Yes, please. I pulled out my favorite Jeffersonian pewter cups from Monticello and got to whisking. It was a cinch to prepare, and pretty fun. It’s just a matter of whisking wine, cream, sugar, and lemon juice together and pouring the mixture into pretty glasses. The countertop and then the refrigerator does all the work. I let them sit for two hours on the counter and then refrigerated them overnight, covered.
The topping was sweet, tart, frothy and slightly effervescent, due to the fact that I used some California sparkling wine as the base. The liquid on the bottom was just as enjoyable, a sweet, lemon-infused dessert wine. I believe the carbonation aided in the airiness of the topping–I look forward to trying this with a different type of wine. It’s the perfect dessert and after-dinner cocktail, all rolled into one, for a sophisticated dinner party, even if you’re not changing history.
Reprinted with permission from The Hamilton Cookbook by Laura Kumin (Post Hill Press)
- 1 lemon cut in half, with rind grated from half and juice from one or both halves for a total of 1 cup juice
- 1 cup granulated sugar
- 1 cup white wine
- 1 cup heavy cream
Laura's notes: This simple whipped syllabub is an elegant drink/dessert. Its creamy froth rises to the top of a glass, leaving a refreshing lemony wine on the bottom. Although it takes only minutes to prepare, allow several hours between preparation and serving so that the froth and liquid have time to separate. Use glasses wide enough to allow a spoon for eating the topping, which is similar to a lemon mousse. Select a white wine variety based on how sweet you want the syllabub to be. (Keep in mind that the topping resembles lemon mousse.) Using a dry white such as a Sauvignon Blanc or Pinot Grigio will make the syllabub a bit tart, while a sweeter white, such as a Chenin Blanc or a Reisling, will make the syllabub taste more like a sweet
The Hamilton Cookbook: Cooking, Eating, and Entertaining in Hamilton’s World, would make a lovely holiday gift for the history-buff foodies in your life. It’s available on Amazon and several online book retailers, and has been featured in USA Today, Food and Wine magazine, and Entertainment Weekly.