Strange Desserts: How To Make Flummery
How to make the Ancient Dessert sometimes known as Sour Oat Jelly
While reading the Welsh fairy tale, "Treasure Stone of the Fairies" by the author, William Elliot Griffis, I came upon the following curious line:
"Puss, the pet, was always happy purring away on the hearth, as the kettle boiled to make the flummery, of sour oat jelly, which, daddy loved so well."
Flummery? Sour oat jelly? I'd never heard of it before but the name of the dish sounded so intriguing I decided to hunt down the recipe.
I was eventually led to a book published in 1755 by the authors P. Davey and B. Law called, "Cookery Reformed: Or The Lady's Assistant."
When I saw how easy the recipe was to follow, I knew I had to give it a try.
The 1755 Recipe
"How To Make Flummery"
"Put oatmeal into a broad deep earthen-pan, with a good deal of water; stir them together, and let them stand twelve hours; pour off the clear water, and add fresh stirring them about; at the end of twelve hours, pour this carefully off, and add more : perform the same once again, and then strain the oatmeal through a coarse hair-sieve; put it into a sauce-pan, and stir it about with a clean flick till it boils, and becomes thick; then pour it into basons or small dishes. When it is cold, it is fit for eating with milk, or wine and sugar, or cyder and sugar."
Getting More from your Oats
After careful research, I realised that Flummery was made from the liquid strained from the fermented oats. This recipe would have been helpful in days gone by given the scarcity of food at times. The drained, fermented oats could be boiled, fried, baked as desired. The leftover liquid, instead of being discarded, could be cooked into a rich jelly. Our ancestors certainly knew the value of not wasting a thing.
Choose Your Oatmeal then Let's Get Started!
I used Old-Fashioned Oats for my first attempt at making Flummery, but I've recently switched to steel cut oats because of their higher nutritional value. Old-Fashioned oats are made from oat groats that are steam heated and then made into oat flakes. Steel Cut oats are whole grain oat groats which have been chopped into only two or three pieces. They look like finely chopped nuts rather than flakes.Steel Cut oats are sometimes known as Irish oats or coarse cut oats.
To begin the recipe I started with:
3 cups of oatmeal in a glass pot (don't use a metal container, metal and the live probiotics found in fermented foods don't play nicely together, earthenware or ceramic is fine)
Water (enough to cover the oatmeal in the container by about 1/2 inch)
Time: Stir. Leave the oatmeal and water mix to sit undisturbed for 12 hours.
Draining the Liquid
12 Hour Soak, Strain, Repeat
As you can see, the water has turned from clear to murky.
After 12 hours of sitting, drain the liquid from your oats and add fresh water.
Stir and let sit for another 12 hours at room temperature.
Once again, strain your mixture and discard the liquid.
Add fresh water to your oatmeal and let sit for yet another 12 hours at room temperature.
Some people will complete the recipe after a 12-hour soak, others prefer to wait 48 hours or more.
The longer you wait, the sourer the mixture will become.
The Final Strain Before the Boil
Separate the Oats from the Liquid and Keep Them Both
Because I was eager to try the recipe I didn't let the soaking phase go beyond three, 12 hour periods. The liquid in the mixture smelled slightly sour, but the taste was barely perceptible. I carefully strained the oatmeal and retained the liquid for the next phase of making flummery. The strained, fermented oatmeal had a slightly shiny, glutinous texture.
The Flummery Liquid
Let the Flummery Fun Begin!
The water strained from the fermented oats had a fresh smell and was a greyish, pearly, glossy colour. After two days of waiting, I was looking forward to seeing what magic could be wrought with this interesting liquid.
Bring to a Boil and Stir, Stir, Stir!
Pour the strained liquid into a cooking pot and bring to a boil while stirring. Bubbles will appear rather quickly and the mixture will begin to thicken. Stir, stir, stir for a few minutes and don't stop as the jelly easily sticks to the cooking pot. Decrease the temperature and keep stirring.The mixture will continue to thicken. When the flummery liquid is thick and bubbly, remove from the heat and pour into a clean bowl. Cover and chill in the refrigerator until set.
Make Some Oatmeal
While waiting for your flummery to set, use the strained, fermented oatmeal to make a hot, nourishing breakfast. In a cooking pot add a little water to your strained oatmeal and cook for a few minutes. Because the grains are already nice and soft, the cooking time is greatly reduced. The result is a very creamy bowl of oatmeal. The taste is smooth and delicate, much nicer than regular oatmeal. Not only does it taste good, but it's good for you too! Did you know that: Oatmeal is high in nutrients, helps reduce bad cholesterol, lowers blood pressure, reduces the risk of heart disease, helps maintain a healthy weight, stabilizes blood glucose levels, and more?
Flummery! The Big Question - What Does It Taste Like?
The flummery set into the texture of custard. Dubious glances from my "volunteer" taste testers indicated they didn't think it looked like custard at all. "You know, it kind of looks like greyish slime," piped up one of the taste testers.
Because flummery traditionally is served in a variety of ways, we decided we would try a few different flavour combinations.
1) Flummery on its own: Bland and a bit slippery, but really not as bad as it looked. As it is gelatinous it goes down quickly in a gulp. The flavour is delicate. "Oatmeal custard? But with very little taste." Was one of my taste tester's opinions.
2) Warm flummery with butter and salt: The flavour is bland but comforting. My volunteers were disappointed in how re-heating the flummery started to change it back into a liquid. "The whole point of flummery is that it is supposed to be a jelly, isn't it?" True.
3) Flummery with cream and sugar with a dollop of applesauce on the side: Hands down the favourite flavour combination for all the taste testers. The sweetness of the sugar lifted the oatmeal taste and the splash of cream helped disguise the jelly-like look of the dish. The applesauce added a lovely tart contrast to the delicate taste of the flummery.
4) Experiment #2: Another batch of flummery was fermented for a few days..wow...too sour! But very interesting nonetheless. The liquid strained off the flummery that had been sitting for 72 hours was thick and had the look and consistency of cream. It was sour in both smell and taste. The jelly made from this flummery reminded us all of creamy Brie cheese. The oatmeal itself cooked up nice and creamy and was only slightly sour. This dish was best served with a little cream and sugar with slices of fresh pear on the side.
Would I make it again? The answer is,"Yes!" It's such an inexpensive, easy recipe to make; it really is a dish worth the tasty experimentation.
What do you think of this recipe my Wild Ones? Is it something you would try, or is it just too strange? Please feel free to leave a comment below, you know I love hearing from you.