Boiled Custard

Boil half a pint of new milk, with a piece of lemon peel, two peach leaves, half a stick of cassia, a few whole allspice, from four to six ounces of white sugar. Cream may be used instead of milk; beat the yolks and white of four eggs, strain the milk through coarse muslin, or a hair sieve; then mix the eggs and milk very gradually together, and stir it well from the bottom, on the fire, till it thickens. 

 Baked Custard

Boil in a pint of milk a few coriander seeds, a little cinnamon and lemon peel; sweeten with four ounces of loaf sugar, mix with it a pint of cold milk; beat eight eggs for ten minutes; add the other ingredients; pour it from one pan into another six or eight times, strain through a sieve; let it stand; skim the froth from the top, pour it into earthen cups, and bake immediately in a hot oven till they are of a good colour; ten minutes will be sufficient. 

Poisonous Custard

The leaves of the cherry laurel, prunus lauro-cerasus, a poisonous plant, have a nutty flavour, resembling that of the kernels of peach-stones, or of bitter almonds, which to most palates is grateful. These leaves have for many years been in use among cooks, to communicate an almond or kernel-like flavour to custards, puddings, creams, blanc-mange, and other delicacies of the table.

It has been asserted, that the laurel poison in custards and other articles of cookery  is, on account of its being used in very small quantities, quite harmless. To refute this assertion, numerous instances might be cited; and, among them, a recent one, in which four children suffered most severely from partaking of custard flavoured with the leaves of this poisonous plant.

"Several children at a boarding-school, in the vicinity of Richmond, having partaken of some custard flavoured with the leaves of the cherry laurel, as is frequently practised by cooks, four of the poor innocents were taken severely ill in consequence. Two of them, a girl six years of age, and a boy of five years old, fell into a profound sleep, out of which they could not be roused.

"Notwithstanding the various medical exertions used, the boy remained in a stupor ten hours; and the girl nine hours; the other two, one of which was six years old, a girl, and a girl of seven years, complained of severe pains in the epigastric region. They all recovered, after three days' illness. I am anxious to communicate to you this fact, being convinced that your publication is read at all the scholastic establishments in this part of the country. I hope you will allow these lines a corner in your Literary Chronicle, where they may contribute to put the unwary on their guard, against the deleterious effects of flavouring culinary dishes with that baneful herb, the Cherry Laurel.

"I am, with respect, your's, Sir,

"Thomas Lidiard."[112]

What person of sense or prudence, then, would trust to the discretion of an ignorant cook, in mixing so dangerous an ingredient in his puddings and creams? Who but a maniac would choose to season his victuals with poison?

The water distilled from cherry laurel leaves is frequently mixed with brandy and other spiritous liquors, to impart to them the flavour of the cordial called noyeau, (see also page 195 .)

This fluid, though long in frequent use as a flavouring substance, was not known to be poisonous until the year 1728; when the sudden death of two women, in Dublin, after drinking some of the common distilled cherry laurel water, demonstrated its deleterious nature.


[112]Literary Chronicle, No. 22, p. 348.—1819.