Making Claret Jelly and Domino Punch—Live Chat with Food Historian Ken Albala

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By Ken Albala, Food Historian

I think of Mrs. Agnes B. Marshall as the quintessential Victorian cookbook author, concerned most with primping and coloring with a ton of frou-frou, sometimes even at the expense of flavor. Everything is garnished to the nines.

She founded a cooking school in 1883 and sold her own equipment and ingredients. She was a consummate entrepreneur at a time when few respectable women worked outside the home. I can picture exactly the sort of customer who read her books avidly, socially aspirant upper middle class women who were expected to entertain either at ladies’ luncheons or formal dinners.

They might have a cook doing the actual work, but I like to think that making fancy recipes like this one was a matter of self expression, a matter of pride, so you could claim boasting rights. Above all it’s a really easy recipe.

Leaf and powdered gelatin were new conveniences in the late 19th century. They gave women the perception that they could do something grand and beautiful without a lot of skill or experience in the kitchen. Not that aspics and gelatin were ever that hard to make from scratch, but opening a packet was definitely less time consuming. You could indeed whip this up in no time.

Below is the original recipe as it appeared in Mrs. A. B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes. We have provided a more streamlined and easy to follow version of the recipe a bit further down.

Claret Jelly with Vanilla Cream Gelée au Vin Rouge et Crème Vanille

Put a quarter of a pint of water into a stewpan with four ounces of loaf-sugar, bring to the boil, and then dissolve in not quite a half an ounce of Marshall’s Finest Leaf Gelatine; let it get cool but not set: then mix into it a wineglassful or brandy, a few drops of carmine, and three-quarters of a pint of claret; pour it into the nest mold, if you have it, or any other fancy shape, with a pipe, and put the jelly away in a cool place to set; then turn out onto a dish, with a compote of French plums, as below. Have some cream whipped stiff,  and to each half-pint add two ounces of castor sugar and a few drops of vanilla essence, and by means of a forcing bag and a large rose pipe, garnish between the fruits with this; sprinkle over a little pistachio that has been blanched, skinned and chopped, and serve for dinner or luncheon sweet.

Compote of plums for Claret Jelly.  – Take a half a pound of French plums, put them in a stewpan with two and a half gills of cooking claret, the peel of one lemon, an a strip of cinnamon about one inch long tied up together; sweeten with two ounces of loaf sugar; add a few drops of liquid carmine, let it simmer till the liquor is reduced to creamy thickness, remove the lemon peel, &c., then set aside until cold and use.

Agnes B. Marshall, Mrs. A. B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes (London: Marshall’s School of Cookery, 1902)  pp. 497-8

Notes: A packet of powdered gelatin is ¼ ounce, so use two packets here or two tablespoons. If using leaf gelatin 3 sheets equals one packet, so you would need 6 here. A Quarter of an imperial pint is about 5 fluid US ounces of water and four ounces of sugar is about 9 tablespoons. A wineglassful is not what it seems, but a unit of measurement equaling 2 ounces. ¾ of an Imperial pint is 14 and a half US ounces, so just use two generous glasses of red wine.  Gill = 5 oz

Liquid Carmine was a standard natural red dye made from cochineal – a small scale insect. Synthetic food coloring has largely replaced it in the food industry and for home use, but some products still contain it as Natural Red #4. Use a standard red food coloring.


Ingredients—Jelly

  • 5 oz water
  • 4 oz refined sugar
  • 2 Tbs powered gelatin
  • 2 oz brandy
  • Few drops of red food coloring
  • 14.5 oz claret
  • 2 oz powdered sugar (per 14.5 oz of jelly)
  • Few drops of vanilla extract
  • Blanched pistachios, skinned and chopped

Ingredients—Plums

  • ½ lb French plums
  • 12.5 oz cooking claret
  • Lemon peel
  • Cinnamon stick
  • Twine / cheese cloth
  • Few drops of food coloring

Claret Jelly with Vanilla Cream Gelée au Vin Rouge et Crème Vanille

  1. Put a quarter of a pint of water into a pot with four ounces of sugar, bring to the boil, and then dissolve in not quite a half an ounce of powdered gelatin
  2. Let it get cool but not set: then mix into 2 ounces of brandy, a few drops of red food coloring, and three-quarters of a pint of red wine
  3. Pour it into the nest mold, if you have it, or any other fancy shape, with a piping bag, and put the jelly away in a cool place to set
  4. Turn out onto a dish, with a compote of French plums, as below.
  5. Have some cream whipped stiff, and to each half-pint add two ounces of powdered sugar and a few drops of vanilla extract, and by means of a piping bag and a large rose tip, garnish between the fruits with this
  6. Sprinkle over a little pistachio that has been blanched, skinned and chopped, and serve for dinner or luncheon sweet.

Compote of Plums for Claret Jelly

  1. Take a half a pound of French plums, put them in a pot with 11 ounces of red wine, the peel of one lemon, a stick of cinnamon about one inch long tied up together
  2. sweeten with two ounces of sugar
  3. add a few drops of red food coloring, let it simmer till the liquor is reduced to creamy thickness
  4. remove the lemon peel, &c., then set aside until cold and use.

Ingredients—Domino Punch

  • 1 Tbs fine sugar
  • Half a lemon of juice
  • 2 oz port
  • 2 oz brandy
  • Dash maraschino
  1. Dissolve a tablespoonful fine sugar with a little water and the juice of half a lemon
  2. add one pony of port wine, one pony brandy, a dash of maraschino
  3. Put all in mixing-glass, fill with fine ice; shake well, strain into a fancy glass,
  4. ornament with choice fruit

Additional reading:
Agnes B. Marshall, Mrs. A. B. Marshall’s Larger Cookery Book of Extra Recipes (London: Marshall’s School of Cookery, 1902)  pp. 497-8   https://archive.org/details/b21537999/page/n9/mode/2up