Monday, December 12, 2011

Yuletide Milk Punch

Here's something slightly different for the holidays: a large-bore recipe, suitable for making in bulk.  I'm both giving these as gifts and setting some away for later consumption.  The recipe is largely swiped from David Wondrich's Punch (full of other marvelous tipples too) although I have downsized it and added my own flavors. The result is something like a dessert wine, although more unctuous, and certainly a good deal stiffer.

Again: this is a recipe that you make in bulk, mostly because it's a pain and hardly worth making in miniature.  For the adventurous, it's well worth the journey.

You'll need 2 liters of brandy - preferably something decent, although it's not worth using top-tier cognac.  A reasonable French brandy such as Raynal VSOP is fine.  If you use domestic brandy, pick at least a VSOP (though remember that use of the grading system is unregulated outside of France).  Alternatively, pick out a 1.75L bottle and make up for the missing amount with a nice, rich dark rum such as Gosling's Black Seal.  Interesting results might also be achieved with a good slug of bourbon or rye whiskey.

Peel 4 lemons and 1 orange using a vegetable peeler, avoiding as much of the white pith as possible, and steep them in the liquor for at least 24 hours.  Squeeze as much of the citrus juice as possible into a one-quart jar, fill to the top with water, cover and refrigerate.

When the brandy is ready, pour it into a large pot and add 1 lb of dark natural sugar (such as turbinado).  Pour in the citrus-water blend, refill the jar with cool water, add it, and heat until warm.  Then, add a one-quart container of whole milk and continue heating until the milk curdles.  Grate in one whole nutmeg and half of a cinnamon stick and let infuse for an hour, stirring about every fifteen minutes.  Finally, add one teaspoon of vanilla extract and stir one last time.

Pour this through a fine sieve (a very clean dish towel, pillowcase, t-shirt, etc.) into your storage vessel of choice, squeezing to extract as much liquid as possible.  Discard the resulting curd; technically the stuff is edible, but I don't think the term "delicious" applies, certainly not without careful preparation for a deep-fry. Refrigerate the punch for a couple of days, letting what must settle do its business, then carefully pour off into clean bottles.  Use a coffee filter and a funnel to avoid both impurities and waste.

You can refrigerate the bottles or store them at cellar temperature (i.e. cool, but not cold).  The final product can be served many ways.  Pour it over ice and you have a lovely digestif; add soda water with a dash of bitters, and you have an apertif.  Add even more soda water (bitters optional) for a cooling long drink, or add hot water instead for a warming one (a little extra sugar and grating of nutmeg are welcome).

Best of all, Milk Punch makes a wonderful gift.  Slap on labels if you want, ribbons if you like, bows if you must, and hand the bottles out at your Annual Winter Holiday Celebration of Choice.  Most of all, please do enjoy.

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