Tuesday, September 20, 2011

National Punch Day and a Swig of History!

One of sour,
two of sweet,
three of strong
four of weak,
a dash of bitters
a sprinkle of spice,
served well chilled
with plenty of ice.

~Rule of Five~

Happy Punch Day! No matter how you pour it, punch, much like rum, is instilled in the American food landscape. It may not have been "born" here but in true American spirit, we have nurtured it, coddled it and imbibed it since the colonists arrived from England. Yes "dearies" The Grand Secret of Punch travelled from India to the British Isles and eventually to America by way of the Caribbean Islands.
Rum Punch

There are two theories on the origin of the word punch. There are those who live by the conviction that punch is an abbreviation of the word "puncheon." Nay-sayers follow the creed that the word punch is derived from the Hindi word for panch or five, which embodies the number of ingredients traditional punches contained; lemon, sugar, arrack or rum, water or tea, spice (usually nutmeg.)
You know from Eastern India came
The skill of making punch as did the name.
And as the name consists of letters five,
By five ingredients it is kept alive.
To purest water sugar must be joined,
With these the grateful acid is combined.
Some any sours they get contented use,
But men of taste do that from Tagus choose.
When now these three are mixed with care
Then added be of spirit a small share.
And that you may the drink quite perfect see,
Atop the musky nut must grated be.
...If by punch you mean the anything-goes catchall favored at fraternity parties or the cloying mix of canned fruit juice and cheap beverage alcohol customarily ladled forth from cut glass at country club dances, it hardly bears considering. If, on the other hand, by punch you mean the social drink that, in its 18th-century heyday, fueled the European Enlightenment, a subtle and delightful blend of fine and often exotic liquors, softened with water, brightened with the freshly squeezed juices of citrus fruit, sweetened with pure cane sugar, and touched with rare spices—a drink assembled according to exacting formulae and shared by kings and gentlemen, poets and adventurers—well, that's rather a different story, isn't it?... With Glasses Raised: All About Punch by native Long Islander David Woodrich for Saveur)

Ah, the quintessential punch bowl. However, not always. England may have welcomed punch with open arms, or should I say pursed lips, however, the punch bowl, they made their own.

Monteith Bowl
A large Monteith, known as the John Bull bowl, was presented by Sir Thomas Abney, Lord Mayor of their name from a gentleman of fashion named Monteith, who was remarkable for wearing a scalloped coat. In [William] King's Art of Cookery occur the lines:
"New things produce new words, and so Monteith
Has by one vessel saved himself from Death."
Like this gentleman's coat, the vessel had "a moveable rim ornamented around the top with escallops, in which glasses were placed with their feet outwards for the purpose of bringing them into the room. The bowl was, of course, brought in empty, each gentleman fancying he had an especial talent for concocting the beverage, and a silver ladle and a lemon-strainer were brought in with it."

There are stories of punch parties where the fulfilling criteria for the size of a punch bowl was sometimes so extraordinary that extravagant containers had to be devised to hold the amount of punch that was to be consumed. One tells of a British naval officer who served 6,000 guests a punch made of 80 casks of brandy, 9 casks of water, 20,000 large limes, 80 pints of lemon juice, 1,300 pounds of sugar, 5 pounds of nutmeg and a huge cask of Malaga wine. The marble basin that was finally agreed upon was large enough for a ship's boy to row a small boat inside. 3

These days, a harmoniously balanced punch can be made with any measure of ingredients. The multitude of recipes is endless. I have left a few of those I think you may find of interest linked below. For indeed, Benjamin Franklin was a "puncher" an modern adaptation of his milk punch recipe is available at the Massachusetts Historical Society website along with the hand written recipe.

Here we have an adaption of a recipe and a historic description of a popular reception punch named in honor of Massachusetts senator, Daniel Webster from Politics & Pot Roast written by Sarah Hood Salomon and humorously illustrated by Glenn Foden. (©2006) I read here that Andrew Jackson "liked to serve his White House guests Daniel Webster Punch which was a potent potion."

Daniel Webster Punch
24 lemons
2 lbs. sugar (5-1/2 cups)
1 cup green tea
1 quart brandy
3 quarts dry red wine
1 pint strawberries, sliced
1 orange, sliced
1 20 oz. can pineapple chunks
2 bottle champagne
Squeeze juice from the lemons, straining out all seeds and pulp. Add sugar, tea, brandy and red win. Cover tightly and chill. Just before serving, pour into a punch bowl with ice, and add strawberries, oranges and pineapples. Pour in champagne. Yields 2 gallons.

The punch recipes found in this Anchor Hocking booklet are reminiscent of days gone by.

Personally, I think they should be revived. Don't you? (click to enlarge)

Since I missed the party at Pam's for Talk Like A Pirate Day yesterday, I had better serve up this Halloween Punch Party recipe page from Betty Crocker's Hostess Cookbook so you have time to prepare:)

Halloween Punch Party & Celebration Punch

1.History of Alcohol in America
2. A Brief History of Punch
3 Woman's Day Encyclopedia of Cookery Vol. 9
4. Monteith Bowls: The Connoisseur, Volumes 44-45 (1916)
5. National Rum Punch Day! @ Slashfood
6. 8 Rules of Party Punch Recipes
7. Roman Punch @ The Old Foodie
8. Celebration Punch
*David Wondrich's "Punch: The Delights (and Dangers) of the Flowing Bowl is available @ Amazon.
Celebration Punch Poem from Cricket Cookery by Pauline Watson ©1977