Monday, July 8, 2013

A Penchant for Punch Perchance?

When my Mother announced that it was time for another Punch Bowl Excavation Mission, we knew a party was underway! Better yet, I knew I would be entrusted to hunt down the veritable, centric party beast in the depths of the crawlspace underneath the stairs, in the deep, dark spaces under our family home. This mission involved warding off creepy crawlers, spider webs, scary thoughts, whilst crawling about on all fours amongst jam jars, rarely used cookware and my Father’s wartime radio equipment. To this day, I’m not sure why I delighted in being the triumphant bearer of the party-punch vessel. Perhaps my enchantment with this activity derived from my Mother’s innate ability to turn the most mundane task into a prize-seeking source of amusement… to be competed vigorously for amongst an army of siblings and captured heroically as YOUR specialty. 

Alas, this same punch bowl, ladle and matching cups have migrated from my parents’ home to my home in the original box. It endures the same ceremonious resurrections for gatherings and holiday parties and for most months of the year perches happily beside the applesauce maker, apple corer, pressure cooker, giant slow cooker, skates and Christmas cookie tins on my basement shelf behind the furnace.

The truth is, punch is an easy way to serve a uniform drink to a multitude of guests—without having to customize every drink order! Now, if your lack of a punch bowl and matching cups is throwing you off punch making, fret no more. Matchy-matchy dishware is not so fashionable now so any large glass bowl or jug, with any kind of ladle will suffice to serve your party concoction. Glassware too, from mismatched tumblers, small mason jars or old-fashioned orange juice cups serve as cute little stand-ins for party cups. Why even those precious china teacups Aunt Martha bequeathed to you would make fine whimsical vehicles for punch imbibing!

Whatever your fancy, enjoy these summer punches to kick up some party fun at your next soiree.

Punch pointers:

  • Make sure ice cube trays and molds are thoroughly clean before filling.

  • Add fizzy liquids, just before serving and pour them in VERY slowly or your bowl or pitcher may overflow with bubbles. Soda water, ginger ale, sparkling water, champagne, sparkling wines make lovely last minute additions.

  • Fruit garnishes left to float in the punch will soak up any alcohol so don’t get too carried with hoovering down the leftover sliced lemons and limes!

  •  Check your grocery store for edible pesticide-free petals like marigolds, nasturtiums, roses and pansies to add to your punch.

  • A fancy way to spruce up a punch bowl is to add a ring of ice with petals or herb leaves frozen within the mold. Simply fill the very clean mold halfway with water and add petals or leaves attractively on top of the ice. Freeze for about 30 minutes or until it has set. Remove the mold from the freezer and fill it to the top with water. Allow to freeze until solid, about 3 hours.  When completely frozen and you are ready to serve, run the mold under warm water and tap gently on the outside of the mold to remove the ice in one whole piece. Add to the punch right away! You may also try this same technique for making cute little ice cubes!

  • Try making punches with no-caffeine flavoured teas like chai, summer berries, mandarin, mint…whatever you like.

  •  Mint and other herb leaves like lemon basil add interesting flavour twists when added to punches and iced teas.

  •  Punch garnishes can be: berries like strawberries, raspberries, frozen cranberries, blueberries and fruit slices like oranges, lemons, peaches, grapefruits, petals…just remember the more colorful the better!

A basic syrup to make ahead, cool and use in punches and drinks goes like this:
Combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil.
Stir it constantly for about 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear. Watch carefully.
Remove from heat and let cool.  Will keep for about1 week in the fridge.

For a mint flavoured syrup: Make recipe as above. When removed from heat, stir in 1 cup loosely packed mint leaves. Let stand 15 min or more. Strain the syrup with a sieve and discard mint leaves.

Mint and Strawberry Lemonade
You will need:
A BIG Punch Bowl or a large pitcher

Make ahead and let cool, this syrup recipe: combine 1 cup water with 1 cup sugar in a saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir it constantly for about 5 minutes until the sugar dissolves and the liquid is clear. Watch carefully. Remove from Heat and let cool.  Will keep for about1 week in the fridge.

3 cups strawberries, hulled and sliced up (Save a few whole berries to garnish)
2 tablespoons chopped fresh mint leaves, plus a few mint sprigs to flower up the finished punch
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup syrup (cooled) See recipe above.
4 cups chilled sparkling water, or Soda water
6 cups ice cubes (or make a ring of ice by freezing water in a round pan like a jelly pan or bundt cake pan)
Combine the strawberries and mint leaves in a food processor or blender and puree away. Strain the mixture through a fine sieve. Transfer to a punch bowl. Add the lemon juice and syrup and mix it up. Just before serving, SLOWLY pour the bubbly water into the punch bowl. Add the ice cubes and garnish the mixture with a few whole berries and mint sprigs.

If you like an alcoholic punch, put a bottle of gin or vodka nearby and serve guests whatever they fancy!

Rose Hip and Hibiscus Tea Punch
12 cups water
9-12 rose hip hibiscus tea bags (sold at the Bulk Barn)
¼ cup sugar or honey
1 cup lemon juice
1 cup orange juice or tangerine juice
8 cups ice cubes
Orange and lemon slices

In a large pot, bring the water to a boil then remove from the heat and add the tea bags. Let steep about 20 minutes. Remove the tea bags and stir in sugar until dissolved. Cover and refrigerate until well chilled, about 1 hour.
When ready to serve, pour the tea into a punch bowl and add the lemon and orange juice and mix well. Add the ice cubes, fruit slices and serve. 

Cranberry-Zinfadel Punch
Make 24 ice cubes with cooled Rose Hip Hibiscus Tea. Fill each cube halfway and place a mint leaf on top. Freeze for 30 minutes or until set then add more water to fill the tray and freeze for another 3 hours.

Two bottles (750 ml) chilled Zinfadel wine or your favourite rosé!
2 cups cranberry
1 cup orange juice
Combine ingredients in a punch bowl. Add ice cubes. Serve.

Meloncholy No More!
You will need one large punch bowl.

Mix together in the punch bowl:
4 cups banana orange strawberry blend juice OR pineapple juice
2 cups vodka
¾ cup Midori melon liqueur
½ cup cream of coconut (at the liquor store-this is NOT unsweetened coconut milk as is sold for cooking in the grocery store)
½ cup lime juice

Using a melon baller (the small end) to make melon balls from:
½ cantaloupe, chilled
¼ honeydew melon, chilled
2 thick slices of seedless watermelon
Thread these onto cocktails picks or skewers. Place on trays and put in the freezer.

Add 4 cups crushed ice to the crushed ice to the punch. Garnish each glass with melon sticks, and ladle punch into glasses and serve.

Pimm’s Anyone?
One large punch bowl and glasses
Make ahead: 24 ice cubes with maraschino cherries and mint leaves. (Fill ice cube trays halfway with ice, add a cherry and mint leaf to each cube. Freeze tray for 30 minutes or until set, then top up with more water and freeze solid, about 3 hrs)

3 cups Pimm’s (a gin-based British drink available at the liquor store)
3 cups ginger ale
3 cups lemon-lime soda or sparkling water
4 cups extra ice cubes or 1 large ice ring made from ice mold
Lemon and orange slices for garnishing

Combine Pimm’s, ginger ale, lemon-lime soda in the punch bowl. Mix well. Add cherry ice cubes and plain cubes. Garnish with lemon slices and serve.

Ola to the Mojito
One large punch bowl
4 cups light rum
1 cup mint-flavoured syrup (see recipe above)
½ cup fresh lime juice – key limes are the best choice for this
8 cups crushed ice
2 cups chilled sparkling water
1 cup mint leaf sprigs, plus a few extra for garnishing
3 limes, thinly sliced
Combine the rum, syrup and lime juice in the punch bowl. Mix well. When ready to serve, add the crushed ice, then slowly pour in the sparkling water. Place lime slices in glasses and garnish with mint sprig. Add the leftover mint sprigs and lime slices to the punch and serve immediately.


Anonymous said...

I'm so glad I met you at the Kiwanis lunch a short time ago. Now when I read your blog I hear it in your voice and see your spirit-lifting smile. I will be trying out your punch ideas this summer. Hello from Tamara (so much for being anonymous!)

Barrhaven Bites said...

Great to hear from you Tamara! I really enjoyed meeting you too at the Kiwanis lunch. I wave Hello as I pass your street when I am out running. I must attend another lunch again so we can chat some more. Thanks for tuning in to BB! Marion

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