Happy Friday! Let’s spoil some milk!
Nope. Not crazy. What if I told you that curdling your milk on purpose might make a really tasty drink? That same tasty, lovely straw colored beverage you see with your very own eyes! Bear with me, it’s worth it. Fridays are for cocktails and as it turns out– also are great for science experiments!
I just took a personality test this week for work. It was to find your top five strengths. My top strength was “Input,” which briefly defined is: “People who are especially talented in the Input theme have a craving to know more. Often they like to collect and archive all kinds of information.”
If that didn’t describe me I don’t know what does. I am constantly seeking out information, googling stupid crap that pops into my head at any given moment, and I’m a whiz at Trivia Night. Collecting and archiving information? See: food blog.
So anyway, cut to last Thursday night, I’m scrolling through instagram, and a local chef in Indy had posted a picture of a group of friends around a bar, and he mentioned that someone had brought Clarified Milk Punch. My brain zoomed in on that. I’ve never heard of that, what is that? Luckily, in my very own hands I held a tiny rectangle with all of the world’s history and information on it, so off to Google I went.
The internet didn’t fail me, I found a ton of info, including this incredibly detailed article from Cook’s Science all about milk punch, what it is, how you make it, and where the hell it came from.
To distill that giant article down for you (although I would 100% recommend you take the time to read it): Clarified Milk Punch was super popular in the 1700s through the mid-1800s. If you think back, booze wasn’t always the sweet, smooth, sippable nectar we enjoy today. It was much harsher, and if you weren’t a character out of Deadwood saddling up to the bar and demanding a pour of whiskey, you might have been looking for something less….terrible to drink. Enter: Milk punch.
Now, here’s where I need you to hang on and stay with me, because it’s gonna get kinda gross (but then SO good!). To MAKE this smooth delicious beverage, you first must curdle milk. On purpose. Yes. Yes, I realize that a few weeks ago I made you put raw egg whites in your cocktails and then I made you put half and half AND egg whites in your cocktails, and today I’m telling you to curdle milk, but just trust me, it’s worth it.
Essentially, you infuse some booze (in this case, Brandy) with citrus. You then combine that with some water, sugar and lemon juice. You then pour the brandy mixture INTO the whole milk, which instantly curdles (it’s like making “buttermilk” at home). You let it sit for awhile, and later strain out the curds. The whey softens the harshness of the liquor and the acid from the citrus, taking a lip puckering, hard to swallow drink and leaving in its place a crystal clear, sippable, kinda viscous (but not in a bad way) lemony beverage. It tastes sort of like a less harsh lemoncello. Basically… opposite of what you think it might taste like from reading the description.
This recipe does take a little time. This definitely falls under the project category, and isn’t made for a quick pour and serve (although it turns into that!). Give yourself a couple of days to make this happen. Besides, winter is the perfect time for drinks like this. Nobody is coming in from the garden craving an ice cold beer when it’s 8 degrees outside. No, we want body warming, smooth sippable drinks. It’s now or never people (or….next winter).
The recipe I am following (and what Cook’s Science tested and adapted) is based off of the earliest known milk punch recipe as reported by cocktail historian David Wondrich in his book Punch, it dates to 1711 (!!!), and is attributed to housewife Mary Rockett. It also originally made about twelve 750-milliliter bottles. Sounds to me like Mary needed a freaking DRINK. This recipe however is adapted to make about 1 quart. I tweaked Cook’s Science’s article only slightly, subbing their orange and lemon zest for (you guessed it) Meyer lemons. I figured since they were already a hybrid of a mandarin orange and a lemon, it was KIND of a no-brainer to use them instead. As expected, they shine bright like a diamond in this drink.
So yes. Curdle your milk on purpose. It’s worth it.
Meyer Lemon Clarified Milk Punch
Makes about 1 quart | Adapted very slightly from Cook’s Science
2 C Brandy
1 oz meyer lemon zest strips (from about 2 lemons)
1 C whole milk
2 C water
1/2 C plus 1 Tbsp sugar
1/2 C Meyer Lemon Juice
One Day Ahead: Combine brandy and lemon zest in lidded container and let sit out at room temperature for at least 18 hours and up to 2 days. Discard zest.
Day of: Place milk in large measuring cup or pitcher. Set aside. In second large measuring cup or bowl, whisk infused brandy, water, sugar and lemon juice until sugar dissolves.
Here we go. Pour the brandy mixture into the milk. It will immediately start to curdle. Give it a gentle stir with a spoon and let sit for 30 minutes (or cover and stick it in the fridge for up to 24 hours). It will look gross. You must persist!
After the curdled goodness has sat for awhile, line a fine mesh strainer with a coffee filter and set over a large measuring cup or bowl. Gently pour mixture into the strainer and let drain slowly. Discard filters. Repeat straining once more in a fresh coffee filter to ensure clarity. Transfer mixture to large lidded container and refrigerate until ready to serve. Cheers!
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