Thursday, August 7, 2008

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Swedish Punsch (and Lemon Punsch Pie)

In which Rowley steals a recipe and lays the groundwork for updating an old Shaker classic dessert
(which was posted later that week).

I was skeptical of the boozy tea-and-cardamom flavored liqueur called Swedish punsch (or, punch), mostly because I’m leery of Scandinavian culinary delights such as lutefisk, reindeer, and whale. I shouldn’t have worried. There is aquavit, after all, and a robust home distilling tradition in those frosty northern climes. Plus, I like tea; cardamom can be delicious; and punch usually goes down without a fight.

Final realization? I should have made this long ago.

Given the cardamom and lemon, two flavors that find their way into cookies, pies, and cakes, the recipe also got me thinking about how the spent lemons (used to flavor the spirits) could be incorporated into baking instead of getting pitched once they'd given up their flavor to the punsch.

Now, you could drink this liqueur neat, chilled, but there’s a tradition of using it as a cocktail ingredient that’s a better route. First thing to do (that is, if you can’t find a bottle of the actual stuff) is to score a bottle of Batavia Arrack von Oosten, a Javanese rice-and-sugar cane spirit that is once again available in the US through Haus Alpenz. That will give a noticeable funky character to the final product. Which is good.

For a recipe using the Arrack—please, the Indonesian stuff, not the eastern Mediterranean anise liqueurs—I turned to Erik Ellestad’s Underhill Lounge. Erik’s recipe makes about three liters; a little much for something I’d never tried to make before, so I scaled the recipe to make one liter.

If I had known how good it would be, how fantastic in mixed drinks, I would have gone for the full three-liter batch.

Next time.

Swedish Punsch (one liter yield)

Spirit Base
  • 17 oz/500ml El Dorado 5 Year demarara rum
  • 8.5 oz/250ml Batavia Arrack van Oosten
  • 3 lemons, sliced thinly and seeded

Put the lemon slices, along with any accumulated juice, into a half-gallon non-reactive container with a sealable lid (e.g., a big ol’ Mason or le Parfait preserving jar). Let macerate six hours. Don’t leave it all day or overnight; you don’t want to extract too much of the bitterness from the lemon. It is important to slice the lemons as thinly as possible, say no thicker than a credit card (note that I don't follow my advice in the picture; the pie would've been much more tender had I done so).

Meanwhile, prepare the tea syrup (below) and allow it to cool to room temperature. After six hours, pour the arrack/rum infusion off the lemon slices (don’t squeeze them). Set the enhooched lemon slices aside (you may want to use them to make the lemon punsch pie. If not, pitch 'em, compost 'em, or slop the hogs with them).

Pour the flavored rum mix through a funnel into the one-liter bottle containing the tea syrup. Shake gently to mix and set aside at least one day to mellow.

Tea Syrup
  • 8.5 oz/250ml boiling water
  • 1 Tbl/6 grams orange pekoe tea
  • 2 cardamom pods, crushed
  • 1 1/3 cups/280g demarara sugar

Place the dry loose tea and crushed cardamom pods in French press. Heat a small pot of water to the boil, then measure 250ml. Pour this hot water over the tea and cardamom and steep for six minutes.

While tea is steeping, pour sugar through a funnel into a one-liter bottle.

After six minutes, strain the tea (through a coffee filter or a dampened paper towel or cheesecloth if necessary) into the bottle containing the sugar. Seal the bottle and shake the holy living bejesus out of it until the sugar dissolves completely.

To get you started on some tasty drinks, here’s a trio of recipes that use punsch. Try them all and for more recipes, check out
3/4 oz rye (Sazerac)
3/4 oz Swedish punsch
3/4 oz dry vermouth
1 dash Angostura bitters
1 dash fresh lemon juice

Stir in mixing glass with ice & strain.

Doctor Cocktail
2 oz Jamaica rum
1 oz Swedish punsch
1 oz fresh lime juice

Shake in iced cocktail shaker & strain.

~ from Ted Haigh’s Vintage Spirits and Forgotten Cocktails

100% Cocktail
2 oz Swedish punsch
½ oz fresh orange juice
½ oz fresh lemon juice
One drop of Angostura bitters (for garnish)

Shake punsch and juices with ice and strain into a cocktail glass. Garnish with a single drop of bitters.

~ from Jeff Hollinger and Rob Schwartz’s The Art of the Bar: Cocktail’s Inspired by the Classics

And that pie recipe that uses the spent lemons from the arrack/rum infusion? Hold yer horses. It's coming. [edit: now it's posted]


nerdling said...

Thanks for posting that! We're making some aquavit right now, but I've been wanting to tackle Swedish Punsch.

And I've made more friends gag by feeding them traditional Swedish food at family events and holidays than is probably fair or right. Nothing like some fish balls in white gravy or pickled herring in ketchup to get the nausea rolling!

Matthew Rowley said...

Making aquavit right now, eh? Some visiting Swedes recently brought me a ten-pack of aquavit samplers (OP Anderson, Skane, Haerrgards, Hallands Flader, Gammal Norrlands, Baksa Droppar, Posbrannvin, Ostgota Sadesbrannvin, Lacko Slottsaquavit, and Ranas Brannvin). Maybe a SoCal taste-off is in order...

It comes with a note that specifically says "Serve chilled with tasty food." So none of that fish.