A friend sent me the following questions, and I realized I had never really gotten around to writing up my conclusions or hints after making many a batch of clarified Milk Punch.
“I’ve been thinking about how effective it would be to make a clarified milk “stock” of sorts: heat milk and add to lemon only, then refrigerate and strain through cheesecloth. Then wouldn’t you be able to develop recipes a lot more readily than overnight batches? Once you get the flavor down you could do it all the regular way to make it clearer. Would you have a general proportion to make this stock with? Also, it’s only the whey left, right? So it would be more expedient to use non-fat milk?”
Haven’t I ever given you my Milk Punch Spiel?
As far as I can tell, the primary reason to make Milk Punch is so punch can be bottled and put down in a cellar for later use.
This is why Charles Dickens ended up with bottles of Milk Punch in his cellar inventory when he died.
Adding milk and filtering the punch through the curdled milk solids does an amazing job at fining and filtration. It removes pretty much any impurities down to much of the color from barrel aging or caramel color.
You should have seen the apple punch I made before filtering. It literally looked like really brown, cloudy apple cider. Truly disgusting. I was dubious that the Milk could filter it! I wish I’d taken a picture, so I could have a before and after!
As a bonus, filtering through the milk solids does an amazing job of “rectifying” harsh spirits and marrying the various flavors of the punch.
I also believe that the cream in the Milk does a sort of fat washing, which gives some of the unctuous flavor you get for the punch. That is why I have always used whole milk.
I have also had the best results using Straus, as they don’t homogenize their milk.
When I’ve used other Milk, I’ve had a hard time getting clarity.
David Wondrich has suggested that the best way to filter Milk Punch is through a filter used for filtering Biodiesel. I’ve never really investigated, but from my cursory reading, it is possible that using the correct combination of filter mesh size and materials, you could do some sort of pressure filtration.
Another thing I’ve been thinking about is using a centrifuge to separate the milk solids.
On the whole, though, the thing is, once you have a well developed milk mesh in your filter, it really is the Milk Solids which do the best job filtering the punch.
Anyway, I don’t know if just combining whey with punch base will really be even close to simulating Milk Punch.
For what it is worth, I understand that Dillon & Alex have made Milk Punches an important part of their work at Novella. Amusingly, when I last talked to Dillon, he was like, “What do you do with all the cheese?” Apparently, they are accumulating a lot of it.
Sadly, after acting as filtration for booze and the less nice elements of the punch, I do not really think you can do anything with the cheese. It just tastes nasty.
Over the 2013 holidays I visited a bar in Chicago. They were serving a basic brandy based clarified Milk Punch. Chatted a bit with the bar manager re: filtration and he said he makes a habit of leaving the milk in the Milk Punch overnight. That it makes filtration easier.
So, I made two batches based on the exact same infusion: one where I left the milk in overnight and another where I did my usual of only leaving the milk in for a half an hour and then filtering the punch through the solids.
He was right, the milk essentially turns to hard cheese, making getting the milk solids out of the punch really easy and filtration a breeze.
However, after filtering the milk solids out, the punch is not very clear with a lot of darkness from tea and spice floating around. I left it to sit over another night and it did settle out pretty well.
However, giving our restaurant manager a blind tasting between the two, he strongly preferred the one where I used my usual process.
The punch where I did the usual method has the unctuous nature that I enjoy and the ingredients taste mellowed and well integrated. The fruit in the punch is clear and much more apparent.
The overnight steep of milk tastes really harsh by comparison. Strongly of booze and the fruit is not as clear. Also, it seems much thinner, more bitter, and kind of nasty. Basically, like a not very good day old plain punch you have chilled in the refrigerator.