Day 176 Claret Punch

Today’s recipe from the 1906 Berlin Cook Book has a celebratory feel. I am making Claret Punch using Mrs. H. D. McKellar’s recipe. I considered making strawberry short cake with my remaining strawberries but I still have some of yesterday’s strawberry pudding left, and I felt like celebrating the events of today instead.

I was part of a panel discussion about food and technology called Bits and Bites at the Latitudes Storytelling Festival. My co-panelists were Paula Costa who recreated the last first class dinner on the Titanic and Clare Hitchens of WLU Press who was the inspiration for an IPad app for Edna Staebler’s cook book Food That Really Schmecks (one of my all time favourite cook books). I also gave two walking tours of downtown Kitchener to help launch a digital story called “Made in Kitchener: Personal stories from our industrial past”. Check it out here: http://madeinkitchener.ca/

Claret is red wine often from the Bordeaux region of France or made in that style. The term is used more in Britain than here in Canada now, but was quite common at the turn of the century. The recipe also calls for pineapple which was a somewhat new tropical import in Canada. Pineapple plantations were expanding in Hawaii and canned pineapple became easily available in Canada by the end of the 19th century. The whole fruit was being shipped here soon after. There are a surprising number of recipes in the cook book which use either fresh or canned pineapple. A whole pineapple was sometimes used as an exotic centrepiece on dining room tables by 1912.

I tried to grate some fresh pineapple but mine was very soft so I simply cut it fine just like the strawberries and put both in a bowl with the brandy. Next I boiled the sugar and water together until it was a syrup. This is often referred to as a “medium simple syrup” and is still a staple for bar drinks today. I let it get cold before adding it to the fruit. Rather than waste wine I added a quarter of the fruit and sugar syrup mixture to a cup of cold red wine and then sampled.

Olga Rumpel is Mrs. H. D. McKellar. Olga married Harry Dales McKellar and their wedding in 1902 was described in the newspaper making it sound quite extravagant. http://generations.regionofwaterloo.ca/getperson.php?personID=I186523&tree=generations      Olga’s family owned a factory so they were able to afford the best when one of their daughters married. Two years later she had one child and a second in 1906 when the cook book was published. Two more children were born before Berlin became a city in 1912.

I liked the Claret Punch and it felt like a treat, but it won’t appeal to every one. It is a little sweet and the bits of fruit might annoy some people. I rarely drink red wine so this was one way to make it appealing to me. Try Mrs. H.D. McKellar’s drink if you like sangria and other fruit filled drinks.

CLARET PUNCH
Mix together, 1/2 cup of grated pineapple, 1/2 a cup of strawberries, cut fine and 1 tablespoon of brandy. Boil together for a moment, 1/2 cup of sugar and 1 cup of water. Set aside until cold, then add to the mixed fruit with a quart of iced claret.Serve with ice in the bowl and shaved ice in the glasses.

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