I first drank punch at funeral receptions. Not just any funeral receptions, but the downstate Illinois kind, which are usually held in the church basement. The menu is set in stone. It includes at least six different kinds of coleslaw because the church ladies are engaged in a silent, neverending competition to determine whose is the best. Even though the heat index will be over 100 degrees Fahrenheit, these ladies' well-honed baking abilities will also be on display, as will creative interpretations of the word "casserole." And punch. Lots of punch.
The church will provide two huge punch bowls (one for each end of the buffet table) and an endless supply of the little tiny cups. Being designated to pour punch for guests is a traditional honor, though the honoree can also easily get stuck talking to the sort of men who hit on punch servers at funeral receptions.
It's taken me some time to get over these morbid associations and admit that punch was a convenient way of ensuring that a large group of Methodists got enough to drink on a hot day. I now make punch for all sorts of occasions, and people seem to appreciate it. People also seem to have definite preferences for either spiked or virgin punch, which I like to accommodate, and so my kitchen, like every church kitchen in the Midwest, now has two punch bowls.
My favorite dessert flavor is lime, possibly because I don't remember real limes putting in much of an appearance during my childhood. (My Russian friends feel the same about lemon, and for similar reasons.) Lime plus just about anything else is a winning combination for punch.
Finally, I would be remiss if I did not remind all of cyberspace that if you want to make really good punch in the summertime, you had better chill the bowl and all your ingredients beforehand and plan on some sort of iced garnish. Generally, this garnish is best made in a ring mold---yes, that's right, the kind that church ladies use to make Jell-O salad.
Here is my favorite punch recipe. It can be made with or without alcohol.
Chill and combine in a chilled bowl:
4 c. limeade
2 c. pineapple juice
6 c. ginger ale or champagne
Taste and add more of any ingredient desired. Garnish with
Scoops of lime sherbet, or limeade frozen in a ring mold
Makes about 24 servings.
Copyright (c) 2016 Anna Bendiksen