I feel like I’m on a pretty tenuous tightrope these days, especially this week. I’m hunkering down more in the evenings, usually with a warm bath and the first library book I’ve checked out in awhile. I’m coming off a really busy stretch of extra-curricular activities that required a lot of solitary work inside my kitchen and a lot of extroverted activity at various events. I’d have to say I’m more comfortable somewhere in the middle of that zone – not so isolated and focused on a task that I feel like I only see my family in passing, and not so out there in the middle of everything where I’m not always the most skilled at organizing and delegating and entertaining. I’m settling back into the middles again, though not as gracefully as I would have liked.
Being busy is both diversionary and amplifying. Occasionally I can get so caught up in what I’m doing that my thoughts are distracted; more often than not, they are heightened and more focused. The general hum feels good in my head for a bit, but I’m surprised by how the simplest thing can trigger a rush of emotions in me these days. There’s a particular tree in a particular state of color change at a particular time of a sunny afternoon on a particular hill that does it for me. I’ve built my legs up and my lungs up a great deal this year so it’s not that slope that does me in. It’s that tree – everything tightens and I fold forward, hands on knees to catch my breath.
I realize that this is an awkward seque to a recipe, and if you bookmark or pin this post to revisit during the holidays, that most likely you’ll skim through my initial ramblings until you get to your grocery list. I’m okay with that. I’m skimming a lot of things lately, and not in a “gathering cream” kind of way, filtering through the noise to get to the good stuff, the essential stuff. More like a frantic skimming that leaves me wondering at the end of the day if I really addressed the things I needed to address or if I just think that I have because I skimmed a note or an email or let my mind rest briefly on a fleeting thought with no real follow up action.
Punch is a funny word, and I haven’t really bothered to look up the origins of the word as it relates to a party drink. More often I think of the word as a physical one, the thing that screws up the rhythm of my extensive breath practice over these past few months. But serving punch at a party is such an easy, festive thing to do. Punch can be colorful, it’s often served in a lovely bowl, and you can float beautiful things in it, like fruit or flowers or frothy sherbert tops. When you’re not sure exactly what to do with yourself at a gathering, you can always make yourself useful by ladling up a few cups in the center of the action. Or you can hang closer to the edges and let your guests serve themselves. For the most part, on Saturday morning, I served since the the average age of the consumer was probably eight. This punch was so well received by the adult guests as well as the kids, that I consider it a keeper.
You might want to make a large ice block by freezing water in a plastic storage container ahead of time. I didn’t think of this early enough, and the punch was certainly cold enough, but using an ice block might keep it cold longer.
Make the Ginger Simple Syrup
Peel and trim a large piece of fresh ginger, and then cut into one-inch pieces (3-4 of these). Place the ginger pieces in a medium saucepan and cover with 2 cups of water and 1 cup of sugar. Stir to mix, bring to a boil over medium-high heat, then reduce heat, simmering for about thirty minutes until reduced to a syrup. Allow syrup to cool slightly, remove ginger pieces, and store in refrigerator until cold.
Make the Punch
Here’s the ratio I used – in a large punch bowl, combine:
64 oz. pear juice (I used Santa Cruz Organic Pear Nectar – I found it at Schnuck’s in a 32 oz. bottle, you’ll need two)
1 cup of ginger simple syrup (see above)
1/4 cup of fresh lemon juice
1 1/2 teaspoons of ground ginger
Whisk until combined.
Add 1 liter seltzer water and stir gently. Add the ice block to the punch bowl.
I also thin sliced a pear and floated a few of the slices in the punch. I know it looks a little like (blurry) pea soup here, but the punch was really pretty and really tasty.
One of my favorite things about the event was how the students that were helping out at the school all came up to tell me what they loved about last year’s spread, and what they were enjoying from this year’s table. One boy asked to try some punch, and while I was pouring him a glass he said “Remember that punch you made last year – the pomegranate one with the apple cider? It was so amazing.” I was so surprised (and touched) that he remembered it. And then he took a sip of this and said “This is off the chain.” High praise. I doubled the recipe, and the bowl was licked clean (and pear slices consumed, no joke.)
P.S. (We have this punch bowl, which conveniently transforms into a cake stand and cover which I think is brilliant. )