The History Of Clarified/English Milk Punch.
The typical origin story of English Milk Punch, also known as Clarified Milk Punch, is provided in David Wondrich’s book “Punch” is the Clarified Milk Punch was invented by Mary Rockett. This cocktail seems to have been designed to preserve milk punch by curdling and removing the parts that go bad and would turn the drink. The alcohol and milk fats protect the drink from spoiling. When Charles Dickens Died, there is a story that months-old bottles of milk punch were found in his cellar still good. The recipe I have provided here is the classic Benjamin Franklin English milk punch from 1763.
The Clarified or English milk punch started to fade in the middle of the 1800s, and by the 1900s, there wasn’t a single book that mentioned it. The invention of commercial refrigeration in the mid-1800s meant people could now get their drinks cold even in the middle of summer. Hot cocktails, room temperature cocktails, and preserved cocktails like this fall out of favor with chilled beverages. Jerry Thomas gave one of the last printed recipes for it, and he is very similar to Benjamin Franklin’s recipe.
What Does English Milk Punch Taste Like?
This tastes absolutely nothing like what you would expect, and it should not taste as good as it does. English milk punch is refreshing and tastes like limoncello. You would never guess this was the byproduct of cheese. I’m usually pretty good at tasting something and thinking about what is in it or reading a list of ingredients and knowing what the final product will taste like, not all the time but enough. Still, I was utterly wrong when guessing what English milk punch would taste like. This is a fantastic drink that blew me away and one I will make many more times.
Just for fun, I also tried the leftover cheese strained out of the milk punch, which tastes EXACTLY like what you would expect. A sweet and sour, booze cheese, and it was so gross. If you make this, which you should, try both the cheese and the punch, and you will be amazed they both came from the same mixture.
How Does Milk Clarify?
By making cheese, of course. Milk is made mainly of 4 things, water, protein (cheese), fat, and lactose (sugar), and by denaturing/cooking the protein, you can isolate it. When the milk protein casein joins with other casein, it forms a large pentagon-shaped ring that captures particles in the mixture. Cooking can be done in two ways, with heat or acid. Typically when making cheese, you keep the protein part and throw out the whey, but this cocktail reverses that, and instead, you save the whey (water, sugar, and some protein) part. By removing the cloudy white protein, what is left is the clear pale yellow liquid. That is not to say English milk punch is easy to make. Making cheese is not difficult. What is difficult is making cheese that produces clear whey. I have made and experimented with this enough that, hopefully, I can make this easier for you.
Why Is My Milk Punch Cloudy?
The cloudiness most people see after filtering milk punch for the first time are tiny homogenized milk fats designed to stay emulsified in regular store-bought milk. The issue with old-fashioned milk punch recipes is that the milk we use today is not the same as from the 18th and 19th centuries. Today’s milk is engineered to be perfectly emulsified with tiny milk fats and pasteurized to have a long shelf life. Benjamin Franklin used raw, unpasteurized milk with large fat globules forming a cream on the top and making milk punch 200 years ago much easier to make than it is today. Most how-to videos or online guides suggest filtering the milk punch multiple times, and it takes all night to clarify. That is a result of modern milk. Benjamin Franklin could filter his once with perfect results in just a few minutes. If you live by a farm and have access to raw milk, that’s great, but most of us can only get store-bought homogenized and pasteurized milk. The homogenized fat is mechanically formed by using a machine to smash and blend the fats into tiny particles. Sodium chloride is added to prevent the fats from forming back together. Here are a few things you can do to make engineered modern milk behave more like raw milk and get a clear milk punch on a quick first filter.
How To Make English Milk Punch The Easy Way.
To undo the science in modern milk, one must use science. The main disadvantages of using regular milk instead of raw milk to make clarified milk punch are:
- Pasteurized milk proteins form a weaker curd. A strong curd clarifies the whey better.
- Milk fats are homogenized into smaller parts, and sodium chloride is added to emulsify them.
All store-bought milk is pasteurized, so there is no getting around that. Pasteurization is the light heating of milk over a long period to kill all the bacteria and give it a longer shelf life. The problem is heating the milk denatures the proteins causing their amino acid chains to unfold. Once they unfold, that’s it, and if they don’t form a curd at that moment, they won’t create one later. If you have made meringue, it’s similar to how pasteurized egg whites will never fluff up. There is still enough undamaged protein that pasteurized milk works, but uncooked raw milk would be ideal. And forget about using ultra-pasteurized milk. All the proteins have been cooked, and it’s impossible to make curd with ultra-pasteurized milk.
Adding an appropriate amount of calcium chloride helps negate the effects of sodium chloride. This allows the milk fats to form back together into larger particles and helps the curdled proteins form a stronger curd. Those tiny homogenized milk fats are what most people see clouding up their milk punch. It’s similar to the cloud that forms in an absinthe drip. Calcium chloride can be added right before using it, but it’s much more effective if it’s allowed to sit in the milk overnight and rectify to the milk’s un-homogenized nature. Larger milk fats will get better caught in a filter, and a curd matrix will grab more particles without breaking down as easily.
Another trick is to add a little rennet immediately before pouring the milk in. Long story short, rennet helps curdle the proteins. Rennet is an enzyme added by cheese makers and has been used for hundreds of years. The primary protein in milk is casein micelle. The ends of casein are negatively charged and repel other negatively charged casein molecules. Rennet (chymosin) cuts the negative ends off, leaving the casein molecules with positively charged ends. The positive-charged ends bond to the negatively charged calcium and other particles in the mix, forming a bridge to bond with other casein. Five casein molecules form a pentagon matrix that traps other large particles. All of this comes together as the mechanism that clarifies a milk punch. Acid also cuts the negative ends of casein off, but rennet does a much better job. Also, buy vegan rennet. The way animal-derived rennet is made is horrible, and fermentation-derived vegan rennet is more effective.
Another tip for getting a clear milk punch is to add the milk last. I’ve experimented with the order, and the best clarification only happens when the milk is added last. This has to do with the concentration of proteins to each other once they start curdling. If the milk and water, alcohol, tea, or whatever you are mixing are combined, the proteins are too far apart and diluted to link up nicely. First, combine all your ingredients, and then pour the milk at the end. I can’t explain scientifically why this works other than it’s been my constant observation.
The last tip I have is to heat the milk once you have combined everything and poured the milk in. Heat is not necessary for the curdling process. Rennet and acid handle that well enough, but light heating will cause the curdled cheese to melt slightly and bond into larger, stronger curds. Fresh cheese melts at a very low 80°F (26°C), so a light heating to 90°F (32°C) will help the curds bond into even larger curds which will filter out easier.
All these tips come together to make a clarified milk punch that’s as easy as it was for Benjamin Franklin. Filter once, and in 40 minutes, you will have half a gallon of clarified punch. I came up with technique because most recipes you find online took way too long, and the level of effort involved was unreasonable. Having some experience making cheese, I decided to apply cheese-making techniques to this drink and make it faster and easier. Most of these tips are procedural. The only items to buy are calcium chloride and rennet, which can easily and cheaply be purchased online. The rennet and calcium chloride also has no effect on the taste and are picked up by the curds and filtered out. Any calcium left behind is also probably healthy for you too. I hope I have contributed something meaningful to the world of mixology with this and that it allows more people to enjoy this drink. Enjoy!
- Benjamin Franklin’s original milk punch recipe
- British cheese making company explaing cheese making and the Rennet and Casein interaction