While we won’t be having any parties at our house this Christmas season, I’m enjoying memories of family members present and past through food and drink traditions. I thought you might enjoy one of our favorite Christmas/winter treats.
Some of you know that I’m from the “Deep South” (my mother was from Natchez) and my father’s family was/is from New Orleans since the early 1800s. (many are still there) His family spoke French at home and followed many of the old Creole customs from those early days. I’m thankful for the time I was able to spend with my father talking about his life (and trying to fix some of the old recipes he remembered) before he died at age 93 a few years ago. I loved to hear about his life growing up in New Orleans. Some of the best memories were of the family gatherings that were held for generations. One of those was the Reveillon.
At Christmas, the Hoffmans would host the Reveillon party on Christmas Eve. Originally Reveillon referred to the “awakening” that Catholics celebrated after fasting all day before attending Midnight Mass. When family and friends came home from Midnight Mass at 1 or 2 in the morning, the party started. By the time my father was a child, most of the group went to Mass on Christmas morning but the Reveillon party tradition continued. My father’s father hosted the party every year. The extended family, their children and some friends gathered for food, drinks and presents.
One of the drinks served was Milk Punch (Ponche au Lait). In my research, I found that even though this drink is now associated with New Orleans, milk punch recipes date back to the 17th century, at least.
Nowadays, we make it as follows:
- A glass of whole milk (for the truly decadent, use one part milk to one part ½ and ½)
- Simple syrup to taste
- Best vanilla extract (1/2 tsp or to taste)
- At least one shot of good Cognac, more to taste.
Shake till frothy in a cocktail shaker with ice till it is very cold. Pour the drink (without ice) into a footed glass and top with a grating of nutmeg or cinnamon.
Note that a very good non-alcoholic substitute for is the unsweetened juice from pears, apricots, peaches or apples. Just be sure you are not adding too much sweetness and adjust accordingly. Of course, non-alcoholic brandy could also be used as a substitute for Cognac.
I’ve served both versions of these in pitchers, often with dessert as after dinner drink. They disappear quickly.
Here’s wishing you a happy holiday season full of memories and loving kindness and maybe a glass of milk punch! We look forward to being in touch with you virtually and hopefully in person in 2021. If you’d like to contact me about New Orleans traditions, I love to talk about them. Call or email me anytime at [email protected] or at 224-688-8838. We’re here to help you harvest your potential.