deviating with a touch of alchemy and a creative past…

“Whisky is liquid sunshine.”
George Bernard Shaw


(step 1 to clarified milk punch / Julie Cook / 2019)

I must beg to differ with Mr. Shaw’s quote…
Clarified milk punch is liquid sunshine, not the amber hue of whisky.
But more about that in a minute.

Ok, so I’m straying a bit from our normally well-worn Spiritual path…
And it is with good reason.

I’ve decided that sharing a bit of the creative will be a wonderful way for us to
clear our heads a tad.

Life has been so heavy as of late has it not?

Be it in our own small personal little corners of the world,
or be it in the greater world at large…life has indeed been heavy.

And just to be honest…I’m tired of all this constant state of heaviness.

Today is Oct. 22nd.

That day falls on the calendar of what would be the season of Fall, aka Autumn…
you choose.
It is the time of a waning sun, cooler temps and those oh so pretty leaves…
or so one would think.

Two weeks ago our car registered 102 degrees.
Two weeks ago it was still October.

We were not driving in some heat-ridden place like southern Arizona or southern Hell,
rather we were in what is considered “north Georgia.”

As in, we have been living in a perpetual state of drought-ridden, heat relentless misery
since May.

Fall leaves are falling…they are simply falling off after having first turned brown.

“They” tell us that if the rains, which have thankfully begun,
continue and if the temperatures start to become more seasonal,
we have hope of salvaging “Fall”…meaning we might have some
crisp cool color after all.

And so despite living in this perpetual state of the neverending heat of Hades…
aka Summer,
my thoughts are turning to Fall.

As in pulling out those moth-eaten sweaters, gathering colorful pots of mums and
stacking up those beautiful heirloom pumpkins.

Praying for a chill in the air so we can have a skip to our step!

My thoughts are also turning to warm and spicey.

So you’ve got to know that a retired art teacher, who has also been a consummate
hobby cook for most of her life would need to find something creative and
challenging for this time of year.

Enter the clarified milk punch.


(Gastro Obscura)

A couple of weeks back my husband and I had headed down to the beach for a
few days for some much needed R&R.
It was a late anniversary celebration.

One mid-afternoon we found ourselves sitting at the hotel’s Cuban inspired bar looking
for a bite to eat and perhaps a bit of added libation.

The bartender went over the drink menu with us and told us that one of the drinks
on the menu was no longer available…they were out.
It was called something like ‘Wheyt a minute’.
A play on the word whey…as in curds and whey…
the clear liquid that comes when the curds of the milk (the milkfat)
are separated and removed.

My cooking and concocting curiosity was suddenly piqued.

I was told that the bartender, who was the creative genius behind the drink,
would be working that night.

And so later that night, after we’d returned from dinner out,
I found myself wandering back into the bar in search of this mysterious mixologist.

The bar was busy and humming with a crowd of fun-filled folks—
many of whom had arrived in town for various beach backdropped weddings.

I squeezed myself in, way up to the beautiful wood-paneled bar flanked by shelves of
colorful bottles all filled with glistening hued liquids…
squeezing past the myriad of merrymakers and asking for the bartender by name who
I knew had a quiet yet unique creative flair.

I asked about his drink that was no longer available.

Over the rising crescendo of noise cast from the pretty merrymakers gathered
in and around the packed bar, the bartender who was obviously pleased that someone
actually was curious about his handiwork, explained that he makes a clarified milk punch
for each season.
The batch for summer was now spent and he was in the process of brewing the
winter’s warmer spicer batch.

He offered a brief rundown of how it comes about.
There was fruit, liquor, spices, milk…there was steeping, cooking, filtering,
separating…and there was waiting.

As in all good things…right?

He explained that the new batch wasn’t ready yet…it still needed to steep.
He’d be putting it on the menu the following week.
I sadly explained that we were heading home the following day.

Alas.

He told me to hang tight and he’d slip to the back and bring me a taste as soon as
he had a lull at the busy bar.

I patiently waited…as it turned out that the wait was well worth my time.

He made good on his word…

My new friend presented me with about 2 ounces of a cold, slightly cloudy,
yellow-tinged liquid that had been poured into a pretty crystal glass.

I took a sip…there was a hint of pineapple, warm spices like nutmeg,
a cream-like flavor albeit a clear liquid. It was chilled and satisfying,
smooth and easy. Inviting and cheerful.
Nothing I had ever tasted before.

My curiosity was now ramped up even more.
I told him I was going home to make my own.
He smiled.

(a thank you to my friend Sair at the Havana Beach Bar and Grill)

And so in turn, I have researched.

History takes the drink back to the early 1700 hundreds with one story dating back to the
1600 hundreds in England.

Those who frequent New Orleans are familiar with milk punches that look,
well, like milk.
We think of things like egg nog—rich, thick and creamy.

But it was this clarified version that held my curiosity.
Milk and clear seemed like an oxymoron.

Some are made with pineapple, others are made with lemons or oranges…
with both peels and juice.
Hence the curdling agent.

There are riffs with add-ins such as black or green tea, coriander, nutmeg, cinnamon, and anise.
There is rum, or cognac, or brandy, or port, or a little of each.
There is some sugar and there is boiled milk.

But using milk as just milk would be too easy…however making milk clear, well,
that would require some skill.

A clarified milk does not run the risk of going bad.
It doesn’t spoil.
The fat is removed.
It has no special needs such as refrigeration in order to keep it cool and good…
it doesn’t need to be quickly consumed before going bad.
It allows one to linger…like a cozy sweater-wearing, fire crackling evening…
delightfully lingering.

The story goes that when Charles Dickens died he had bottles of clarified
milk punch stored in his cellar.
100 years following his death, the bottled punch was still quite palatable.

After all of my “researching,” I’ve opted to go with a recipe that was the personal favorite
recipe of none other than Benjamin Franklin.


(NY Times)

The man who gave us the lightning rod, the postal service, libraries, bifocals,
not to mention helping to craft our democracy, has also offered us his recipe
for a clarified milk punch.

Step one, as pictured above, is simply a mix of 3 cups each of rum and cognac along with
the peels of, count them, 11 lemons!
That will steep until tomorrow…steeping until I remove the peels and then begin
the real magic.

I’ll offer more tomorrow or as time allows.
But just know…that amber-hued, lemon studded, liquid will eventually be soft and clear.

My batch will be small…about a gallon or so.
My bartender friend has to make a much larger batch but hence when it’s gone, it’s gone.

No matter the amount, it will keep in the refrigerator for whenever I want a nice
small glass or should I have need for a punch bowl.

Stay tuned…

apples are apples… yet sometimes they just might be an orange….

Keep me as the apple of the eye;
hide me in the shadow of thy wings,
from the wicked who despoil me,
my deadly enemies who surround me.

Psalm 17:8-9


(one of our two little apples on our four apple trees…Julie Cook / 2017)

Whereas an apple a day supposedly keeps the doctor away, historically apples have often
fallen in and out of favor….both literally and figuratively.
in part due to a loss of translation or simple miscommunication.

A member of the rose family, apples were most likely the first trees to be cultivated
by man.
Historical records have even credited Alexander the Great with most likely
discovering a dwarf variety of apples that he later brought to Macedonia from Kazakhstan.

And it was the early European settlers who are credited with having first introduced
cultivated varieties of apples to North America as the crab apple was the only native
“apple” species on the continent.

Thus having originated in central Asia, it is often speculated as to whether apples were
even known to exist as an actual fruit or tree in ancient biblical times.

And as any biblical translation scholar will tell you,
Hebrew translations may or may not always have a corresponding word in
English as an equivalent…
just as we observe with the use of the word apple in Psalm 17.

Verse 8 mentions “keeping me as the apple of your eye…”
Meaning that ‘I am to be held in the center of your heart and attention
I am your pride and joy…..”

As the Hebrew translation of the psalm does not use the word apple as we
know the word apple to be today, but rather it translates as “little man of my eye”
and refers to the pupil of the eye and not an actual apple because the pupil was
thought to be a round hard ball, much like an apple.

And yet it was the eye to which early civilizations looked as being key to the essence of a person.
So keeping one as the center of the eye is to have kept them at the heart of one’s being.

The word apple is laced throughout various verses and passages in the Old Testament
with a direct Hebrew translation often referring to pupils and or actual eyeballs…

So perhaps apple is wrongly transposed from the more accurate notion
of that of an aperture, with aperture being the center of the eye…
as an aperture is a hole in which light passes through, such as in a camera lens….
which in turn equates the pupil of the eye, which is the hole allowing
ligt to pass to the back of the retina….which is in essence how we see…
thus apple is meant as aperture.

And as we read the story in Genesis regarding the exchange between Eve and the serpent:

Now the serpent was more subtle than any other wild creature that the Lord God had made.
He said to the woman, “Did God say, ‘You shall not eat of any tree of the garden’?”
And the woman said to the serpent, “We may eat of the fruit of the trees of the garden;
but God said,
‘You shall not eat of the fruit of the tree which is in the midst of the garden,
neither shall you touch it, lest you die.’”But the serpent said to the woman,
“You will not die. For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened,
and you will be like God, knowing good and evil.”
So when the woman saw that the tree was good for food,
and that it was a delight to the eyes,
and that the tree was to be desired to make one wise, she took of its fruit and ate;
and she also gave some to her husband, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both were opened, and they knew that they were naked;
and they sewed fig leaves together and made themselves aprons.

We see the same sort of translation issue arising in this story as
the Latin translation of the word “apple” is closely similar to the translation of “evil”
“with the Latin words mālum (an apple) and mălum (an evil),
each of which is normally written malum.
The tree of the forbidden fruit is called “the tree of the knowledge of good and evil”
in Genesis 2:17, and the Latin for “good and evil” is bonum et malum.”
(Wikipedia)

So we see that the end result is often that time has a way of cementing
certain words to certain meanings.
While the gist and the story remains pretty much the same and understood…
the symbols of various words take on a variety of meanings.

As in these two examples with the word apple…
In the one instance it is seen as something ominous and wrong with a sinister
and evil connotation…
while next it is meant as something special, endearing and solely important…

And it is often here, in these confusions of translations and multiple meanings,
that skeptics often point…
as skeptics love to use perceived confusion as a smoke screen of defense.
Their’s is a very loud and very vocal piece of the hysterical….
“see, that isn’t right, that isn’t what was really intended….
so how do you, how can you, claim to even know what is right or what is wrong…
maybe you’ve just been misguided all these thousands of years…”

However as we often see in these sacred stories and narratives that although there
may be multiple words that are being used in a variety of different contexts…
the meanings and lessons conveyed are still always the same as originally intended…

It’s just that we may have exchanged an apple for an orange…
Which means that sometimes the words are defined as the same thing,
and at other times they are not…
perhaps meaning or relating to a variety of different things such as
feelings, thoughts and emotions….

….such is the joy of language…

But one thing is always certain…
God’s word will always remain the same…as well as unchanged…
God’s meaning, intent and His words are never altered or changed despite man’s
often erroneous and misguided attempts of expressing such…
For His words stand the test to both time and translation….

All scripture is inspired by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof,
for correction, and for training in righteousness, that the man of God may be complete,
equipped for every good work.

2 Timothy 3:16-17

Scurvy, Limeys, Victorian Stockings and St. Nicholas

“A man ought to carry himself in the world as an orange tree would if it could walk up and down in the garden, swinging perfume from every little censer it holds up to the air.”
Henry Ward Beecher

“The giver of every good and perfect gift has called upon us to mimic
His giving, by grace, through faith, and this is not of ourselves.”

― St. Nicholas of Myra

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(bowls of both whole and sliced Calomondians and Kumquats being readied for a cranberry relish / Julie Cook / 2014)

“Shiver me timbers boys.
Looks like the scurvy’s hit the ship”

Scurvy you ask?
A devastating Vitamin C deficiency which was a very common occurrence for sailors, as well as pirates, of the 1600 and 1700’s. Cases have actually been documented as far back as ancient Egypt.

Months aboard a ship, with very little fresh water and food, let alone the luxuries of fresh fruits such as oranges, lemons or limes, rendered sailors deathly sick. It was an abnormality of sailing that left captains and doctors scratching their heads.
Sailor’s gums would swell and hurt. Their teeth would begin to fall out, their legs would swell, turning purple– a condition, which left untreated, would eventually lead to death.

It wasn’t until the 1747 when British doctor James Lind, intrigued by the mysterious ailment afflicting British Sailors, as well as renegade sailors such as pirates, conducted several experiments determining that the sailor’s bodies were depleted of Vitamin C.
Therefore all British sailors were originally issued lemons and lemon juice as part of their sea rations. However, lemons not always being as plentiful as limes, a substitution was hence made. It seems that the acid content of limes is less than lemons, almost by 50%, so the sailors would have to consume larger quantities of limes, earning them the moniker of Limeys.

The gift giving of citrus, particularly oranges, didn’t occur until the Victorian Era when children began receiving an orange in their stockings on Christmas Eve. In fact, the celebration of Christmas itself, much as we know it to this day—that of jolly ol St Nicholas, gift giving, card sending, a decorated tree and stockings being hung on the mantle, is greatly attributed to Victorian England and the arrival of the Industrial Revolution. The custom of placing an orange in a stocking first became popular in England and much later in the United States with the birth of the tansconinental railway system.

Oranges were considered to be an exotic novelty as they had to be shipped to England from more southern Mediterranean climates. And what more special gift could one give to weary winter senses than a tropical fruit such as an orange?! The fact that oranges and other citrus fruit helped to ward off deadly disease by offering much needed and depleted vitamins made even more sense when it came to offering them to children, especially those in disadvantaged families where fresh fruits and vegetables were considered luxuries.

Scurvy was not a disease confined only to those stuck on ships for months at a time, but it was a prevalent disease throughout Ireland during the deadly potato famine. Many soldiers as well as civilians also fell victim to the disease throughout much of Russia during the deadly Crimean war.

The custom of oranges as gifts however dates back even earlier than Victorian England–actually as far back back to 325 BC, to our original St Nicholas who was the Bishop of Myra, located in present day Turkey.

Known for his generosity to the poor and disadvantaged, legend has it that St Nicholas learned of three sisters who’s father was so terribly poor that he could not provide a dowery for his daughters–therefore the girls were to be sold into slavery. Nicholas who had come from a wealthy family took it upon himself to secretly deliver a bag of gold for each girl. It is said he tossed the gold through an open window, which in turn landed in a shoe–hence why many European children began leaving shoes out on the eve of St Nicholas day (December 19th) in order to receive a gift.
The gold, over the years, evolved into being associated with that of a gold ball and eventually an orange.
And as time would have it, St Nicholas who was the patron saint of children, also evolved– eventually becoming associated with the birth of the Christ child and one who would deliver presents to children on a certain night in December (as according to the Julian Calendar)

In the United States, oranges where given as gifts following the completion of the transcontinental railway system, when items such as citrus fruit grown primarily in California and Florida, could be transported all over the country. Oranges were especially popular during WWII as a special stocking stuffer since the rationing of so many food items had become prevalent during the war days. To receive any and all types of fresh fruits were considered a very special treat.

Which brings us back around to today and the growing prevalence of oranges, and their citrus cousins such as grapefruits, which are currently whisking their way to grocery stores shelves across the country as our “winter” fruits now make their debut. With the growing seasons of the citrus crops in both California and Florida coming to fruition, now during the Christmas season, there’s no better refreshingly bright addition to a home than either a scent infused, clove studded, pomander or the heavenly scent of citrus infused baked goods and cookies. Be it an orange, tangerine, pomelo, meyer lemon, key lime, kumquat, or grapefruit to name but a few, be sure to add a little Vitamin C to your diet and enjoy some citrus during the holidays. . .

Cookie’s stewed apples

Even if I knew that tomorrow the world would go to pieces, I would still plant my apple tree.
Martin Luther

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I don’t know about where you live but the temperatures are starting to take a bit of a nose dive. We actually had our first frost last night here in northwest Georgia as the thermometer dipped into the oh so low 30’s. The nightly weather reports have been dotted with the stories of the early snows throughout much of the country—news of such always puts me in the mood to be in the kitchen working on something warm, comforting and heavenly.

I had gone a bit overboard at the grocery store the other day buying, en masse, the beautifully displayed apples. I don’t know if I thought the apocalyptic end was in sight or that I wanted to keep every doctor within miles away but I found myself buying more apples than I really needed.

And there they were this morning, a bevy of beauties sitting all nestled in the bowl on the counter–waiting… waiting for me to do something magical with them….

I know!! Let’s make stewed Apples—Cookie’s delightfully fall stewed apples…talk about a bite of fall in one’s mouth…..

First, let us gather our supplies shall we…..

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You’ll notice the base will be: Apple Cider, and of course we need Calvados or any good Apple brandy; I had some leftover coke, why not; the juice from an orange, cinnamon, my delicious cinnamon simple syrup, cardamon–pods crushed or the powder; nutmeg–freshly grated; Vermont Maple Syrup (I order mine each year from Taft’s Milk & Maple Farm in Huntington, VT –talk with Mary–she is a wonderful person http://www.vtmaplesyrup.com ), honey (my son’s fiancé brought me a jar of Beekman’s Vanilla Creamed Honey–talk about decadent…it is laced with vanilla seeds and is truly heavenly–use sparingly as it’s just too good) Plus about 7 or 8 nice size apples. I mix varieties as some will turn to mush as they cook and others will hold their shape…providing a nice variety which is great for the “stew”….

I used a naval orange but you may use any type, even a tangerine—I’ve been known to use a lemon if I didn’t have an orange–you just want a little citrus….
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Now you know I’m not one to measure so this may really throw some of you more exact folks out there a big curve–I measure with my eyes and my tastebuds…it’s from being the art teacher for all those years—eyeballing things just took over. And here is where I throw my Jessuit friend William, over on teilharddechardin.wordpress.com, a curve ball as to whether I am a type A or type B personality—-but in the kitchen my “little bit of this and a little bit of that” just works…..

Using a large deep saucier or soup pot, pour in probably about 2 cups of the apple cider, probably 1/2 to 3/4 cup Calvados, part of the left over Coke-if you don’t have a Coke or don’t want to open one for this, don’t–it’s not crucial. Squeeze half or both halves of the orange, pour in approx 3/4 cup maple syrup–we’ll probably need more later. Pour in 1/2 cup of Cookie’s cinnamon simple syrup if you made it, if not just add more ground cinnamon and maple syrup. Several shakes of ground cinnamon, cardamon, a couple of gratings of the fresh nutmeg– bringing it all to a boil–now reduce to a simmer while you prepare the apples.

Wash your apples—I like to spray them with “Fit”–it is a fruit and vegetable spray/wash that helps to remove that waxy business the producers like to coat the fruit and veggies with….yuck…. Spray with the Fit, rub all over, rinse well.

Next you may use an apple slicer which makes this little chore rather effortless or you can simply cut into 8ths. I do not peel my apples as the skin adds such a nice textural quality to the end product but if you want to be a purist, peel away.

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Once the apples are sliced, place them in the pot of simmering deliciousness. Your house is smelling really good right about now…..

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Bring the mixture, complete with apples, to a boil, stirring to coat the apples with the liquid as we don’t want them turning brown. Reduce the heat, cover (don’t fret if the lid doesn’t fit all the way down yet, the apples will shrink down)–allow to simmer about 20 to 30 minutes…stir ever so often. After about 30 minutes taste the liquid as the apples will now have released their heady juice—here is where you may need to add some more Maple syrup or honey. Just keep adding a little, tasting until the level of sweetness works for you.

At this point you can cut off the heat, allowing the apples time to ‘sit in their juices’ as it were–breaking down and absorbing flavor. I usually let them sit on the stove until later when everyone wants a bowl– I will then heat them back up, as serving them warm just seems best. You may certainly use them as a side if serving some sort of pork or on their own as a desert. I’ve been known to heat a bowl for breakfast or ladle over oatmeal…so versatile, healthy and oh so heavenly divine.

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Serve them warm in a bowl topped with vanilla ice cream or a little whipped cream, or serve plain….this is what the doctor ordered on a chilly day…can’t get much better than this……