Last year, I started a tradition of making something named after Queen Victoria on her birthday, May 24. So far I have made Victoria Sandwiches and Victoria Buns, both recipes from Isabella Beeton. This year, I’m breaking the Mrs. Beeton-baked-goods trend and trying out a frozen punch recipe from American author Fannie Merritt Farmer instead.
Fannie Farmer’s recipe calls for one ingredient I had never heard of: angelica wine. This was a fortified wine made in California from Mission grapes. The origin of the name “angelica” is unknown; some say it derives from Los Angeles, while others think it refers to the herb angelica (which apparently tastes similar, although angelica wine does not actually contain any of the herb). By the end of the 19th century, when Fannie Farmer was writing her Boston Cooking-School Cook Book, angelica wine was popular enough that about 400,000 gallons were consumed every year.
In the 20th century, however, Mission grapes fell out of fashion as dry table wines became more popular (Mission grapes are high in sugar and low in acid, and don’t make very good table wines). Most wine makers stopped growing Mission grapes and making angelica wine. Luckily, there are a few wineries that still make it; I was able to get my angelica wine for this recipe from Picchetti Winery, a winery close to where I live in California. If you can’t find actual angelica wine, a sweet white port would be similar.
The only other confusing aspect of this recipe was figuring out how long I needed to freeze it. Although Fannie Farmer includes several recipes for punches in the “Ices, Ice Creams, and Other Frozen Desserts” chapter of her book, she assumes that her readers would know what punch should look like and doesn’t explain what the consistency should be. I initially assumed that punches were supposed to be drinkable and should be frozen to a slushy-like consistency. After making this recipe and tasting it at different stages of freezing, however, I think this punch is supposed to be frozen until solid, like a sorbet. While it was still a little liquid-y it was much too sweet, but when frozen solid the flavors balanced perfectly.
- 3 1/2 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 1/2 cup lemon juice
- 1/2 orange juice
- grated rind of two oranges
- 1 cup angelica wine
- 1 cup cider
- 1 1/2 tablespoons gin
- Boil water and sugar together for 20 minutes; it will reduce to about 3 cups of liquid.
- Add fruit juices and rind and let cool.
- Strain out the orange rind, and put in the freezer for several hours, until the mixture has reached a slushy consistency.
- Stir in the wine, cider, and gin, and return to the freezer for several more hours (preferably overnight), until the punch is solid enough to scoop.
- Serve in small glasses with a spoon.
This is a really lovely, delicate dessert, perfect for warm days in May. The main flavors are the orange and lemon, but the angelica wine adds sweetness and a subtle flavor. The alcohol also keeps it from freezing completely solid, so it is eatable with a spoon right out of the freezer and melts fairly quickly. I don’t know if Queen Victoria ever actually had this punch (I don’t even know for sure whether it was named after her, or named Victoria after something else), but it seems like a wonderful light and refreshing palate-cleanser to have after a heavy royal Victorian dinner. I think it’s a perfect punch to make for her birthday.
Farmer, F. (1896). The Boston cooking-school cook book. Boston: Little, Brown, and Company. https://n2t.net/ark:/85335/m51d4w
Shaw, H. (2008). Chasing angels: The sweet wine angelica. Gastronomica, 8(3), 74-78. http://dx.doi.org/10.1525/gfc.2008.8.3.74