Punch Mirabelle façon Ile de la Réunion
My friends from l'Ile de la Réunion gave me the formula for making what they call punch, but which is also called le rhum arrangé. It's a very simple but very delicious secret: fruit macerated for 2-3 months in rum, sweetened with sugar. 2 of our 10 kilos of mirabelles went into rum today, and we'll have nice punch maison to serve or give by the time sweater weather comes around again. I will never forget the one time we sampled one each of four different flavors of punch with Sonia and Olivier. We were bumping into lamp posts all the way home that night. Well not really, but we were simply glowing after sampling that punch. It's a miracle I remembered what Olivier said about burning the sugar to make the syrup.
special equipment: You'll need to crush some pits for this, so get a hammer or a nutcracker that will crack them.
2 kilos or 4 pounds mirabelles or small golden plums
4 bottles (.7 liters each bottle) of white rum
2 vanilla beans
1 kilo sugar
1 cup water
*four 1.5 litre/quart mason jars
Note on the jars: You don't need any specific sized jar, but the bigger the jar, the better. The total volume that your jars should hold for this recipes is 6 liters or a gallon and a half. Once you've strained them, this recipe yields about 4 liters of Punch. The jars must have an airtight seal.
Pit the mirabelles, keeping the pits aside, and distribute the fruit evenly between your jars. For each pound or 500 grams or pound of mirabelles, crush 20 mirabelle pits and sprinkle them into the jars over the fruit. The pits contain a little nut that smells like almond, but it is not almond so don't be tempted to eat it. Add 10 more unbroken pits for each pound of fruit. Cut the vanilla beans into pieces and distribute the pieces between the jars you are using.
Make the syrup: Put about 1/4 of your kilo of sugar into a heavy bottomed saucepan. Turn the heat to high, and watch carefully and stir as the sugar begins to turn brown and melt. Once the sugar has melted, (it will be brown and liquid, and very hot, watch out!) turn down the heat to low and pour in 1.5 cups or 250ml of water all at once, being careful to step back from the pan which will steam, because the sugar is incredibly hot! The sugar will crack and solidify instantly and be stuck to the bottom of the pan, but just be patient for a minute or two and stir and swish the water around with a wooden spoon to melt the sugar. The caramelized sugar will melt readily enough into the water. Stir it over the low heat until it finally all melts. It will take a few minutes, and the result will be a dark brown color with a deep red hue. Add the rest of the kilo of sugar and turn the heat up again, stirring to dissolve the rest of the white sugar in the dark fluid. Bring the syrup to a rolling boil and then remove it from heat. Pour it into a heat resistant large measuring cup, you should have about a quart of caramel syrup. If you don't have a liter or quart, add water to make it a liter/quart, and put it back on the heat, bring it to a full boil, then remove and let it cool a bit, about 5 minutes.
Once it is cool, you can taste it. But don't eat too much. Keep in mind that if you add some cream or butter to this sauce while it's warm, you have rich thick caramel sauce for ice cream stuffed profiteroles or any other dessert that can be served with caramel sauce. Keep in mind also that this sauce, if indulged in too heavily, will take an extra 20 minutes on the bike every day for as long as a week to work off. So keep your wits about you. And don't let your husband see you sampling the sauce, because inevitably he'll want some too and you might not have enough for the punch.
You have already added the fruit, the crushed and uncrushed pits, and the vanilla into the jars. Add rum to each jar until it is filled to about the halfway mark, and then divide your syrup accordingly for the jars you are using. For the four 1.5 liter jars I used, I put 1 cup of syrup into each one. (If you use three 2 quart jars, for instance, divide the syrup and put 1 1/3 cup syrup into each jar.) Top the jars off with rum, filling to the top, and close them with a hermetic seal. Gently agitate the jars to dissolve the caramel syrup. Put the macerating fruits away for two months, strain carefully through a coffee filter in the chinois, removing the fruits and crushed pits, and then seal the Punch into bottles for serving or giving.
If you are interested in maintaining the fruit for serving in desserts, when you crack the pits and remove the nut inside in tact, and don't let the shell get smashed. Once the fruit has been seperated from the pits after straining and bottling the punch, the fruit can be returned to a jar, covered with sugar syrup again, and saved for later use.