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Published: Sunday, 8/24/2003

A toast to punch

BY KATHIE SMITH
BLADE STAFF WRITER

Drink from the well of Toledo history via that punch bowl stashed in your kitchen cupboard or closet.

With the help of a Victorian punch recipe, raise a toast to one of the most famous punch bowls ever made.

It's the 100th anniversary of the Libbey Punch Bowl, which was made in 1903-04. Although it's too beautiful and too valuable to touch, it's still on view at the Toledo Museum of Art in the American Art gallery in the West wing.

The Libbey Punch Bowl continues to dazzle visitors to the Toledo Museum of Art with it's beauty, brightness, and intricate glass carving. It was made for exhibit at the Louisiana Purchase Centennial Exposition or World's Fair, held in St. Louis in 1904. In fact, it was awarded the Gold Medal.

Indeed glass punch bowls, whether antique showpieces or mass produced versions, can showcase refreshing punch beverages accented with fruit ice cubes, fresh mint leaves, or edible flowers.

Countless cups of punch have been served from punch bowls this summer. At graduation parties, weddings, receptions, showers, and assorted other gatherings, the punch bowl is not something pulled out just for special occasions. “It's used for more than the November-December holidays,” says Elizabeth Geronimo, consumer marketing communications manager at today's Libbey Co.

Traditional punch bowls still come in five to seven styles, usually with six cups – some of which have traditional handles. Some styles are clear glass and others are cut glass. Although most are machine made, Libbey Co. has some hand made styles, she says.

Whether you serve punch in antique glass or contemporary glass, enjoy these punch recipes from the Fannie Farmer Cookbook, 1912. (Recipes on page 2.)

During the era, there was a variety of fruit punch recipes, which were denoted by number: Fruit Punch II made 50 servings.

Just as common were the spirited punches made with liberal amounts of wines or liqueurs and often with a tea infusion such as in the Champagne Punch. The liberal inclusion of wines and spirits in these recipes in a pre-Prohibition era may seem surprising in what many consider a conservative era.

Ingredients, which include fresh fruit juices, bottled water, tea infusions, and wines and spirits, sound contemporary rather than Victorian.

In Fruit Punch II, an ingredient is Apollinaris, which is a German mineral water first sold in 1853 and was later called The Queen of Table Waters. Two large beverage brands that started independently merged in 1991 - Apollinaris Brunnen AG and Schweppes GmbH.

Tea infusion is a common ingredient in these Victorian punch recipes. Dorothy Schern of World Tea Co. in Sylvania recommends a nice black tea for a tea infusion.

“You wouldn't want a green tea or a flavored tea,” she says. “Just make a nice cup of tea such as a Darjeeling.”

Punch recipes, whether non-alcoholic or alcoholic, are scarce in contemporary cookbooks. The Joy of Cooking (1997) doesn't even have a section on cool beverages, much less a punch recipe in the index. It does include the section on coffee, tea, and hot chocolate. Betty Crocker's Cookbook (2000) has a section on beverages which includes hot beverages such as Chai tea and cold beverages such as smoothies and milkshakes, and only a couple of punch recipes.

As a result, party planners trade punch recipes or use ideas from bottled beverages.

But the truth is, the punch bowl and the recipes that surround it are timeless, just as the Libbey Punch Bowl is.

eUntil July, the historic punch bowl was displayed with 23 of the 24 punch cups in the Glass Gallery at the Toledo Museum of Art. “We don't know what happened to 24th,” says Sandra Knudsen, associate curator.

“The punch bowl was never used for punch as far as we know,” says Ms. Knudsen. The doors closed on the Glass Gallery in July to begin preparing the glass collection for its move to the museum's new glass center.

Made out of free blown and cut glass, the Libbey Punch Bowl was a gift of Owens Illinois Glass Co. to the museum in 1946. It is reportedly the largest single piece of brilliant cut glass ever made. The bowl and the stand together measure 215/8 inches and a diameter of 24 inches and weigh 134 pounds. It holds more than 10 gallons.

To fill the bowl, imagine the number of times you would multiply one of the Victorian era recipes for punch.

The average punch bowl, which is about 12 inches wide and 12 inches high, holds two to three gallons, according to Ms. Geronimo of Libbey.

The Libbey Punch Bowl, which refracts light like a gigantic prism, is cut in the Grand Prize pattern. “Libbey made other objects in this pattern,” says Ms. Knudsen. “The Grand Prize pattern was not invented for this.”

“The Grand Prize pattern was one of the most extraordinary patterns with inch thick glass in order to hold up to deep miter cuts in the bowl. They used abrasives and cutting wheels.”

The bowl is said to be one of two made. The museum has a bowl and two stands. “We were informed that the first bowl broke during manufacture. The reason two were made was so there was an intact one so there would be one for the World's Fair,” says Ms. Knudsen.

The potash-lead-silica glass was of highest purity and made of the best materials available.

The work at the Libbey plant was teamwork. John Rufus Denman, who was principal cutter, was pictured polishing the glass in a posed Scientific American illustration published to coincide with the St. Louis Fair in 1904. Also known to have worked on the project was Patrick W. Walker. Working with such a heavy piece of glass was a challenge.

“They made the Punch Bowl as a display piece to show off the skill of the company,” says Ms. Knudsen.

People who collect American cut glass may collect pieces that may be in the same pattern. “Lots of [collectible] Libbey pieces are around Toledo,” she says. “Workers made things for each other.”



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