May Day, or Walpurgis Night is just around the corner.
To help get in the mood (and to allow you guys a chance to pick up ingredients) here’s a recipe for a traditional May Day Punch from Germany, known as Waldermeisterbowle.
Of course finding the main ingredient, the waldermeister or woodruff, can be a bit tricky. Sweet woodruff is a perennial herb whose small white flowers bloom in May and June. It is widely available at garden nurseries in many parts of the US. Woodruff has a scent that’s been described as being a combination of part fresh mown grass/hay, part vanilla, & part cinnamon. Varying on the recipe you’ll either need to use the woodruff directly, or a syrup made from the woodruff.
Do keep in mind that woodruff is a poisonous plant (but you have to ingest ALOT of it for it to be harmful), however many of the woodruff syrups available commercially today are artificially flavored and don’t actually contain woodruff.
You might find the herb at a specialty gourmet spice store near you, if not you may need to track down the plant from a nursery, or instead of using genuine woodruff you can go with the faux Waldmeister syrup from places like the German Deli (with both physical retail stores and an online store) sells not only waldermeist syrup, but other food products that are also made to capitalize on this traditional, seasonal flavor of Germany.
In Germany Waldmeister syrup is added to beer, ice cream, baked goods and more!
A Modern Traditional Recipe
- 1 bunch of Waldmeister, known in the US as sweet woodruff* (about 0.2 to 0.35 ounces)
- 2 squirts of lime juice or lemon juice
- 2 bottles of dry white wine
- 1 bottle of semi-dry sparkling wine
- ice cubes
Let the bunch of woodruff dry somewhat and poor one bottle of white wine into a punchbowl. To prevent the toxic substances of the woodruff from entering the punch, you should dip the bunch of woodruff into the wine, tied together with a string so that the stem ends stick out; let steep for 20 to 30 minutes. Remove the woodruff and discard. Add the remaining white wine and top off with the sparkling wine. Chill with ice cubes placed under the bowl. If you would like it sweeter, you may add some sugar.
- 1 tablespoon of sweet woodruff syrup
- juice of 2 lemons
- 600 ml apple juice
- 400 ml sparkling water
Mix all the ingredients and serve chilled.
An Alternative Recipe: IVAR’S MAY PUNCH
This appears to be from the Southern U.S. and represents an American twist from German descendants.
- 1 gallon white wine (Riesling is best)
- 1 pint Southern Comfort (gives it a peachy flavor), or Yukon Jack for a different flavor
- 1 quart fresh strawberries, thoroughly cleaned and stems removed
- 1/2 cup dried sweet woodruff herb (waldmeister), crumbled
- 1/2 cup superfine sugar
Begin your preparation the day before the punch is to be consumed. This enables the flavors to bloom.
The day before the punch will be served:
Heat the Southern Comfort until it is very warm to the touch, but do
not let it boil. Steep the sweet woodruff in the Southern Comfort overnight (there is no need to refrigerate, but it is best to cover the mixture to prevent evaporation). Thoroughly dredge the
strawberries in the sugar. Place the sugared strawberries in a covered
container and refrigerate overnight. Chill the wine overnight.
The day the punch will be served:
Strain the Southern Comfort/woodruff mixture and discard the solid
material. The Southern Comfort may have a somewhat cloudy appearance
now. Not to worry.
Add the strained Southern Comfort / woodruff infusion to the wine and stir well. Add the sugared strawberries and any juice that may have leached out of them overnight. Stir. Chill the mixture for at least two hours before serving. If the punch bowl will be sitting at room temperature for a substantial period during the festivities, a single block of ice may be floated in the punch to keep it cold. Do not add small ice cubes or crushed ice, since they will melt quickly.
When you dole out the punch to your guests, try to make certain that every cup gets at least one of the strawberries.
- 1 bunch sweet woodruff (only the one that is not blooming yet!)
- 4 cups sugar
- 2 cups water
- 1/2 cup lemon juice (+ 1 teaspoon citric acid)
1. Cook a syrup from water, sugar, lemon juice and citric acid.
2. When the syrup is cool, pour into a bottle and add sweet woodruff in it. Let stand for about 5 days in the fridge or any other cool place.
3. After 5 days, remove the plant from the syrup, straining as necessary. Close the syrup in the bottle. In Germany people would add a few drops of green food coloring, since there everything related with sweet woodruff should be green. You can do it as well 🙂
- 1/2 l apple juice (without sugar!)
- 250 g honey
- 1 bunch sweet woodruff
1. Steep woodruff in apple juice for 20 minutes. After this time, strain the juice from the plant.
2. In a saucepan, cook (very briefly) the apple-woodruff juice mixture with honey. While still hot, fill the bottle. To prepare a delicious drink, dissolve 1 part of apple-sweet woodruff syrup in 4 parts mineral water.
HAVE FUN, BUT REMEMBER TO DRINK RESPONSIBLY.