Thursday, July 8, 2010

Potent Potables: Summer Edition

Hallelujah, it’s here. After weeks of doubts, delays, and disappointment, summer weather has finally reached Seattle, and the city breathes a collective sigh of warm relief.

Now, what to do about all this heat?

For a case of sun overdose, the ancient Greeks swore by the temperature-lowering effects of chamomile, while their neighbors the Romans relied—probably to less efficacious results—on amber beads. My own preferred cure is a quick, ice-cold shower or a dip in the pool if one happens to be near, but sometimes the most expedient remedy is just a cool drink in the hand. To that end, the ECL blog is happy to provide a smattering of summer drink recipes in typical Encyclopedia of Country Living style: wonderfully simple, bursting with fresh fruits and herbs, and, of course, delicious!

Ginger Ale

Dissolve 2½-3 c. honey or 5¼ c. sugar in 2 gal. water. Add the beaten whites of 3 eggs and 1 T. ginger moistened with water. Put into a large pan and bring to the boiling point. Skim and set aside to cool. (You’ll think you’re losing all the ginger, but don’t worry. Even though a lot of it gets caught in this skimming, the flavor is there.) When lukewarm, add the juice of 4 lemons and ¼ t. dry yeast. Stir well. Let stand a few moments. Strain through a cloth. In 48 hours it will be ready to drink. Note: If it’s hot outside, be prepared to refrigerate it as soon as you have the desired amount of fizz. It takes only a couple of days for it to work enough to be a real “pop” beverage.

Unfermented Ginger Ale

Cut 4 oz. ginger root into small pieces and mix with 4 lemons. Cut into strips as thin as you can manage. Pour 2 qt. boiling water over the mixture and let set 5 minutes. Strain out the solids and chill your liquid. Add 2 c. lemon juice and sweeten to taste. Dilute with cold water if it tastes strong or if intended for small children. Serve with ice and mint leaves in the glass for a hot weather special.


Combine ½ c. lemon balm that has been cut fine, ¼ c. honey diluted with ¼ c. water, ½ c. lemon juice, and ¼ c. orange juice. Let stand an hour. Now add 4 qt. ginger ale—homemade or store-bought. (see ginger ale recipes above)

Raspberry-Mint Drink

Combine 1 c. sugar or ½ c. honey, 1 c. water, and the grated rind of 2 lemons. Cook, stirring over low heat until your sweetening is dissolved. Boil 5 minutes more. Cool. Add 2 c. crushed raspberries, 1 c. lemon juice, and 4 c. water. Serve with some mint leaves in the bottom of the glass (and in the pitcher) and a mint leaf on top.

Sun Tea

Fill a gallon jar with water. Add your tea or herbs. Screw on a lid tightly. Shake a moment. Let set in the hot sun 4-5 hours—or more, like a day…or two…or three. Shake occasionally. Now strain out the tea leaves or herbs. Add honey or lemon juice. This is also a good way to fix dried fruit such as prunes, plums, or apples; just combine fruit, water, sweetening, and cinnamon, and let it set in the sun all afternoon.

Strawberry or Raspberry Ice

Remove the green stem from fruit, enough to make 3 or 4 cups. Pour ½ c. honey over the fruit. Mash the mixture with a potato masher until you have it pulped as finely and mixed as well as you can. (If you like, strain out the seeds.) Add 1 c. water and the juice of 1 lemon. Freeze, stirring occasionally.

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