Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Switchel

I have a feeling this is going to be a post about something that nobody likes but me, but I'm okay with that. It starts, as so many things do, with me reading Laura Ingalls as a kid. I remember being mildly intrigued by this line from The Long Winter:
"Ma had sent them ginger-water. She had sweetened the cool well-water with sugar, flavored it with vinegar, and put in plenty of ginger to warm their stomachs so they could drink till they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot."

Somewhere in the intervening years, I read about switchel, the "haymakers' punch" of sweetened vinegar water, and when I spied that bottle of Bragg's vinegar drink at a fancy bodega last weekend, I snatched it up. I loved it, though I think it's fair to say that Jenn was grossed out — willing to give it a try until she smelled it. The only listed ingredients were water, cider vinegar, and honey, all things I had on hand at home, so I've been playing around with it all week and finally hit on the proportions that taste good to me. I like the flavor of honey, but have been using maple syrup simply because it's easier to stir into cold water.

The ginger tea I mention here is something I make a batch of weekly-ish. I make it strong enough that I can't drink it on its own, so it's more like ginger concentrate. It's good mixed with water or seltzer or heated up with honey and lemon. Just slice a large piece of ginger fairly thinly into a saucepan, fill the pan with water, bring it to a boil, cover and let it cool to room temperature, then strain into clean bottles and store in the fridge. My current favorite cooking/drinking white wine that I can get close to home for under $10 (it's a Chilean sauvingnon blanc with a greenish label and is on the bottom shelf of the wine store; that's all I know about it) comes in screw-top bottles, which are really handy for this kind of thing.

Switchel
2 T. maple syrup
4 T. Bragg's cider vinegar
very strong ginger tea
water
Mix the maple syrup and vinegar in a pint glass. Fill glass roughly halfway with ginger tea and the rest of the way with water. Stir.

3 comments:

jenn j said...

Man, that stuff was rough. I'm glad you're happy with it, but whoa, it was definitely not my bag.

To anyone else out there who loves vinegar - you will love this. Personally, I had to back away slowly. And I love pickles.

Gina said...

I used to take a "shot" of an apple cider vinegar every morning, but I've fallen out of the habit. This could be just the thing to get me back into the habit.

I love ginger tea, and this sounds like something I would love.

Martha said...

I was just reading about switchel in my Wild Fermentation book. Sounds like the health benefits are amazing.

I also got inspired from Little House books. I read Farmer Boy where they hunted for winterberries in the snow and enjoyed their wintergreen flavor (what toothpaste and all wintergreen flavoring was made from before artificial flavorings came along). I just planted a wintergreen bush in my garden this spring. Oh, and I planted 2 elderberry bushes last spring!