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Something cool: Make your own drinks for summer refreshment

  • Summer drinks that are easy to make at home include (from left to right) sangria, a mint cup and a mango lassi. Staff Photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Summer drinks: sangria Staff Photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Summer drinks: mint cup Staff Photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Summer drinks: mango lassi Staff Photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Summer drinks: mint cup Staff Photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Summer drinks: mint cup Staff Photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Summer drinks (from left to right): a mango lassi, a mint cup and sangria Staff Photo/Kevin Gutting

  • Summer drinks: mango lassi Staff Photo/Kevin Gutting



For the Recorder
Tuesday, August 21, 2018

You can dye your hair with Kool Aid.

This bit of general knowledge comes from Wikipedia, though you might have guessed it yourself from the effort it takes to get Kool Aid stains out of childrens’ shirts. Intense color, however, was not its biggest breakthrough in 1927 when Kool Aid was invented. That honor went to its weight. Consumers could now buy a package of virtually weightless powder rather than lug giant bottles of soda, juice and water from the store.

The other no-haul way to stock up on summer drinks is to make them yourself. Added advantages are that you can fine-tune them to your tastes: choosing favorite flavors, adjusting sugar and omitting unpronounceable chemicals.

In the past, most drinks, including beer and cider for everyday drinking, were homemade, and each season brought its specialties. Coolers made from the harvests of berries, herbs and fruits have long been summer’s offering.

Lydia Maria Child, the novelist and abolitionist who lived for a while in Northampton, loved the thriftiness of homemade drinks. In 1832, she wrote one of the earliest American cookbooks “The American Frugal Housewife,” recommending currant wine for “Those who have more currants than they have money, and will do well to use no wine but of their own manufacture.” She also pointed out that “In a country where raspberries are abundant, it is good economy to make raspberry shrub answer instead of Port and Catalonia wine.”

Her recipe for this “pure delicious drink for summer” is easy. “Put raspberries in a pan, and scarcely cover them with strong vinegar. Add a pint of sugar to a pint of juice ... scald it, skim it and bottle when cold.”

“Shrub” is an old name for fruit drinks. The word derives from “sherbat,” the Arabic word for non-alcoholic sweetened drinks. This is also the root of “sherbet,” and drinking sherbet is still a favorite way of keeping cool in Arab countries.

In India, the most popular drinks for chilling out are made from yogurt or buttermilk with fruit and flavorings such as papaya, mint, lime and rosewater. The most famous is mango lassi. It’s often sweetened, but some people prefer to salt it instead to replace the salt the body loses by sweating.

In Greece, no one who works through the summer’s heat or whiles away time at a street café does so without a frappé at hand. Pronounced “frap-PAY” and also called Nes after its chief ingredient Nescafé, frappés are iced coffee whizzed in a blender to make them frothy, sometimes with sugar and milk, sometimes without.

Other countries also have favorite ways of dealing with torrid temperatures. In Spain, they drink horchata, which is made from ground tiger nuts and sangria, a mixture of red wine and fresh orange juice. Pitchers of sangria stand on every bar, ready to sustain customers from breakfast to midnight. Italy goes for lemons with limonata, which is similar to lemonade, and limoncello made by infusing a bottle of vodka with finely grated lemon zest and sugar.

The big New England favorite in former days was switchel. In “The Shaker Cookbook,” Caroline B. Piercy explains that “Enormous quantities of this drink were consumed each summer by the Brethren working in the shops, fields and when road building.” Its basic ingredient was the molasses that came from the region’s Caribbean trade. Mixed with sugar or maple syrup, zinged with ginger, then diluted with chilled water, it provided sugar for quick energy and iron from the molasses to fortify people working in grueling heat.

Like molasses, other common ingredients in summer drinks — lemons, oranges, berries, dairy products — have valuable nutrients, so you can enjoy them knowing the refreshment they provide is more than a passing sensation.

Some easy recipes follow.

Switchel

Eldress Bertha Lindsay was one of the last Shakers, a religious group that lived celibate but communal lives in self-supporting villages, many of them in New England. Her community was at Canterbury, N.H. In 1986, she included the village’s recipe for switchel in her book “Seasoned with Grace,” noting its popularity with the haymakers, “They said there was nothing that was more cooling.” The village made it by the gallon. Here, her recipe is cut down to manageable proportions.

Ingredients:

1 cup brown sugar

½ cup molasses

2 tsp. powdered ginger

½ cup vinegar

½ gallon water

Stir all the ingredients together. Chill and serve over ice cubes.

Mango Lassi

India has many varieties of mangoes and tender sweet ones are always chosen for mango lassi. Our supermarket mangoes are often not juicy or fully ripe, but frozen mango chunks work well, and Julie Sahni, author of “Classic Indian Vegetarian and Grain Cooking,” also recommends canned Indian alfanzo mango puree.

Ingredients:

1½ cups (or 2 store-bought 5.3-ounce tubs) plain Greek yogurt

1 cup mango cubes, fresh or frozen

¼ tsp. powdered turmeric (optional)

1 tsp. lemon or lime juice

4 T sugar

4 to 5 ice cubes

Put the yogurt and mango cubes in a blender or food processor and whiz to combine them. Add the turmeric, lemon or lime juice, sugar, ice cubes, and half a cup of cold or chilled water. Whiz again to break up the cubes. Add more water to thin if you like. Makes two to three servings.

Sangria

Spain’s favorite summer drink became a hit in the United States after it was introduced in the Spanish pavilion in the 1964 New York World’s Fair. It was especially popular in the 1970s and ’80s, and though not as common today, it’s a great choice for summer-evening get-togethers.

Ingredients:

1 bottle fruity red wine such as Tempranillo or Merlot, chilled

1 cup freshly squeezed orange juice

2 tsp. sugar

Ice cubes

1 orange cut in wedges or slices

Combine the wine, the orange juice and sugar in a pitcher. Stir to dissolve the sugar. Add ice cubes to taste and the orange slices. Serve chilled or with more ice cubes. Makes about five servings.

Mint Cup

The salt in this recipe helps draw flavor from the mint leaves. The amount of sugar seems large, but note that this is a concentrate that is diluted for drinking, so the quantity per serving is reduced.

Ingredients:

1½ cups snipped mint leaves (from about 5 to 6 stalks)

1 cup sugar

½ tsp. salt

Juice of 1 to 2 lemons to taste

1 quart sparkling mineral water or more as needed

Extra mint sprigs for garnish

Wash the mint. Tear the leaves from the stalks and pile them on top of one another in bundles. Snip finely with scissors, and put in a bowl. Put the sugar in a saucepan with a cup of water. Bring to the boil, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Simmer for three minutes. Add the salt and pour immediately over the snipped mint.

Let it cool to room temperature, then pour into a pitcher through a sieve. Squeeze the leaves to get out all the liquid. Add the juice of one lemon. Chill.

For serving, dilute with four or five times the volume of sparkling water. Add extra lemon juice to taste. Serve with ice cubes and mint sprigs for garnish. Makes about six servings.

Raspberry Banana Smoothie

Smoothies can be a light summer meal-in-a-glass combining the flavors and vitamins of fruit, and sometimes vegetables, with the protein and calcium of dairy products, and in this case, the restorative effects of coconut water.

Ingredients:

1 cup raspberries

1 very ripe but not mushy banana

¼ tsp. powdered cardamom (optional)

1½ cups coconut water

5.3-ounce tub low-fat raspberry or mixed berry yogurt

Put the raspberries, banana and cardamom in a blender or food processor with half a cup of coconut water. Whiz to blend, then add the remaining coconut water and whiz again. Finally, add the yogurt and blend until the mixture is smooth. Makes two smoothies.