“Back to Basics” Reader’s Digest

Nearly any garden fruit or vegetable can yield juice to make tasty drinks.

Grains, flowers, roots and bark can also add flavoring. Want a little fizz? Add bicarbonate of soda with tartaric acid, carbonated water or use water kefir grains to stimulate a little fermentation.

 Begin with fully ripe fruit for the most intense flavor.

Clean and peel the fruit and cut larger produce into smaller pieces. For fibrous vegetables, like celery, carrots and beets, it helps to cook them on a low heat for a few minutes to help with the extraction. Next step is to reduce the produce to a pulp. Put the pulp in a jelly bag, colander or cheesecloth and place over a clean bowl to drain for several hours. To get the most juice, some pulp may require squeezing through a press. Tighten the press every half hour.

 Many fruit juices can be frozen into a frappe.

Many fruit juices can be frozen into a frappe. Simply freeze the mixture solid, then reduce it to a slush by placing it in a blender. A little unflavored gelatin can thicken the mixture. Extra honey or sugar can help make a more intense flavor.

 Beverages that have been simmered a few minutes

and bottled in sterile, tightly capped containers will keep well in the refrigerator. To freeze, pour into a clean, plastic bottle (4/5 full – need space for expansion during the freezing process), cap and store at 0ºF. For long-term storage (up to a year), can or freeze the drinks. Vegetable drinks except those based on tomatoes, should be canned by the pressure cooker method.

In years gone by, American inventiveness created beverages to satisfy some mighty powerful thirsts. Some are still popular today and others have become obsolete, but they all are delicious and healthful.

Old-Fashioned Lemonade – The secret to making old-fashioned lemonade is to extract the aromatic lemon oil from the rinds, either by soaking them in a sugar solution or by steeping the rinds in boiling water.

•  4 lemons
•  1 cup sugar
•  1 quart (32 oz) water

Directions: Peel the rinds from lemons and put them in a bowl with the sugar for about 30 minutes. Boil the water and pour over the sugar and rinds. When water is cool, remove rinds. Squeeze the lemons, strain the juice, and add it to the mixture. Chill until ice-cold.  Makes 1 quart.

Mint Punch – James Monroe, our fourth President, is said to have come up with this icy, clean-tasting concoction.

•  1/2 cup water                      •  1 cup grape juice
•  1/3 cup sugar                      •  1 cup orange juice
•  1/2 cup fresh mint leaves    •  1 cup lime juice

Directions: Warm the water until it just boils, turn off the heat and add sugar and most of the mint leaves (save some for garnish). Stir mixture until sugar dissolves. When cooled, strain out the mint; ad the other juices. Refrigerate. Serve over ice with a mint leaf on top. Makes 6 4oz servings.

Switchel – Switchel is a refreshing, energy-boosting drinks used by farm hands to slake their thirsts during the heavy work of harvest season. Before refrigerators or styrofoam coolers, jugs of switchel were kept cool in the spring house or by hanging them in a well.

•  2 cups sugar           •   1 tsp ground ginger
•  1 cup molasses       •  1 gal. water
•  1/4 cup cider vinegar

Directions: Heat ingredients in 1 quart of water until dissolved, then add the remaining water, chill, and serve. Makes 1 gallon.

Homemade Soda Pop – Years ago a mixture of bicarbonate of soda and tartaric acid was added to a drink to make it fizz.

•  1 quart water            •  Whites of 3 eggs, beaten until stiff
•  4 cups sugar            •  Tartaric acid (available from winemaking supplier)
•  4 tsp cream of tartar        •  Bicarbonate of soda
•  1 TBS vanilla

Directions:  Heat 1 quart of water to near boiling; dissolve the sugar and cream of tartar in it; add vanilla. When syrup mixture has cooled, add the egg whites, stir thoroughly, then bottle and store in refrigerator. To make the soda pop, dissolve 2 TBS of syrup plus 1/4 tsp tartaric acid powder per 8 oz glass of ice water. Then add 1/2 tsp of bicarbonate of soda and stir. Half a teaspoon of lemon juice per glass can be substituted for tartaric acid or eliminate both and add carbonated water instead of ice water.

Ginger Beer – Root beer, ginger beer, lemon beer and other similar drinks have little or no alcohol content. Such beverages were fermented briefly with the same kind of yeast used for making bread, then bottled and stored; the fermentation served only to make them fizzy. This ginger beer recipe is adopted from a Mormon recipe for Spanish Gingerette.
•  4 oz dried ginger root        •  1 packet of active dry yeast
•  1 gal water                        •  1/2 lb sugar
•  Juice from 1 lemon

Directions: Pound ginger root to bruise it, then boil in 1/2 gal. water for about 20 minutes. Remove from stove and set aside. Mix lemon juice and packet of yeast in a cup of warm water; add to ginger water. Add remaining water and let sit for 24 hours. Strain out the root and stir in sugar. Bottle and place in refrigerator. Do not store at room temperature or the bottle may explode.  Makes 10 12-oz bottles.

Raspberry Shrub – Shrubs are effective hot weather coolers and are a great use of very ripe fruit that are not suitable for canning. Red raspberry shrubs were the most popular, but almost any fruit can be used.
•  1 quart red raspberries        •  3/4 cup sugar
•  1 quart water                       •  1/2 cup lemon juice

Directions:  Pour berries into a bowl and use a potato masher to reduce them to a pulp. Heat water to a boil, add sugar and lemon juice; continue to boil until sugar is dissolved. Then pour hot water over the berries. When cool, press the mixture through a colander and refrigerate. Serve the shrub over ice cubes. Shrubs have become very popular with mixologists; current recipes use vinegar as preservative rather than lemon juice. Serve 1 TBS shrub syrup into a glass of still or sparkling water. Makes 1/2 gallon.

Hot Chocolate – Given a bad name by dieters, chocolate is a highly nutritious food. This recipe derives from the Shakers.
•  2 oz unsweetened chocolate        •  pinch of salt
•  1 cup water                                   •  1 tsp cornstarch
•  1 cup water                                   •  3 cups milk
•  1/2 cup sugar                                •  1 tsp vanilla

Directions:  Melt chocolate in double boiler.Boil water, and stir in the sugar, salt,and cornstarch until dissolved. Pour over the chocolate and stir thoroughly. Scald the milk, pour it into the mixture and add the vanilla. Reheat mixture almost to boiling and whip it with an egg beater until frothy. Makes 4 cups.

Fruit Syllabub – This semi-soft Connecticut syllabub is of English ancestry. Although not truly a beverage, it can still quench a thirst as well as satisfy a palate. The juice of any berry can be used.
•  Sugar to taste            •  2 cups heavy cream
•  1 cup berry juice

Directions:  Stir sugar into juice until sweet, then continue stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Add cream, and whip mixture until it starts to stand in peaks. serve cold or use as a topping. Makes 3 cups.

Source: Reader’s Digest, 1981 (New York), Back to Basics, p. 246-247

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