I made the silly mistake of thinking "Oh, it isn't that hot" and mowing the lawn at the very hottest part of the afternoon. Then I was sad and feeling a little sick. Fortunately, I know just the remedy for that!
|Above: Syrup, vinegar, water, and beautiful alchemy|
That, my friends, is a photo of a mostly-forgotten concoction known as switchel, swizzle, or haymaker's punch. What is switchel? If you've ever read the Little House on the Prairie series, you may already have heard of it!
"Nothing was ever so good as that cool wetness going down her throat. At the taste of it she stopped in surprise and Carrie clapped her hands and cried out, laughing, “don’t tell, Laura, don’t tell till Pa tastes it!”
"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. Such a treat made that ordinary day into a special day, the first day that Laura helped in the haying." -Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter
I know plenty of people who find the idea of drinking vinegar water to be repellent and when Mr. Scrimp and I sing its praises they give us the kind of very tolerant looks that are normally reserved for people who insist very cheerfully and harmlessly that the sky is purple. I can accept that. But in the 19th century, we would have been looked at as completely normal. Switchel used to be a positively trendy beverage.
If you are someone who craves lemonade on a hot summer afternoon, I suggest you give switchel a try. It has the same sour, brisk sort of taste but uses raw vinegar and therefore offers probiotic benefits that lemonade does not. (It's also cheaper to make at home from scratch and much easier to ensure that what you're getting has never been exposed to pesticides).
I make my switchel by the glass, rather than mixing it up a pitcher at a time, and I mix it more or less to taste, so I encourage you to experiment and see what you like best!
Ingredients (serves 1)
- 2-3 ice cubes (optional; some people say ice cubes are bad for you when you're overheated and when I am very hot I forgo these until I have cooled down a little)
- 12 oz cool water
- 1 Tbsp raw vinegar
- 1 dash cinnamon
- Grated raw ginger (to taste; optional)
- Coconut sugar, raw honey, maple syrup, or hickory syrup to taste
Mix all ingredients well and enjoy!
I use hickory syrup, which is sort of like maple syrup except it tastes less like pancakes and more like a cool afternoon under the shade of a green forest. Seriously, I don't know how else to describe it. Hickory syrup tastes like trees. Pictured above is Shagbark Hickory Elixir which we buy at our local farmers market from a company called Building Organic, LLC, and it includes a little bit of lemon balm and just a hint of cayenne pepper, so if you want to throw some of those in I say go for it. I'd include a link for you to buy this particular blend but as far as I can tell they have no presence on the Internet. Sorry!
I don't know if Laura Ingalls Wilder was right about the difference between switchel and plain water on the stomach, but I do know that I am a girl who gets nauseated if I drink too much water too quickly, and I can drink switchel all day long and the only thing that happens is I eventually am not thirsty anymore. The vinegar taste took me a little getting used to but now I love it and crave it when the day gets hot and my body gets tired and overheated.
Have you tried switchel? What did you think?