Tuesday, June 5, 2012

What we're drinking this summer

Okay, so it isn't officially summer yet, but it has been hot enough here in central Tennessee that we are calling it summer.  Last summer, or perhaps the one before, I recall having been on an iced coffee kick.  Seems I drank an iced coffee just about every afternoon.  Strangely, or maybe not so strangely, I have lost my taste for it.

My main drink when I am thirsty these days is just ice water with lemon.  I am not good about drinking water--even our rather good well-water--unless it is flavored with a bit of lemon.  The kids don't drink enough water in the summer, either, so I am trying to find ways of getting fluids into them.  Dehydration seems to be the cause of a lot of headaches and muscle aches around here.  So, here is what I have been making:

Whey Lemonade
I realize that not everyone has access to lots of whey, but I sometimes take a half-gallon of our excess milk and heat it on the stove, and add some vinegar or lemon juice to it (less than a quarter cup--I never measure) and stir it until the whey separates from the curds, then I strain out the curds through cheesecloth and give them to the chickens, who love them.  You could, of course, be more cautious about your heating temperature and vinegar amounts and make paneer, a sort of Indian cottage cheese, or queso blanco, a type of cheese that reminds me of extra-firm tofu.  It doesn't melt or stretch, but pressed and sliced, it will take on the flavors of whatever it is marinated in.  I have made it a time or two, and it isn't a bad stretcher for ground beef, but I have more use for the whey.  Anyway, back to the beverage:

1/2 cup lemon juice (fresh squeezed organic preferred, but we never get that!)
1/2 cup sugar or Sucanat
1 cup whey
Water to make up 1/2 gallon

I generally dissolve the sugar in hot water or the whey if it is freshly made and still hot.  Add the lemon juice and then a few cups of ice.  Add water to make up 1/2 gallon.

All amounts are just according to taste, really.  We generally like our lemonade on the weak side, but you can make it as strong, tart or sweet as you like.  The whey adds protein to the lemonade and gives it a silky feel going down.  It really doesn't change the taste much.

Whey Tropical Limeade
This stuff is good!  Same directions as for the lemonade, but use lime juice and substitute some of the water with coconut water.  Don't have the coconut water?  Not as healthy, but just as tasty, add a little coconut extract to taste.  Yum!
Cherry-Limeade Variation:  skip the coconut water or flavoring and stir in 1/4 cup organic cherry juice concentrate.

Lacto-Fermented Lemonade
For one gallon:
2 cups lemon juice
1 cup sugar or Sucanat
1 cup whey

Again, dissolve the sugar in warmed whey and add the lemon juice, and place in a one gallon or two half-gallon jars. Add room-temperature filtered water to about 3 or 4 inches from the top of the jar(s).  Now, cover the jar(s) with cheesecloth and a rubber band, place in a dark corner of your kitchen or pantry and allow to ferment for 48 hours.  Cover and store in the fridge.  Some of the sugar will be converted to alcohol in the fermentation process, so it will lose some sweetness.  You can add sugar or honey at this point to sweeten.  It will also develop a delightful, slightly soda-like fizz.  Now, the alcohol is negligible, and the drink is full of healthy probiotics at this point, but it is not a drink to be guzzled.  Half a cup or so over ice is enough for kids, I think.

My Favorite Iced Teas

We live in the sweet-tea South, and I really don't care much for iced tea.  Unless it is something like one of these:

Iced Ginger Lemon Tea
Steep a few bags of organic green tea (decaf is great) with a few slices of ginger and then chill.  Serve over ice with a lemon wedge.  Or cheat, and just use half green tea and half this stuff, which in the winter is my favorite cold and cough tea.  Sweeten to taste.

Iced Green Tea with Jasmine
I love iced Chinese teas, and the hint of jasmine is wonderful.

Something I plan to try very soon is water kefir.  It is, like the lacto-fermented lemonade, fizzy and full of good probiotics.  You can order the grains here.

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