Cool summer drinks

15 June 2010
Thank you all so much for your kind thoughts for Bernadette and I.  I spent a short amount of time with her yesterday because she was too weak for more and as she asked for a visit from a priest, I arranged that.  I'll go back this afternoon after work.

 Last night's dinner - small sweet potatoes, turnips and cabbage, with a pork chop.

Getting back into my work here made a big difference to my frame of mind but I couldn't clean the bathroom out properly as Hanno was still working in there when I returned from my visit.  I watched a free DVD with Tricia instead.  A French film, Amelie.  We both loved it.  After that I picked vegetables for our tea and prepared a feast of sweet potatoes, turnips, cabbage and a pork chop each.  Dessert was creamy rice pudding with stewed apples.  A hearty dinner enjoyed by us all.  It is very gratifying to eat organic food picked from the garden that is cooked and on the plate a couple of hours later. While I wandered around the garden, I noticed the potatoes are growing well out there, the tomatoes and cucumbers too; it's only a matter of time before they are on our plates.

I wrote about warming winter soups last week so to balance the equation, I thought I'd remind our northern hemisphere friends about cooling summer drinks.  I was prompted to do this because in our front yard, a pineapple is growing.  Many of you will remember the pineapple I grew in the backyard.  Well, we transplanted it when we cut the pineapple to eat, and planted it in the front yard.  Pineapples are slow growers and take up a fair amount of space - we needed it out of there. It took its own sweet time but true to form, the pineapple produced its second fruit.  When this pineapple is ripe and picked, the plant will have done it's job and will be pulled out.  Home grown fruit - it's organic and the sweetest fruit you can imagine.  We also have oranges, lemons and passionfruit growing at the moment. If you have a bit of land, I encourage you to grow whatever fruit is suited to your area.  Fruit trees take some time to establish but when they are they're relatively easy to grow and produce such wonderful crops.

We will be eating this pineapple next summer.

Of course the best drink anyone can have in all kinds of weather is spring water or tap water that is filtered.  We have filtered tap water here and I try to drink about two litres/quarts of it every day.  Some days I'm better at it than other days, but I get close most of the time.  Throw in a lemon wedge of a squeeze of lime with a few ice cubes and you have a drink any visitor would be happy to be offered.  If you want to go a bit further, or if you have children who prefer soda or soft drink, maybe one of these recipes will tempt them.  They will still be drinking a bit of sugar (although not as much as any fizzy drink or pack of commercial juice) but there will be no preservative, artificial colourings or flavours, and no chemicals whose names you can't pronounce.  All it is is the juice of whatever fruit you have on hand, mixed with a sugar syrup.  You control the amount of sugar in the syrup.

This week's flowers - dill flowers.

SIMPLE SUGAR SYRUP 
This is just equal amounts of water and sugar.  So if you mix 2 cups of water with 2 cups of sugar you'll have one litre/quart of sugar syrup.  Just add the amounts to a saucepan, bring to the boil and simmer, stirring, until the sugar dissolves completely.  Allow it to cool.  BTW, if you want to make a weaker syrup, go for it.  That is one of the benefits of making your own summer drinks, you decide how much sugar goes in.

Here are some of my recipes for cool summer drinks.  Please note that if you can't find citric or tartaric acid at the shop, leave them out.  They are natural fruit acids that help with storage of the cordials but aren't necessary for the taste.  Because off the sugar content, the cordials can be stored in the fridge for at least a week.

PINEAPPLE CRUSH
Remove the top (if you have a garden, plant it) and skin from a ripe pineapple.  Cut it into pieces and add to the blender.  Add about a cup of sugar syrup and blend.  When the pineapple is crushed, add cold water and more sugar syrup to suit your taste.  Serve with ice cubes.

GINGER BEER
If  you have children who like fizzy drinks, serve them ginger beer.  When you make this you're entering into the wonderful world of fermentation.  This is a healthy drink that most of our grannies would have made.  My post about ginger beer is here.  Adults will enjoy ginger beer too.  An article about homemade ginger beer.

So, there you have it.  A range of fruit and spice drinks to serve your family and guests.  With the addition of tea, coffee and water, you'll be able to offer refreshments you'll be proud of that contain no hidden additives.