Cook's Country (August/September 2015)
We're not sure if #TBT (Throw Back Thursday) is still a thing, but it's Thursday, and we're here to continue our old-timey drink kick.
It started with the Concord Grape Shrub we tried from Bon Appétit, a sharp but sweet concoction that we turned into a cocktail.
Then we were leafing through Cook's Country, and way in the back of the magazine, where readers share Heirloom Recipes (share yours!), we saw Harriet's submission for a Switchel, a recipe she got from her grandfather.
They're both equally fun to say, but what's the difference between a shrub and a switchel? Based on what we've read, it seems that both drinks have similar ingredients -- including vinegar -- shrubs incorporate fruit for flavor. Switchels, on the other hand, use a sweetener -- in this case, maple syrup -- in place of fruit to balance out their flavors.
But there was one more ingredient in this switchel that made us do a double-take: oats.
If you want to try your hand at switchel-making, it's an easy endeavor. You just briefly boil and then simmer a combination of water, cider vinegar, maple syrup, oats, fresh ginger and lemon zest, let it sit as little as 6 hours and up to 24 hours, and then strain it. After that, drink the switchel over ice.
The result is pretty darn delightful, especially if you like ginger. Rather than sweetness, it's the ginger that shines through here, making the entire thing resemble a ginger beer (or maybe a flat ginger ale).
And what about the oats? They give the drink a heft, a thickness -- a smoothness that's really interesting. Just as Cook's Country suggests adjusting the tartness of the switchel with water, you could do the same if it winds up thicker than you want.
So the real question: When should one serve an old-timey drink like a switchel, especially given that this is not a cocktail?
At a sock hop?
A pumpkin carving?
At the end of a hay ride?
We're really not sure, but we're certain you'll have ideas.
FROM COOK'S COUNTRY:
This old-fashioned thirst-quenching beverage (aka haymaker’s punch) is all about a balance of water, ginger, sugar, and vinegar. We liked a ratio of 6 cups water to 3/4 cup cider vinegar, balanced with 1/2 cup of pure maple syrup. Two tablespoons of grated fresh ginger gave the sharpness we were looking for, without overpowering the delicate maple flavor. The Switchel will get more potent with ginger flavor the longer it remains unstrained. Be sure to serve it well chilled, over ice.
MAKES ABOUT 2 QUARTS
This recipe can be easily doubled. Do not substitute pancake syrup for the maple syrup. Use a rasp grater for the ginger and the lemon zest. The longer you let the switchel chill before straining, the stronger the ginger flavor will be. Feel free to adjust the tartness with water to suit your taste.
6 cups water
3/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 cup pure maple syrup
1/4 cup old-fashioned rolled oats
2 tablespoons grated fresh ginger
1 teaspoon grated lemon zest
1/4 teaspoon salt
1. Bring all ingredients to simmer in large saucepan over medium-high heat. Once simmering, remove from heat and let cool completely.
2. Transfer switchel to bowl, cover, and refrigerate for at least 6 hours or up to 24 hours. Strain switchel through fine-mesh strainer set over 2-quart pitcher. Serve over ice.