We have had a very hot, dry summer here in Central Alberta this year. Hot and dry enough that the word “drought” has been tossed around more than once. Thankfully we are surrounded by enough agriculture land that forest fires are not the same concern here as they are in British Columbia.
And while it has been nice not having to fight mosquitoes, this kind of weather does bring other considerations with it. Namely, staying well hydrated, especially if you are outside working in a 1,500+ sqft. garden, often in the heat of the day!
Coconut water is great for electrolytes, but sometimes it just doesn’t cut it, which is why this summer I have turned to the “Gatorade” of yesteryear – switchel.
Not as well known as other probiotic beverages, such as kefir, kvass, and kombucha, it once was very popular, especially amongst the farming families across our great prairies and is still served in Amish communities today. Also known as haymaker’s punch, switchel was served to field workers regularly to keep them hydrated and cool. Make hay while the sun shines and all that.
In those days, no one knew what electrolytes were, let alone that they needed to be replenished, they just knew that when you worked, you needed hydration and nutrition. The hallmark ingredients of switchel are water, a nutritive sweetener (honey, maple syrup, molasses, turbinado or sucanat sugar), apple cider vinegar, and ginger. Coincidentally, all of the ingredients (except water) are high in electrolytes, especially potassium.
You might be thinking that vinegar and ginger don’t exactly sound like cooling, refreshing ingredients, and I don’t blame you! At the time when switchel was popular, it was believed that “hot” beverages, as in spicy or zingy, not temperature, were better for those working up a sweat to help maintain equilibrium with the ambient environment.
If you look at such rationale through an Ayurvedic lens, there is significant overlap here. Environmentally, summertime has a very strong Pitta affinity, which means it’s helpful to eat and drink things that are pacifying to Pitta to maintain balance. To balance Pitta, one gravitates towards room temperature (not cold) foods and beverages that are sweet, bitter, and/or astringent, like molasses, fresh (not dried) ginger, and apple cider vinegar!
Plus you have all the probiotic and health benefits that come with drinking apple cider vinegar. It never ceases to amaze me how such traditional wisdom is often so advanced for its time!
Now, this isn’t necessarily a beverage that you will drink massive quantities of at a time. The taste and reminiscent of flat kombucha. But I have found it quite refeshing to have some mixed up and on hand through the summer, especially when I come in from the garden in 25+C weather!
So in honour of traditional wisdom, here is my recipe for Great-Grandmother’s Gatorade, aka switchel!
- 1/2 cup ACV
- 1/2 – 1 cup black-strap molasses
- 2 tablespoons grated or finely chopped fresh ginger (you may use more or less to taste)
- Fill the rest of a 1/2 gallon jug with water.
- Mix all ingredients in an appropriately-sized jar and shake well to dissolve the molasses.
- Set out in a cool spot overnight. Some sources say to refrigerate, but leaving it at room temperature helps promote probiotic development and greater infusion of the ginger in my experience, plus it promotes the Pitta-soothing Ayurvedic properties of the drink.
- Enjoy (over ice if desired)!
- For other flavour varieties, you can add lemon or lime slices, bruised fresh herbs (mint is lovely), or even florals such as lavender buds, rose petals, or hibiscus. There are so many different variations to try!
- If desired, you can use half and half spring water and sprarkling water, or even 100% sparkling water if you prefer some extra fizz, but take into consideration that it may go flat while sitting.