Sunday, May 29, 2011

Summer Drinks

A gourmet 'gola' made with Moet at Ziya at the Oberoi.
Temperatures have skyrocketed, summer is definitely here and those winter cravings for steaming hot soup have been forgotten as on longs for a long cool cool something to cosy up to!  I am writing this as I sip slowly on a glass of Litchi squash made at home by my Ma-in-law from litchis from our own tree.

And the options are endless. India has an amazing variety of traditional drinks, that are appropriate in terms of health, nutrition, ecology, season and of course cost. However we are in danger of losing this diversity with the propensity we are developing toward aerated drinks. Not only do housewives prefer the convenience of the fizzy sugar loaded drinks to serve their guests (SHUDDER!), but our traditional beverages seem to be acquiring a status of old-fashioned and boring. A sad turn of events when we still follow the other traditions of Indian Cuisine which subscribe to the philosophy of a seasonal diet food that give importance to seasonal ingredients —tender tamarind leaves, gongura leaves, kokum and tamarind, lighter masalas and desserts based on cooling fruits like tender coconut and litchis in the summer and in keeping with this general philosophy a cornucopia of specific drinks to combat the vagaries of the summer months.  

Think back and you will surely remember some of the delicious cooling drinks our grandmothers served us. I remember the drinks my grandmother always had waiting for me in the summer, when I came home from school, melon juices; chilled ruby red watermelon full of chunks of the juicy fruit, velvety chilled Sugar melon juice that slid down the throat, milkshakes flavored with fruits or Rooh Afza, tangy Aam 
Panna made of sour green mangoes and in the years when our Coconut tree yielded fruit we would OD on tender coconut water and gorge on the silky flesh and a collection of squashes that would rival any “golawalla’s” lineup of jewel colored bottles; Lemon, Malta Orange, bel (wood-apple), Amla, Jamoon, and even Sandalwood have been trapped into bottles full of savor over the years because of their extremely beneficial effect on the body in hot weather. They maintain the digestive tract, tone up the system and keep it cool.

Much later in life, I discovered the delicious coolers of regional Indian Communities, like the time a friend brought me a bottle of tangy, purple concentrate that made a delicious drink. “It’s Kokum squash” she said. Kokum! Now I have often picked Kokkum out of my dal and discarded it but I never thought it could make a drink! KOKUM is a sour fruit that has no English name, because it is native to India, in fact even in India it is relatively unknown outside the Konkan region and parts of Gujarat - which is surprising, because it makes extremely cooling drink that is popularly served to combat heaty foods in the cuisines of South and West India. Besides Kokum squash it is also used to make Sol Kadhi in which it I soaked in warm water, he resulting liquor of which is mixed with coconut milk and drunk with heaty dishes.
At my first holi after I married, I discovered a savory, punchy drink called Kanji. Kanji is a traditional north Indian drink made from black carrots and mustard powder, a dark ruby almost magenta in color it is sold from huge glass flasks and ‘matkas’ in seaon but it is also made at home the process of making Kanji takes about three weeks. It has an overall cooling effect on the body and refreshes the mind due to the use of mustard. Another traditional drink popular in the north and especially in Punjab and Hryana is ‘Sattoo’ (powdered barley) that is served chilled sweetend with a sugar syrup. It is valued for the cooling effect it has on the body and its ability as a thirst quencher.  

My favourite part of my childhood was being amidst the ladies of the house on one of the squash making days helping with prepping ingredients immersed in the tradition – listening to the stories that accompanied every recipe, the subtleties of preparation that I learnt by watching alone and  that special banter that is only found between women in the kitchen! Start your own traditions, get your children involved, kids love feeling like they are important, they can help peel and prepare fruit and measure out ingredients and the attraction of something they have helped make might even get them to stop consuming all those dangerous aerated drinks. In fact let them go wild making their own ‘mocktails’ using these!

Remember the barricade of colored bottles that are displayed all around the Golavallas carts? Well there is nothing stopping you from rivaling that display! Take time out of your schedule to prepare for the coming hot season, bottle concentrates, sherbets and syrups and put then away while you can, so you can enjoy the freshness of fruit far into the summer when the fruit are long gone. What will you do with so many?  Think Golas doused in a salty sweet sour Kalakhatta or an icy mint Sorbet, just the thought of such treats brings relief to the heat addled brain! Your Syrups and squashes will come in handy to flavour Golas, Sorbets, Ice creams, Ice teas and Slushes right through the Summer.ANd do share your recipes for Squashes and syrups! What was your favourite childhood drink! 

With so much on offer we really have no reason to down sugar filled artificially flavoured aerated waters by the glassful, that do not benefit us in any way. Find new favourites for the coming summer months from recipes carefully nurtured over the centuries and do yourself a favour! No really! Let your imagination go wild! Here are a few favourite recipes to get you started - some inherited from my grandmother and some created by me.

Raw Mango Squash (Time: 30 minutes Makes: 750 ml. concentrate (approx.) Shelflife: 6 months or more)
Inspired by the Aam panna, this squash incorporates the cooling properties of Rock salt, Green mangoes and Cumin

1 c thick peeled raw mango pulp
2 ½ c sugar
1 1/2 c water
½ tsp Cumin powder
2 tbsk Rock salt
1/4 tsp. citric acid
Place sugar and water in a deep vessel and bring to a boil. Simmer till syrup is sticky but not one thread. Add citric acid, stir till dissolved and remove from flame. Cool and add to mango pulp. Add Cumin powder rock salt and stir well. Transfer to sterilised bottles and store in the fridge.  

Spicy Pineapple Squash (time: 20 minutes Makes: 450 - 500 ml. squash Shelflife: 4 - 5 months)
1 c pure fresh pineapple juice
2 c sugar
1 c water
2 tbsp chilli flakes
1 tsp. citric acid (optional)
1/8 tsp. KMS (optional)
Bring sugar and water to boil in a deep vessel. Simmer to make a sticky syrup, which is not one thread. Add dissolved citric acid, take off fire. Cool and add juice, dissolved KMS. Stir till well blended. Pour into sterilised bottles, seal. Refrigerate opened bottle.

Quickly done Infused and Simple Syrups (Yield: 1 1/3 cups.)
Simple syrup is a commonly used ingredient in many cocktails and other drink recipes. It's easy to make and handy to have ready in the summer. You can flavour simple syrup with just about anything, spices, like Cardamom and anise, herbs like lemongrass and mint even orange and lemon peel.
1 c white sugar
1 c water

In a medium saucepan combine sugar and water. Bring to a boil, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool.
MAKE AHEAD The syrup can be refrigerated for up to 3 weeks.
To make Lemongrass Syrup take 10 lemongrass stalks, 6 stalks crushed and finely chopped, 2 stalks halved lengthwise, then crosswise. Prepare the as directed above, adding lemongrass, before bringing it to a boil. Remove from the heat and let steep for 30 minutes. Strain into a bottle and keep refrigerate for upto three weeks.

Mogra Sherbet
Mogra or Jasmine flowers are associated with romance in India. They bloom at night during the hot summer months releasing their heavy fragrance into the humid night air, cooling and perfuming it. This traditional drink traps the magic of the Mogra into a glass and makes an unusual cooling drink.
8 c water
750 g sugar
100 gms fresh mogra blossoms
Dissolve the sugar in the water and boil until you have a syrup of one string consistency. Allow to cool for a while, add the mogra blossoms, cover and leave to steep until syrup is completely cool. Stain, mashing flowers against the strainer as you go and then bottle. To serve mix into chilled water.

Kokum Squash (time: 20 minutes Makes: 500 gms. approx. Shelflife: 6 months or more)
The kokum is native to the western coastal regions of southern India and is rarely seen beyond this area. Even in India it is used only in the regional cuisines of Gujarat Maharashrta and several southern states where large glasses of kokum sherbet are downed during parched summer months. In this region the sweltering heat demands refrigerant (cooling) ingredients in food and drink. Kokum is well known to counteract the heat. The fruits are steeped in sugar syrup to make amrutkokum which is drunk to relieve sunstroke.
1 cup thick juice of kokum
2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. citric acid
1/4 tsp. sodium benzoate
Place juice and sugar in a deep vessel and heat, stirring gently until sugar has dissolved. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2-3 minutes remove from flame and cool. Add sodium benzoate and mix well. Pour into sterilized sauce bottles, seal and remember to refrigerate after a bottle is opened.
For a quick drink stir 2 tbsp. juice into 200 ml water with a pinch of salt, plop in a few ice cubes and serve or make a slush. Make a stronger solution of Kokum squash, a pinch of salt, and water pour into a Tupperware glass and freeze.      

Use squashes fto make Golas!
Hygienically Golas are available on the menu at Soam restaurant in Babulnath 

Basic Ice tea
Makes: 1 glass iced tea.
1 c water
1 ½ tsp. tea leaves
simple sugar syrup or flavoured syrup to taste
1 round slice lemon with peel
Bring water to boil. Add tea leaves cover and stand for 5-7 minutes. Stir well, strain and cool. Add 4-5 cubes crushed ice and syrup and cooled decoction Garnish with lemon slice and serve chilled. 

Basic Sorbet with any Squash
4 c fruit
2 tbsp. Fruit juice that compliments syrup you are using
1 cup simple or flavoured syrup
Run cleaned fruit in a blender with the orange juice, till smooth. Sieve if required and stir in sugar syrup.  Set mixture in lidded container in freezer A (Tupperware glass is great for this) till softly set. Remove from freezer, beat till smooth, but do not allow to melt, return to container, refreeze. Beat again, and return to freezer, till well set. Serve in scoops, garnished with sprigs of mint and slices of fruit.

Mocha Mojo serves their drinks very innovatively in Little jam and Mason jars!
A Slush shot with a bit of vodka can be a great ice breaker!

Play with strawberry and Kiwi or other colors and flavours for vibrant Mixer slushies!

Black Grape squash (time: 20 minutes Makes: 500 gms. approx. Shelflife: 6 months or more)
1 cup thick juice of black grapes
2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. citric acid
1/4 tsp. sodium benzoate
Put juice and sugar in a deep vessel. Heat and stir gently till sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2-3 minutes. Take off fire and cool. Add sodium benzoate and mix well. Pour into sterilized sauce bottles, and seal. Refrigerate after a bottle is opened.

Jamoon Squash (time: 20 minutes, Makes: 500 gms. approx. Shelflife: 6 months or more)
1 cup thick juice of jamoon
2 cups sugar
3/4 tsp. citric acid
1/4 tsp. sodium benzoate
Put juice and sugar in a deep vessel. Heat and stir gently till sugar dissolves. Bring to a boil, simmer for 2-3 minutes. Take off fire and cool. Add sodium benzoate and mix well. Pour into sterilized sauce bottles, and seal. Refrigerate after a bottle is opened.

Rim glasses for Black grape or Jamoon with kala namak!

Shaved ice concoctions; Golas and Snow cones
Rainbows - Try using two to four different colored syrups on your shaved ice to create a unique colorful rainbow effect.  Pour syrups in a straight line, one at a time, starting from one side of your shaved ice cup to the other.  Mixers – Similar to Rainbows but usually made with only 2 or 3 flavors. Combine flavors for a unique treat.  Some of the most popular mixers are listed below:
Milk and Cream Flavors – Give your favorite shaved ice syrup a creamy flavor and texture with the addition of Evaporated Milk.  In a separate container, combine 7 ounces of flavored syrup to 1 ounce of evaporated milk.  Stir well and pour the mix on top of your shaved ice to give it a rich, creamy texture.  Works best if the creamy mix is chilled before use.  This recipe is often used with Vanilla, Banana, Peach, Strawberry, Pina Colada, Coconut and Almond. Test your favorite syrup with evaporated milk!  To make a quart of cream flavor combine 28 ounces of your favorite flavored syrup with 4 ounces of Evaporated Milk.  Once evaporated milk is added be sure to keep the mix refrigerated.  The mixture will usually will last 5 to 7 days.
Snow Shakes – Instead of a milkshake try a snow shake!  Fill a 16 ounce cup full of shaved ice.  Add 3 to 4 ounces of your favorite shaved ice syrup along with 3 to 4 ounces of evaporated milk.  Stir or blend well!  Add more ice for thicker snow shakes.  Snow shakes are a great treat year round!
Dipped Delights – These shaved ice treats are very popular at neighborhood stands across the country.  Simply add a scoop of your favorite ice cream to the bottom of any cup, add shaved ice and top off with your favorite shaved ice syrup.  Eating the shaved ice and ice cream at the same time is great!   Try one and you will be hooked!

Gyan, Links and notes
Preservatives and flavours
To store for longer periods preservatives like Sodium Benzonate or potassium metabisulphite (KMS) are required. They should be used only in specified quantities. Otherwise they will spoil the texture of the drink, and also affect health if used in large quantities. You can leave them out but refrigerate your squashes in that case.

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