This story was initially revealed in July 2018.
On these sizzling summer time days, it’s crucial to remain hydrated, a process that a number of modern-day Mainers do by gulping glasses of water or bottles of electrolyte-rich sports activities drinks.
A number of, although, are eschewing neon-colored Gatorade and selecting a extra old style beverage as a substitute: switchel. The fermented drink, which can be identified by the identify haymaker’s punch, is historically made with cider vinegar, molasses or maple syrup, ginger and water. And in case you had been haying in sizzling summer time fields 100 or 200 years in the past, it most likely would have been your drink of selection.
“It’s principally an electrolyte alternative,” Sherry Davis, the manager director of the Maine Forest and Logging Museum at Leonard’s Mills in Bradley, mentioned of the drink. “It’s the early model of Gatorade. … It’s a lot better for you and cheaper than Gatorade.”
Again then, farmers had been prone to have a stoneware jug of switchel tucked away within the shade or cooling in a stream, ready for them to place down their scythes and have a break from lengthy days of haying and different work within the subject. Switchel was straightforward to make, Davis mentioned, and has well being advantages that may not have been fully understood by the farmers of yore however would have been appreciated nonetheless. Ginger is an anti-inflammatory, uncooked apple cider vinegar can soothe tummy troubles and molasses is excessive in potassium, an electrolyte.
“It might be extra refreshing than water,” she mentioned of the drink. “They most likely went via a whole lot of it.”
The origins of switchel are considerably obscure, in line with a 2010 article revealed by Smithsonian.com. Some folks consider it was dropped at the colonies from the West Indies, whereas others give the credit score to Amish communities, the place switchel continues to be loved as we speak. Or it could be extra historical than that, and be associated to oxymel, the medicinal combination of water, honey and vinegar that dates again to Hippocrates, author Lisa Bramen steered.
No matter its historical past, switchel is a drink that’s discovering modern-day followers. Fermented meals and drinks are standard now, Davis mentioned, and switchel is driving that wave. Bartenders at fashionable bars in Brooklyn, New York, Portland, Oregon and Washington, D.C. are utilizing it as mixers in hip cocktails.
“Rapidly individuals are making these fermented issues. It’s like they’ve simply found fermentation,” she mentioned. “However switchel is a very neat concept, and it actually works as a drink.”
Switchel could be bought in shops across the state, with a Vermont-based firm, Up Mountain Switchel, promoting its maple syrup-sweetened switchel at Buck’s Harbor Market in Brooksville, Uncle Dean’s Good Groceries in Waterville and A&B Naturals in Bar Harbor. New Jersey-based CideRoad Switchel is broadly obtainable at shops all through Maine, together with the Pure Residing Middle in Bangor, the Blue Hill Co-op, Deer Root Farm in Appleton, Spice of Life in Skowhegan, Tub Pure Market and Royal River Pure Meals in Freeport. JK’s Farmhouse Ciders of Michigan presents a non-alcoholic switchel on the market at places together with the Belfast Co-op.
But it surely isn’t laborious to make at residence, both. The web is filled with recipes for the tangy summer time drink, and Davis is completely satisfied to share the model that some summer time guests to Leonard’s Mills have sampled. She does have recommendation for the house prepare dinner — don’t stint on water, which is critical to disperse the “molasses gob” that may settle on the backside.
“I’ve made some actually terrible switchel, myself. It may be fairly intense, and it positively needs to be chilly,” she mentioned. “However in this sort of warmth, it’d be a good suggestion for folks to have a jug of switchel round.”
Yields 4-6 servings
1 cup sugar
½ cup molasses
½ cup cider vinegar
½ teaspoon ginger
At the least 6 cups of water
Combine all of it collectively, and serve it chilly.
Recipe courtesy of Maine Forest & Logging Museum at Leonard’s Mills in Bradley.