Homemade Summer Drinks

Sometime in April, we ran out of the refillable carbon cartridges for making bubbly water at home. “That’s it,” I declared to my slightly dismayed partner and daughter. “From now on, we’ll drink plain filtered water — or we’ll make our own bubbles.”

(Make our own bubbles. Doesn’t that just sum up this pandemic year perfectly?)

Since the summer heat landed on us, our cravings for refreshing, cool, preferably sweet beverages have grown accordingly. So here’s what we’ve been making to quench our thirst on hot afternoons (besides just lots and lots of iced water with lemon and fresh mint):

 

Ginger beer

Find the instructions in this earlier post

 

Probiotic drinks: Kombucha and water kefir

These two drinks are probiotic beverages, both prepared with a live culture, or SCOBY (a symbiotic culture of bacteria and yeasts). In the case of kombucha, the scoby looks like an opaque sponge, in water kefir it’s small water kefir “grains.” As probiotics, they are excellent for supporting gut health, something that seems like a good idea now as ever.

Kombucha is probably the more familiar of the two. I’ve made kombucha off and on for years, using the recipe in Sandor Katz’ Wild Fermentation. It is so easy. Since I periodically fall off the kombucha-making habit, I don’t always have a scoby lying around to start a new culture, but thankfully I have cool friends who share theirs with me.

Water kefir, or tibicos, is another traditional fermented drink. I added it to my repertoire just this summer after Milkwood Permaculture got me intrigued. A healthy sweet soda to hook kids onto probiotics? Yes, please! I found the water kefir grains here and have enjoyed integrating the kefir-making into the daily rhythm of our kitchen.  The microbes in water kefir include Lactobacillus, which you’ve probably heard of. I love knowing that I can grow these good guys in a glass jar right on my kitchen counter.

I can tell you that water kefir now ranks #1 in our family’s list of drinks right now. The subtle base flavor is unlike anything I’ve ever had before, but you can also flavor water kefir in all kinds of creative ways with fruit, herbs, etc. The family favorites right now seem to be blackberry kefir and lemon mint kefir. If you do the second ferment and “feed” the kefir with some more honey and then bottle it for another day, as Milkwood instructs, you’ll end up with a bubbly beverage.

 

Watermelon slushy

Here’s a tip: this drink is extra delicious if you grow the watermelon yourself. Why? Because you’ll be checking on the melon daily for ripeness, knocking on it, waiting, looking for signs that it’s ready to harvest… while the anticipation keeps growing. By the time you cut off the melon and sink a kitchen knife to it, you’ll be so excited to taste it that you’ll dig in with both hands, watermelon juice dripping off your chin, devouring the sweetness.

And if there’s any left from that initial binge… I make a watermelon slushy, a hot summer afternoon hit if there ever was one.

Watermelon slushy

  • freshly cut watermelon, cut into chunks, seeds mostly removed, and frozen for 1-2 hours
  • a few sprigs of fresh mint
  • fresh lemon juice, to taste
  • maple syrup, to taste

Put chilled watermelon cubes in a food processor and mix until the large chunks have disappeared. Add mint, lemon juice, and syrup and pulse again until well blended. Serve immediately.

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