What I call “the hot heat,” that is, triple digit heat indices, arrived early this year, and continues as I write this edition of Food First! Getting in and out of a hot automobile or even the walk from the car to your destination can dehydrate you quickly. Fatigue, body aches, brain fog, headache and hard stools are just a few of the symptoms of mild dehydration that can easily be dismissed as due to some other cause. I can’t emphasize enough the importance of attention to hydration this time of year.
The key to proper hydration is to drink water and plenty of it. Clear, light colored urine is one indicator of adequate hydration. Sweating, no matter how unseemly, is another. Sports drinks are not substitute for water. They are high in salt and sugar, which make them dehydrating, not rehydrating. Yes, I said dehydrating not rehydrating. Sodas and sweet drinks, even artificially sweetened ones, are dehydrating, too.
Yet, there is some merit in trying to replace minerals depleted by sweating in this kind of heat. This can be accomplished by eating dark leafy greens, celery, cucumbers, tomatoes and other juicy vegetables or drinking them freshly squeezed. Some people enjoy coconut water, but I suggest using it with care due to its sweetness. Then there is Switchel, also known as Harvest Drink, Harvest Beer, Swanky and Haymakers Punch. Historically, it hydrated farmers working their fields on hot days. The earliest written reference to this hydrating and immune boosting drink goes back to 1789. Laura Ingalls Wilder wrote about Switchel in her Little House books. Switchel is made with ginger, a sweetener, apple cider vinegar and water. I first learned about Switchel on a trip to New Hampshire where it is made with maple syrup. I found other recipes made with honey and molasses. The sweetener likely varied depending on the region of the country. Ginger is rich in minerals and immune boosting phytonutrients. Apple cider vinegar alkalizes the body helping all body functions work better. Dehydration acidifies the body.
There are so many versions of Switchel. Some are cooked. Others allow the ginger to infuse overnight. Not wanting to heat up the kitchen or wait on an infusion, I make mine with fresh ginger juice. Hubby swears small diameter ginger is hotter than fat ginger, so we adjust the amount accordingly.
2-inch piece of fresh ginger
2 TBSP apple cider vinegar with the mother
3 TBSP local honey
4 cups water
Juice the ginger. Alternately, grate it or chop very fine. Combine with other ingredients in a pitcher or half-gallon mason jar. If using grated ginger, place mixture in refrigerator overnight to infuse. Optionally, strain the infusion before serving to remove the grated ginger. Otherwise, pour into half-pint mason jars for old time ambiance, and enjoy.