A couple weeks back, I stumbled across a novel summer drink idea utilizing an ingredient many people have access to: sumac. In our neck of the woods (and most of the northeastern US), it’s mostly staghorn sumac, but there are different species all over the country that can be used just as well. You might not realize it, but you’ve almost certainly driven past some (we see it on roadsides all over up here) – I knew what it was, but not what I could do with it. (And for anyone concerned about mistaking it for poison sumac, don’t be – poison sumac is a completely different plant, and while the leaves are vaguely similar, the berries of poison sumac are white, not red. If you get them confused, I’d recommend a vision screening, or just sticking with Kool-aid.)
The idea of making a drink with the berries is only new to me, as people have been using it for ages (our predecessors tended to be a bit more resourceful than we are). As I prefer, the process is simple.
Pick several clusters of berries (6-8 clusters for a half-gallon of water). Put them in a pitcher with some cold water and let them soak, periodically squishing them in your hands or with a potato masher to extract more juice. I let mine infuse for a few hours, but taste it every once in a while to test the strength of the flavor. When it’s suitable, strain using cheesecloth (the berries are covered in little hairs) and drink up. You can add sugar if you’d like, but I didn’t think it needed any.
It has a pleasant flavor, reminding me of a lemon iced tea. That citrusy tang is from vitamin C, so it even has some health benefits. This isn’t something we’ll have around all the time, but it’s a fun addition to our drink options during the summer heat.
Featured at the Homeacre Hop