Soothing Summer Sippers
Every summer, my son Peter makes a fantastic rosemary lemonade concentrate, which he generously shares with me and others. It packs a lot of flavor so I like to dilute it considerably, though many of my friends like to mix up a stronger glass. I often blend the lemonade with my other favorite summer drink, Barley Tea, which I make by the half-gallon every few days. Both are truly thirst quenching, especially when the temperature soars suddenly and our poor bodies struggle to adjust.
Barley Tea has been a traditional summer drink for field workers in Japan and Korea for centuries. It is very simple, consisting entirely of roasted and ground barley and water. Depending on how long you roast your barley, it can be pleasantly mellow or slightly rough, with a coffee-like quality that is enhanced by longer steeping time. I often buy packaged Korean barley tea in big bags that hold about 1/4 cup ground barley. Each one is supposed to make a quart but I brew one bag in 2 quarts of cold water, leaving it to steep in the fridge overnight.
The Korean barley tea is a seriously dark roast, coarsely ground and almost as black as coffee. Most recipes (such as they are) call for unhulled barley, but hulled works fine if that’s all you can find. I tried roasting the grain in an iron skillet on the stovetop but found it easier to roast it in the oven. I fill my largest cast iron frying pan with 3-4 cups barley and bake it at 350 F, along with whatever I’m making for dinner. I give the pan a shake now and then and in about an hour, the grain turns a deep, even brown. If you prefer a darker brew, try using a 400 degree oven.
Cool the grain and grind it coarsely in a food processor or blender. It works best to grind the grain in small batches of 1 cup or less. Many recipes call for additional roasting and I again find oven baking to give evener results than stovetop cooking. Fill self-sealing tea infusion bags or muslin herb bags with 1/4 cup roasted grain. Store in a tightly sealed box or jar in the freezer to keep grains fresh. Each bag will make 1-2 quarts tea, using hot or cold water depending on how you like your tea.
Making Rosemary Lemonade
Rosemary Lemonade combines the brisk, aromatic qualities of rosemary with the bright, citrusy freshness of lemons (though it’s also good with limes). Making this delicious summer treat requires two sub-products, both quite simple to make. The first, Rosemary Infusion, can also be used as a rinse to give your hair fragrant, supple softness, and the Lemon (or lime) Simple Syrup is lovely drizzled over chopped fruit, ice cream, fruit cobblers, or hot pancakes.
1/4 cup rosemary (big stems removed)
2 cups water
Place rosemary in a glass bowl. Bring water to a boil, pour over rosemary and cover bowl with a plate. Steep for up to an hour (taste now and then to find your preference), strain and pour into a sterile canning jar. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Lemon Simple Syrup
2 cups cane sugar
2 cups water
rind of 1 organic lemon, in long strips
Combine all ingredients in a non-reactive pan, bring to a boil and boil for 5 minutes. Cool and pour into a sterile canning jar. Cover and refrigerate for up to 1 week.
Rosemary Lemonade Concentrate
1 cup lemon juice (if fresh, 4-5 lemons)
2 cups Simple Lemon Syrup
1 cup Rosemary Infusion (or to taste)
1 quart (or more) plain or sparkling water
Combine all ingredients, adjusting to taste. Serve cold or over ice. Makes about 2 quarts.