Saturday, August 25, 2012

Sumac Lemonade Recipe- A Sweet and Sour Foraged Drink- and Sumac Juice

About a week ago, we had a get together for the ladies in my community, with the purpose of getting to know all the new and old faces. As part of the whole "get to know you" theme, we were each tasked to bring along a food or drink to share that represented some aspect of your life or your personality. When I heard that, I felt it was a no brainer- obviously, I'd bring along something foraged.
I made this delicious mint lemonade type drink, only not with lemon juice, but sumac juice. It was a big hit at the party; I got lots of compliments for it. The funniest thing though was seeing people's looks of confusion when they first tasted the drink. For convenience sake I'd put it in an old cranberry juice bottle, so people poured themselves a cup, expecting to down sweet and sour, delicious and astringent cranberry juice, and instead, getting sweet and sour, delicious and astringent juice that wasn't cranberry juice, or was it? Immediately I pointed out to them "No, that's not cranberry juice", and their confusion cleared.
This drink, if you're not thinking too hard about it, can definitely pass for cranberry juice, but it is, in fact, more similarly tasting to lemonade, only the color can throw off your senses. (Expectations of how a food is supposed to taste like actually affects how your senses react to the food you eat.)

Yesterday, I wrote about how to forage edible sumac berries, and included information about how to process them to use as a spice. This post is how to make sumac juice, which you can then use in place of lemon juice, both in cooking, and in making drinks. 

1. Start off with your sumac that you either picked from a tree, or bought from a spice shop.

Included in yesterday's post is instructions on how to make sumac into a usable spice. When making the spice, you're left with some hard seeds and other less edible parts in your mesh strainer. You can either use that to make sumac juice, or you can use brand new berries, or you can use your purchased sumac spice. I like to use the leftover sumac solids left in my strainer, because I feel that gets me the most use out of my sumac.

2. Take your sumac (whichever part you'll be using) and put it in a container with cold water.

3. Let your sumac and water sit for about ten minutes, then with your hands or a potato masher, mash and squeeze the sumac berries into the water, and then let sit for half an hour or so. This will release even more of their juices into the water. Ideally do this a few times.

4. Pour the sumac berries and liquid through a cheesecloth. (I just use an old cloth napkin for this purpose.) Squeeze very well to get every last bit of liquid out of the berries and sumac solids.

5. You will be left with a red or brown or even magenta colored very strong, very sour liquid.

6. Use this juice in place of lemon juice in recipes. I used it to make a beet salad, to use in a soy sauce dressing for cabbage salad, and in making my sumac "lemonade". I want to try using it to color frosting for cake- it works very well as a dye. (Take one look at my cheesecloth up there for confirmation.) I've seen a recipe for making sumac "curd", as in, like lemon pudding, only with sumac instead, and for making sumac meringue pie!

7. To make a lemonade type drink, water down the sumac juice and sweeten. I personally like the taste best with white sugar, but it also tastes good with stevia (I use my homemade stevia extract) and with honey.

8. If desired, add some fresh mint, ideally crushed or chopped up. I especially like this with peppermint, but regular mint tastes good as well.

9. Serve your sumac-ade chilled.


Have you ever foraged sumac? Ever made sumac lemonade or sumac juice? What other uses do you have for sumac juice?
Does this look like something you'd try at home?

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  1. Your blog is awesome. Have you ever dehydrated sumac berries so you can make sumac lemonade in the winter?

  2. I don't think sumac grows around here, but I can get powdered sumac at the Indian markets. I wonder if I can make sumac"ade" with dried powdered sumac?

  3. i love sumac. most people aren't aware it's edible!

  4. Used to make sumac-ade when my kids were young. We also foraged for wild onions, wild violet leaves and flowers, and chickweed. I've made jellies from Queen Anne's lace and elderberries, and we used plantain for bruises (I still use it for that). Day lilies are also delicious steamed lightly or in fritters, and the tender unopened buds are really good steamed and served with a bit of butter..tastes like a mild asparagus. Wild blackberries, high bush blueberries, persimmons, fox grapes...all plentiful and good. I've even had poke salad, but there's a fine line between when the leaves are young and tender and when they are terrible and toxic, so that's a "desperation" edible plant.

    We also picked and ate puffball mushrooms, but, because poisonous and edible mushrooms are often very similar in looks, we didn't forage for any other kind. Puffballs, once large enough, are very easy to identify...and really tasty!

    Just have to be careful to identify the right plants and to understand that not all parts of every edible plant are safe to eat.

    1. My kind of blog. I'm a will edible hobiest. Soak edible mushrooms in salt water overnight in ice box to get any creepy crawlers out before eating

  5. now THIS I will be trying....Jade Wabbit.

  6. ...good stuff..i added cane sugar and brought to a boil. My kids and i liked it.i felt the pores in my forehead close..i guess it works well to seal you up in more ways than one!
    Would it not make sense to boil..i have seen mold traces in healthy fruit- plus bugs

    1. Boiling causes the tannins to leach out of sumac which makes for a bitter or pungent taste. It is best to use cold or lukewarm water. The bugs can easily be strained out. I just don't use the berries if they have mold growing on them. Maybe you could try it with the cold or lukewarm water and see if there is a difference in the taste. :)

    2. That's why you soak and strain. I soak mine half a day.

  7. Just made some sumac-ade today. Did not heat it at all. Seems to be very astrigent. I am wondering if it is not the stems with the milk that makes this happen. The berries do not let go very easily. I used about two dozen heads to two gallons of water. Just crushed the heads up in the water with a potato masher and let them sit for a half hour or so, then strained through reusable coffee strainer.

    1. I've never removed berries from the stem. Too much work. I just soak for half a day and then strain. I don't even press the berries. I just stir every hour. I think sumac is a natural dieretic. I'm 53, so that's a good thing.

  8. I just tried this today. There are many of these where I work and I pulled off a small cluster. I soaked it in cold water in a coffee cup. Took it home , strained twice and added suger. I like it better that lemonade! Bigger batch tomorrow

  9. I like to make sun tea with sumac. I put about 3-5 clusters of berries (depending on the size) in a gallon glass jar that is filled about 2/3 of the way with lukewarm water. I let it sit in the sun for a while (time varies depending on what I'm doing). I then bruise the fruit a little by mashing it with a spoon, potato masher, etc. I let it sit in the sun a while longer. Usually no less than a couple hours. It makes a tart, tasty tea (not too strong).

  10. I make it without mashing the berries. I get a much lighter color and the same flavor.


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