August 13, 2012
mostly water - with a hint of summer flavors
It's mid August and the summer heat has finally hit us here up in the mountains, where you need room heating about three quarters of a year. Still, nothing compared to what I survived in Tokyo every year for most of my life, but even here it can get hotter than I'd rather like every now and then. And I find myself swapping a glass of something cold (or lukewarm) for a warm cup of tea that I usually drink throughout the day on any given day.
That's often cold-brew sencha (green tea) or genmaicha (roasted brown rice tea, with some matcha to it), or just plain water.
It's basically just water infused with dried chamomile flowers (home-dried ones here), sprigs of fresh mint (one of the very few herbs that do well in our garden), and lightly crushed cardamom pods. The whole thing sits in the fridge for about 24 hours to impart the flavor of the herbs and spice to the water.
As for this particular combination of chamomile, mint and cardamom, I stumbled across it in this book on flavored waters (in Japanese) while I was browsing a bookstore in town a while ago. It featured dozens of interesting-sounding flavored waters using a variety of fruits, vegetables, herbs and/or spices, both sweetened and unsweetened. And this recipe was the one that caught my eye and I tried it as soon as I got home.
With the temperatures climbing up during the day, this idea of flavored water instantly became a flavor of the week around here, and over the past week or so I've tried a bunch of different flavor combinations, including this raspberry, rose, and vanilla water:
This particular one comes from a recipe I found here as I searched for more ideas for infused water. Whatever you use, the nuts and bolts are simple: combine water with fruits/vegetables/herbs/spices, let it steep in the fridge overnight or longer, and serve chilled.
That said, once you've started looking for recipes for homemade flavored waters, you'll notice that there are a few different routes you can take to flavor your water, along with a whole lot of different flavor choices. You can sweeten or not sweeten it; cook the fruit or not; puree the mixture in the blender or not, and so on. Possibilities are endless.
I've still found a lot of recipes out there, including ones in this page, where the author takes a very similar stance to mine, with the "KISS (Keep It Simple Stupid)" approach (I like that!). And here are a few more that I've tried...
here (sans basil - but it would be nice too), but there are a number of recipes for cucumber water similar to this. I've been consuming quite a lot of cukes this summer simply by munching on them as a snack (or for hydration, really) but this cucumber-flavored water wasn't bad at all with a plenty of ice, and went nicely with meals.
Another one that's (probably) good with meals:
I first saw the 'recipe' in the above-mentioned flavor water book, but you can find it on the Internet, including here.
Now, a few fruity ones:
I paired each fruit with different kinds of herb.
here. I used white peach rather than yellow because white varieties are what we have aplenty here. I also added a few slices of lemon in a hope to keep the water from turning brown. I was intrigued by the pairing of peach and sage as I'd never used them together; I imagine thyme or maybe lemon verbena would be nice too.
KISS flavored water post; I'd have thought pairing watermelon with mint, which would also work.
here, and used blueberries in place of blackberries.
And I did try blackberry-infused water, too:
here. I loved the idea of blackberry and ginger, though if I try it again I'd probably leave it to infuse for longer than specified ("at least an hour") and might use juice of fresh finger to give it a real strong ginger kick (I love ginger, see).
Either way, filtered and served in a glass with some ice, these fruit and herb flavored waters made rather pretty drinks.
I enjoyed them all, but I must admit that the peach-infused water wasn't as peachy as I'd hoped it would be. Although it was tinted in a pretty shade of pink, the lemon totally overpowered peach. Now I've found several recipes for peach flavored water, and most of them seem to require either cooking the peach in water, pureeing and sieving the infusion, or sweetening with some sugar - or all of the above. Here I wanted to try it without any of it, but next time I try making peach water I might go for some sweetened versions, for more a more pronounced peach flavor.
Then again, here my focus was subtly and simplicity (as in the processes required to make, not the flavor), so it was okay.
the Japanese flavor water book), pineapple and mint (another one of the KISS flavored waters), or even pineapple, chili and mint as featured in here, where you can find a bunch of other interesting flavor suggestions, such as cucumber and melon, and watermelon and basil.
Meanwhile, here I thought I'd feature another kind of flavored water that's perfect in summer...
This being a sweetened drink, it's different from all the other ones I've featured above. But is a favorite summer drink of mine, prepared with ice-called sparkling water. I've written how to make the ginger honey syrup before - though measurements may be different, as I basically measured my ingredients by eye this time.
As a matter of fact, the syrup I used here was a batch I'd prepared back in February or March, so my syrup had more than a few months to allow the flavor to develop. (Note: I removed the lemon after a week or so; it'll be a good idea to add all of the lemon slices in the jar at the very end to make it easier to fish the fruit out.)
That being said, you can still start your batch of honey ginger syrup today and enjoy glasses of homemade ginger ale in a week. Or just make one of those easy flavored waters like I've done. And I will.
But if you are still in the middle of summer heat, I hope you're keeping cool, well hydrated. And enjoying the summer, hot or otherwise. -cx
posted by chika at: 8/13/2012 02:50:00 PM