People have been using switchel for hundreds of years to prevent dehydration and to renew the body during hard work or in hot weather. Even sailors used to use this simple recipe to prevent scurvy and drank it daily (often with their daily ration of liquor). Ever heard of grog? A variation on switchel was the main ingredient in this well-known pirate's cocktail. A little more recently, farm laborers during the 17th-20th centuries drank switchel in order to prevent heat stroke during hard days of work. It is often associated with hay making, as this is often the hardest work on some of the hottest days of the year.
I swear by this energizing and delicious beverage and have been using it for the last couple of years to prevent tiredness and dehydration while doing farm work. Although, it is so good I will make it all times of the year. And, because it contains no processed sugar, it is a wonderful healthy alternative when craving a soda.
Switchel is made from 3 basic ingredients:
Apple Cider Vinegar (ACV)
It will be delicious and effective with just these ingredients, but there are so many great variations that I like to switch it up for added benefits. Here's how I like to make it:
Variation 1: Ginger Switchel Lemonade
- Unfiltered ACV (I like to use Bragg's)
- Honey (local is preferred, I use honey from my dad's bees)
- Organic fresh or powdered ginger*
- Lemon Juice (or lime)
Start by mixing equal parts honey (or preferred sweetener, but honey really is the best) and ACV in whatever size container you want. Add water to taste. You want it to be sweet but not too sweet. I like to use about 1/4 cup of the ACV honey mixture to 3-4 cups of water. Add fresh or powdered ginger and/or lemon juice to taste. Shake and enjoy! It will keep on the counter for a couple of days or in the fridge for weeks thanks to vinegar and honey's natural preservative properties.
*I find that the ginger is fairly essential not only for taste but to prevent nausea from heat or exhaustion (or even from the ACV). Fresh ginger is especially nice to use as the flavor is far superior in my opinion. I also like to chew on the small chunks of it in the switchel. Ginger also prevents pain and inflammation, aids in digestion, and provides a large variety of necessary vitamins and minerals. It is particularly high in potassium, a vital mineral to aid recovery time.
Variation 2, 3, and 4:
- add fresh or frozen fruit
- add sea salt
- use maple sap instead of water
I sometimes add fruit for extra flavor and nutrients depending on what I have available. One of my favorites is to add frozen strawberries instead of ice cubes to keep it cool without making it watery. Some people will also add a pinch of salt to help replenish any salt that you sweat out. Try using Himalayan pink sea salt for the added benefits of trace minerals, electrolyte balancing effects, and increased circulation. If you live in an area where maple syrup is produced and its springtime you can use maple sap instead of water in your switchel for an extra boost of minerals. As the sap is naturally a little sweet you may not have to use as much sweetener.
Variation 5: Probiotic Switchel Ginger Bug
- Chlorine Free Water
-Sweetener (I've heard that cane sugar works best but feel free to experiment)
-Fresh Ginger, chopped or grated (organic please!)
Mix equal parts sugar, fresh ginger, and ACV (about 2 TBS of each if making in a quart mason jar) and add chlorine free water until your non-metal container is half full. You cannot use water with chlorine in it because it will prevent the natural fermentation. Stir with a non-metallic spoon, cover with a piece of cloth or a coffee filter, and leave it on the counter. It will attract natural yeasts and bacteria from your home and they will begin to grow in the ginger bug, leading to fermentation. Add a TBS of sugar and a TBS of ginger every day to keep all of the little creatures well fed and happy. I like to chop a week's worth of ginger ahead of time and keep it in a wax paper bag in the fridge so I don't have to take the time to chop it every day and I will be more likely to feed it. After about a week, you should start to see bubbles forming in your ginger bug; this is how you know it's ready. At this point it will not be as sweet as you expect (the little critters have eaten up all the sugar you added).
To make a healthy alternative to soda, dilute it with water to taste in a separate container and add fresh fruit or whatever flavoring you like.
After you use some, simply replace with water and a couple TBS of sugar and ginger. If you know you wont be able to feed it for awhile, you can add a couple of TBS sugar and ginger and put it in the fridge, where it will go dormant for up to a week. After this time, simply take it out, leave it on your counter, and start feeding it daily again.
Variation 6: Switchel Mojito
-switchel or ginger bug switchel
- ice or frozen berries
- white rum
optional- club soda
Muddle the fresh mint and several slices of lime in the bottom of a glass, add ice or frozen berries and pour switchel or ginger bug switchel and rum over it to taste. Add fresh mint and a lime slice to garnish.
Optional- If you are using unfermented switchel, you can add some club soda to make it fizzy but you may need to add more sweetener.
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