Thursday, September 5

10E2236: Switchel

"Like maple sugaring, haying a hill farm in the pre-mechanized era was a chancy, nerve-wracking job, in which Gramp's patience with me frequently wore thin... after helping unload the wagon I could run to the milk house cooling tank for the stone jug of switchel which my grandmother made up each morning... the traditional northern New England field hands' drink decocted from pure spring water with a touch of vinegar..." - Frank Mosher, Northern Borders

Laura Ingalls-Wilder drank it, as did Herman Melville. Switchel, also called haymaker's punch was a water/vinegar/sweetened ginger drink to quench your thirst. Unbeknownst to them it provided electrolytes, anti-inflammatories and more - a fenceposter gatorade. Switchel may have originated in the Caribbean (ginger and molasses give a clue) but transformed in New England with the substitution of maple syrup or sometimes honey.

Like buses on a rainy day you wait forever and suddenly 2 come along at the same time... there are currently 2 companies bottling switchel for sale!! The Vermont Switchel Co. (slake your thirst) and also Switchel (an American heritage beverage) - both outfits using their individual family recipes.

Recommend you try both when you can find them. I do like this ├╝ber-gingery Switchel though. Perhaps not as complex as the other but huge hit of ginger - weirdly readily available in New York, probably because the creators have transplanted there from southern Vermont. 

Excerpt from The Haymakers