Drinkwise and foodwise, I miss almost everything about my country. Elderberry flower juice and rose hip tea I miss most on hot summer days and cold and moist winter nights, respectively. Of course, rose hip tea can also be served chilled and I am glad to have found two almost perfect replacements for these two favorite drinks. So, if you are looking for alternatives to iced water and lemonade, you might want to try these delicious refreshing drinks that will help keep you hydrated on these unusually hot summer days.
The sambucus or elder is a small tree or shrub that produces small black berries. But before the berries, there are of course the flowers. Picked right about when they are at their prettiest, they are the main ingredient of a summer drink (“socată”), very popular back home in Romania. The elder flowers are placed in large jars filled with water, with sugar and lemon slices added. After a few days of fermenting a nice thirst-quenching fizzy summer drink is obtained. I would make some most of the years and so was quite sad not be able to prepare it here, as I have never been able to spot even one elderberry tree. It turns out, though, that elderberry is also quite appreciated in Scandinavian countries, so I was able to find some juice at Ikea last year. They sold it in little cartons with individual straws. Upon a more thorough verification, it turned out it was a different kind of elder that they use to make this drink, but the taste is quite close. This year the cartons have been replaced by elder flower syrup in bottles of 500 ml, which is quite fine with me – I always liked to fix my own drink. I mix the syrup with sparkling water for the effervescence and I add a few slices of lemon as the syrup tends to be a bit too sweet… et voilà! I’m almost fooled I’m drinking the real thing!
Rose hip tea is also something that I used to drink a lot back home. My mother prepared it for me with sugar and lemon and I loved it hot on a cold winter evening. The rose hip is actually the seed pod of the rose, although I think that not all types of rose might be suitable for consumption. Back home we use it for teas and to make jams, but I guess if you mentioned this to people here, you would surely get a few surprised blinks. But tastewise and from the point of view of vitamin C content, there is one excellent replacement – the hibiscus. This is a tropical plant with spectacular flowers, one specimen of which is probably even sitting on your window sill. The chunky flower petals of some varieties are dried and used to prepare a refreshing drink that can be served either hot or cold. The taste is surprisingly close to that of the rose hip tea, quite tart but with a sweet aftertaste. As it is a tropical plant, hibiscus tea is largely consumed in African and Asian countries and I was able to find some petals in a huge supermarket just on the outskirts of the city (Bordeaux) that sells African and Asian products. A handful of petals are sufficient for about two liters of tea. They should be infused for about 15-20 minutes in boiling water, cooled down and then chilled. I add a bit of maple syrup to take off the tarty edge of the drink.
Well, I hope you have an elderberry, an Ikea, a rose bush or a hibiscus plant at hand to be able to prepare either one or both of these summer drinks and if you do I hope you enjoy! Let me know if you liked it! Keep hydrated and have a nice rest of the week everyone!