Ahhhh, summer! That special time when you wish you could remove your skin and sit in a pool of ice cubes!
Oh, sorry, that is what I think of the heat anyway.
Summer is hot, but fortunately, it seems that nature has given us something that, while not air conditioning, is very refreshing and marvelously delicious. This something I am talking about is Sumac-ade. Unsurprisingly it comes from the Staghorn Sumac plant, one of our areas most common plants!
In Sciencese this plant is called Rhus Typhina. This plant has the habit of forming very large colonies that,while they appear to be separate plants, are often all the same plant connected by underground rhizomes. The "horn" is a burgundy/reddish color and has its greatest flavor while the color is at its brightest. This flavor I speak of is often decreasing with each and every rainfall that we experience. So while it is true that you can make Sumac-ade in the fall, chances are it will be an unfriendly experience for your taste buds. This time of year (July) the "horns" are either ripening up or just ripe. So get your knives and your baskets my friends, it's time to make Sumac-ade.
Here is the good news: Sumac ade is extremely easy to make.
Here is the bad news: Sumac Horns are often bug apartments.
Fortunately there is more good news; people have invented strainers! And strainers remove bugs from things we want to drink! So, to make Sumac-ade, step one, cut off entire horn of sumac (I like two per gallon of water), and stick it into a container of COLD water. The cold thing is important because it makes sure that you are only steeping the berry flavor and not the stem flavor which imparts a tannin filled flavor you are likely to not enjoy. Let this sit overnight and strain. Compost horns or use as odd juggling things. Now here comes the most important decision, sugar or no sugar. I personally enjoy the flavor of sugarless Sumac-ade, but I also enjoy the flavor of a nice sweetened Sumac-ade. This is all going to be based on your preferences. If you do add sugar and you want it to be all wild, try maple sugar. Thats what I do for my kids. If you don't have access to maple sugar then use whatever sweetener you like.
Either way you choose, I think everyone ought to try and enjoy a cup or three this summer. Give your taste buds a chance to try something new and unusual! Cheers!