Thus far at Hungry Pumpkin, we have devoted ourselves almost exclusively to food. That all changes today! Today, we venture into the realm of drinks. You have probably noticed that we love unusual foods and combinations, and we intend to stick with that for our drinks. So, without further ado, let us present three very unusual beverages!
Our first drink, boza, comes to us from the Orient, especially Turkey as well as up into the Balkan Peninsula. From the far east, we bring you buckwheat tea, which has a long tradition of use and still enjoys great popularity. Finally, the last drink is of our own invention, inspired by modern culinary trends: apple juice with hydrolat.
Boza could be said to be a cross between beer and soured milk. Despite this way of describing it, it is actually vegan and is usually free from gluten. It is similar to beer in that it is made by fermenting grains. Unlike in beer where fermentation is done by yeast (a fungus), bacteria (such as lactic acid bacteria) carry out this role in making boza. Lactic acid bacteria convert carbohydrates (such as starch and sugar) into lactic acid and other organic acids, while also producing some alcohol. The most common bacteria in boza are Leuconostoc mesenteroides and Lactobacillus confusus; the first is also used in making sauerkraut, while the second is often used for souring milk. As a result of all the organise acids in it, boza has a very unique smell, somehow combining whiffs of pears, peaches, honey, and hazelnuts all at once! It is slightly acidic, though also sweet, and thus reminiscent of a thick fruit juice.
In addition, boza also contains probiotic microorganisms. These microorganisms are said by the World Health Organisation to have beneficial effects on health. For example, they may decrease intestinal infections and inflammation and have effects on our immune systems. These organisms survive the harsh environment of our stomachs to then attach to cells in the intestinal mucosa, and are also helpful as they compete with pathogenic microorganisms competing for the same sites. Such pathogens can cause inflammation and increased risk of colon cancer. Lactobacillus plantarum strains used in making boza are said to have probiotic properties.
As we said, boza comes from the Orient and the Balkans, and can range in its thickness from a total liquid to being as thick as tomato paste! Though usually thinner and consumed as a drink, the thicker types can be consumed with a spoon. The colour depends on the grains used; it will have a yellow colour if con is used, while millet, rice, or wheat will lead to a lighter colour.
Use 1.5 tablespoons of flour for each litre of boza you wish to make. Mix this well in a bit of cold water. Pour this mixture into a litre of boiling water before adding six tablespoons of sugar and cooking for half an hour. Once the mixture cools to below 30 degrees, the bacterial culture is added. To do this properly, you add as much as a tablespoon of the bacteria, which would be harvested from a previous preparation or received from friends. If you do not have this, you can improvise by adding sour milk, although this involves a different bacterium than Lactococcus lactis and Leuconostoc citrovorum. Yoghurt is not suitable as a source of bacteria as it contains thermophilic bacteria Lactobacillus bulgaricus and Streptococcus thermophilus, which need a temperature of about 45 degrees for growth. You could also try using a bit of sourdough starter as a source of bacteria. The beverage is covered once your bacteria are added and should be left for 2-3 days at room temperature. Then, cool it before serving and season with cinnamon to really make it tasty!
When you search for buckwheat tea on google, you will get a lot of hits, generally focused on using dried leaves and flowers of this plant to make tea. Though this tea does have some interesting medicinal properties (such as for varicose veins, more to come on this), it does not taste good. That being said, we have made a delicious tea using the grains of Tartary buckwheat, known for having grains that are smaller and longer as well as being more yellow and bitter than regular buckwheat. Buckwheat tea is a popular beverage in Japan, China, and Korea. It can be made from the untreated grains, or, as in Korea, can be infused after the grains have been roasted. In Japan, however, barley grains are often used instead of buckwheat and are roasted before infusion.
The substances in such buckwheat tea, that are good for our health were investigated together by Korean and Slovenian scientist including Hungry Pumpkin team members (link to our results).
We began by roasting two tablespoons of Tartary buckwheat in a pan without oil. The intensity of the roasting can be adjusted according to your taste, or you can even completely omit the roasting stage. We then poured in a litre of water, allowed it to come to a boil, and then let it cook for 2-3 minutes. We poured the tea and enjoyed it hot! It has an intense yellow colour and is pleasantly bitter. If you were using regular buckwheat instead, the tea would be much less bitter and have more of a brown colour. This tea has no caffeine, but is rich in antioxidant-acting polyphenols from the flavonoid group. It can also be sweetened to taste. We also used the grains as food after making the tea. Why throw it away when it is delicious and full of nutrients?
Juice with hydrolats
Hydrolats are the lesser-known sibling of essential oils. Like essential oils, hydrolats have a strong odour and are produced in a similar way, by distilling various parts of medicinal and aromatic plants. These plant parts are boiled in water or steamed; the water vapour (along with the aromatic substances) evaporates and is piped into a refrigerator where it condenses. Non-water-soluble aromatic substances float to the top of the water and form an oily layer- this is the essential oil. Substances that ARE soluble in water remain in the water and this part is the hydrolat. Another name for hydrolats is aromatic water (“aqua aromatica” in Latin).
Hydrolats can be used in cosmetics, where they are often used in skin care to refresh, moisturise, and cool the skin in summer. They can also be added into bathing and hygiene products and other cosmetics.
These versatile substances can also be used in our diets (though of course only those that are obtained from edible plants). They can be used to enhance the taste of soups, teas, juices, or cocktails. They are added in small quantities and just before the serving of a dish or drink. They may even be taken after a meal as a sort of culinary perfume.
We poured apple juice into a glass and added a tablespoon of hydrolat to it. We tried the taste of various hydrolats, such as everlasting, savory, lemon balm, and lavender. We personally liked the taste of the lavender hydrolat best.
Additional reading on dietary hydrolysates: