There’s no beauty like snow beauty. The sun’s light is diffused through a layer of clouds, and then reflected back to us off the snow. At times blindingly beautiful, it blankets the world in fresh newness, turning the mundane into the magical.
Where I’m from, in New York, snow was a regular sight from November to March (and sometimes beyond!). Because of that, it became somewhat mundane by mid-winter, not to mention dingy. But here in sub-tropical Baltimore, the snow rarely lingers more than a few days, and rarely comes more than a few times a winter, so it retains much more of its mystical quality.
My partner and I, both Northerners, revel in these snowy days, shoveling the sidewalks in every direction from our house, almost as far as the eye can see. Our neighbors come out in their Pjs and chat with us, teasing us gently for “playing in the snow” (and many come out in coats and shovel with us). Our children come with us, shoveling the snow with their sand shovels – more often than not shoveling it right onto the sidewalk we just cleared!
Eventually, fingers and toes get uncomfortably cold, and it’s time to head in. There is no better time for a hot beverage than when your fingers are thawing and your nose is red – wrapping your hands around a warm mug and letting the steam caress your face is just what the doctor ordered. (If you have ANY signs of frostbite, including discolored extremities or numbness, don’t apply any heat or friction, just let yourself warm up gradually. Get help if needed.)
Hot chocolate is great, and if you make it estilo Mexicano, it has lots of warming, heart-healthy herbs, but it’s best in moderation. So here’s an idea for a delicious, nutritious, hot Winter beverage that you can drink freely and share widely.
Hot Lemonade is a treat. The sourness of the lemons, tempered with a little sweetness, wakes up your taste buds in a refreshing way. Lemons are, obviously, high in Vitamin C, which helps our immune systems function optimally. They’re also rich in a slew of antioxidants, which protect our cells against many types of damage. Scientists have even found correlation between regular consumption of lemons and lower blood pressure, as well as lower instance of stroke! Lemons contain many trace minerals and micronutrients, some of which are found in the peel or the seeds. That’s why we’ll be including those in our recipe.
If I had to pick one herb to keep on hand, it’s ginger (I’m slightly cheating, though, because I know I don’t have to keep Dandelion “on hand” as I can find it growing almost anywhere I go!) Ginger is a magical powerhouse – great for the heart and all the digestive organs, great for getting blood circulating to those cold limbs and digits. It also tastes great!
A big part of the secret to making truly excellent medicinal teas is understanding how to prepare different and herbs for maximum benefit. I plan to do a whole blog post on that soon, as I roll out a new line of loose herbal tea, but for now, I’m going to focus just on Lemon and Ginger.
Ginger, like many roots, gives up its magic slowly. To get optimal benefit from ginger, it’s best to make a decoction by simmering it gently for at least an hour. But Vitamin C, like many vitamins, is quickly destroyed by heat. So I’ve formulated the recipe so that you’re getting the maximum benefit from both plants.
Raw, local honey is head and shoulders my favorite sweetener. I buy it in 5lb jars from the Apex Bee Company and put it in my syrups and electuaries. Full of plant magic, gathered by magical bees, it’s an easy way to stir some goodness into your cup.
But never cook honey!!! According to Ayurveda, honey becomes toxic when cooked. Always stir it in right before drinking. If you need to reheat a beverage to which you have added honey, put it over a very low flame, stir it constantly, and remove it as soon as it starts to gently steam. In the pictures, I used Elderberry Syrup to sweeten my Hot Lemonade, which is why it’s pink!
The Mom’s market near me has really spoiled me this year with an amazing array of citrus fruits. I used organic, USA grown Meyer Lemons for this batch. But honestly, I think regular lemons would have been better, as they are a little more sour and would have rounded out the flavor a bit.
Unfortunately, all produce, even organic, is sprayed with pesticides when it comes through customs. Not quite as bad as plants fed on pesticides their whole lives, but still kind of gross. This is one reason I look for USA grown fruit whenever possible.
The other reason is that, as hard and unjust as life can be for migrant farm workers here, it’s head and shoulders better than life on tropical plantations. And I can fight for improved working and living conditions for farm workers here, while I can’t do much except boycott US/International companies exploitation of land and people in Central America and the Caribbean, and around the world.
If you can only get organic lemons from Mexico, wash the outsides with soap and say a prayer for the hands who picked them. If you can’t get organic, say a more fervrent prayer omit the peel from your recipes.
OK! Here’s the recipe!
Hot Ginger Lemonade!
1 quart filtered water
2-3 organic Lemons
1-2” piece of organic Ginger
1-3 Tbsp raw honey, or to taste
Pour water into a saucepan, cover, and bring to a boil over a medium high flame.
When water boils, turn the flame down to low and slice in the ginger. The more surface area, the more flavor. But don’t cut it so small it’s hard to strain out!
Replace the cover and let simmer for half an hour or more, checking occasionally to make sure there’s plenty of water.* If you need to add water, add it slowly so temp. stays consistent. (And turn down the flame or put the lid on better.)
Cut 2 of the lemons in half and squeeze their juices into a cup. If you want, you can fish out the seeds and put them in the pot. Then add 1.5 of the peels (three halves) to the pot for the last 15-30 minutes of cooking.
After a total of about an hour on the stove, turn off the flame and add the last ½ peel and replace the cover for 5-10 minutes, then strain (you can put the lemon peels in your dishwater for extra grease-cutting action and uplitfing smell!) Add the honey and the lemon juice and stir to mix.
Cut the last lemon into rounds or wedges to garnish if you wish.
Serve and enjoy!
Replace the honey with Elderberry Syrup (pictured here) or Down A Notch Syrup
Add 2 Cinnamon Sticks and/or a teaspoon of Cloves while the Ginger is simmering
Garnish instead with Star Anise, Cinnamon Sticks or Orange slices
Add Irish Whiskey, a cordial or a liquor to your cup before drinking 😉
Stay warm out there!
*Update: readers have pointed out that an hour is a log time to wait for a hot drink when you’re cold! Try making the Ginger decoction ahead of time for maximum benefits, or simmer for 10 minutes and call it a day!