Press-Republican

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January 21, 2013

Agrarian heritage in a bottle

Vermont woman puts 21st century twist on haymaker's punch

CABOT, VT. — Honey Boo Boo’s “Go-Go Juice” (Mountain Dew and Red Bull) has nothing on the 17th century all-natural energizer and refresher: switchel.

Also known as haymaker’s punch, it was referenced as ginger-water in Laura Ingalls Wilder “The Long Winter” and was gulped down from its Caribbean origins to the American colonies.

The basic ingredients are molasses, apple cider vinegar and ginger stirred in water. It is served chilled, preferably. Sugar and honey are alternative sweeteners. Vermonters add maple syrup.

Before living in Vermont, Susan Alexander had never heard of the pre-Gatorade drink.

“My husband comes from this incredibly huge family,” said Alexander, founder of the Vermont Switchel Company based in Cabot, Vt. “He was one of 11 children and his mother one of 16 children. Family gatherings tend to be pretty big affairs, and they are pretty regular.”

Twenty-seven years ago at a family shindig, a sister-in-law made a batch of switchel.

“This is what her grandfather used to drink when they were haying. I had grown up in Binghamton. My grandmother was a farmer in Pennsylvania. I never heard of it. I was intrigued. I loved it. It was love at first sip. I could not believe this wonderful beverage existed, and I never heard of it.”

Fascinated with the amber-hued brew, she researched recipes and whipped up batches in her kitchen.

“I said one day I want to bottle and sell it because it’s so good and good for you. Maple syrup has a low glycemic index. It doesn’t give you the spike and crash like cane sugar. It gave them (haymakers) a little bit of constant energy. Apple cider vinegar is just so nice and tart and tangy mixed with this syrup. It slakes your thirst. That’s what they used to say in the old days.”

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