Lyndell Goolsby on Switchel

December 31, 2022 • 0 comments

“Now the sun and the wind were hotter and Laura’s legs quivered while she made them trample the hay. She was glad to rest for the little times between the field and the stack. She was thirsty, then she was thirstier, and then she was so thirsty that she could think of nothing else. It seemed forever till ten o’clock when Carrie came lugging the jug half-full. “Pa told Laura to drink first but not too much. Nothing was ever so good as that cool wetness going down her throat. At the taste of it she stopped in surprise and Carrie clapped her hands and cried out, laughing, ‘Don’t tell, Laura, don’t tell till Pa tastes it!’ “Ma had sent them ginger-water. She had sweetened the cool well-water with sugar, flavored it with vinegar, and put in plenty of ginger to warm their stomachs so they could drink till they were not thirsty. Ginger-water would not make them sick, as plain cold water would when they were so hot. Such a treat made that ordinary day into a special day, the first day that Laura helped in the haying.” Excerpt from Laura Ingalls Wilder, The Long Winter. One of the “ancestors' ' of modern ginger ale is ginger water or switchel, as the New Englanders called it. It helps to rehydrate a thirsty body like nothing else!


Here’s a recipe you might like:


Ingredients 4 Servings

1 - 5"-piece fresh ginger (about 6 oz)

½ c. apple cider vinegar

3 Tbsp honey, maple syrup, molasses, or other sweetener

1 Tbsp fresh lime, lemon, or orange juice (zesting optional)


Step 1 – Pass ginger through a juicer (you should have about ⅓ cup). Combine ginger juice, vinegar, sweetener, and citrus juice in a two quart jar. Screw the lid down tightly and shake until all of your sweetener is dissolved. 

Step 2 – Loosen your lid a little and let your jar sit out on the counter for 24-36 hours. This gives the naturally occurring yeast in the honey and ginger a chance to do a little fermenting and makes your switchel a bit fizzier.

Step 3 - Strain your switchel through the strainer into a clean jar and refrigerate until cool.

Step 4 - To serve, pour a glass half full and dilute with water and ice.

The chilled switchel base can be stored in the fridge up to a month.

Stir well before each serving, as the ginger tends to settle on the bottom.

If you prefer a non-lacto-fermented version, or if your thirst just can’t wait, drink it right away!