08 November 2010

Family recipe Monday: tea time

Almond tea

We're not quite sure what is going on with the weather up here on the prairies. It's beautiful, and that makes us suspicious and nervous this time of year, looking warily over our shoulders. By this time last year we had been socked in with blizzards at least twice and were well-braced for winter. This may all end this week, unless it doesn't, prairie weather being what it is. So we're soaking up the sun (and trying to overlook the smoky haze from a couple of weeks of prescribed burns) and gearing up for the cold times.

Smoke plume from a prescribed burn west of town. This is supposed to clear out the dead and dying trees that harbor bark beetles, which are very destructive right now.

My favorite part of a snow day is a lazy afternoon with tea, sewing and books, though maybe not simultaneously. Snow days force us to slow down and recharge our internal batteries. Right now that charge is a bit low after a frenetic year, and tea on a hushed day would do the job nicely.

Here are some cold-day wonders to save up for a snow day. They start with good black tea and/or fruit juices and spices to make a perfect blend. They pair up wonderfully with tea breads and cookies.

Almond extract arrived in West Texas at the very earliest part of the 20th century, and was used for medicinal and cosmetic purposes as well as in the kitchen. I'm guessing that the mild alcoholic content did nothing to diminish its popularity. The older girls always had vanilla, orange, lemon and almond extracts in the pantry, purchased from one of the traveling sales companies. The aromas had to have been unbelievably exotic when they were new in that dry land.

Almond tea
1 1/2 cups sugar
2 quarts water
2 T lemon juice
Lemon rind

Boil all together. Lift out lemon rind. Add 2 cups strong tea, 6 T more lemon juice, 1 tsp almond extract, and 1 tsp vanilla extract. Serve hot.
--Vada Brooks Johnson

If you're having a winter social, this one might be closer to what you need. You can adapt this freely for a smaller group. You could also mix it up and keep a gallon jar or two in the refrigrator to heat up as needed. Use it to thaw out the sidewalk-clearers when they come in.

Spiced tea
We were guessing that this was an older recipe even before we got to the note at the end.

8 cups water
Juice of 1 dozen oranges
8 cups sugar
Add 1 ½ oz tea (¼ cup) to quart of water
12 whole cloves
7 quarts water
2 sticks cinnamon
2 quarts apple cider
Juice of 2 dozen lemons

Serves 125. $1.88. (Notes from original card)

By my count, that is something like 3 gallons of what is basically a tea punch that could be served hot or cold. It would be perfect for cool weather. I would brew the tea rather than use instant, of course, and adjust the strength as needed. Plan to spend more than $1.88, too, alas.

This recipe is typical of the instant tea mixes that people started making at home after citrus drink powders such as Tang hit the general market. Many of us went off to college with a big jar and strict instructions to drink a cup a day to keep those old Vitamin C levels up. I don't think I've had it since then. OK, now I'm homesick and nostalgic, and I need to call my mother and thank her for giving me that little much-needed bit of home every time I poured the hot water into the cup, from the hot-water heater that she also provided. (N.B. There is nothing even faintly Persian about this, and I am at a loss to account for the name, but enjoy it anyway.)

Persian tea

2 cups Tang
1 cup instant tea
1 envelope instant lemonade mix
2 cups sugar
½ tsp cloves {ground}
½ tsp cinnamon {ground}

Mix well. For 1 cup, use 2 tsp of the mix. Fill cup with hot water.

Note on card “Recipe from Olton.”
--Vada Brooks Johnson, Shirley Johnson Shelton

The snow could start here as early as Tuesday. Happy Monday, and stay warm and safe.

No comments: