Agua de fresa because....strawberries!
Summertime in New England brings not only heat but humidity. There is nothing more refreshing then a cold glass of water that has a beautiful hint of fruit to cool you down. Kahlo and I love to make beverages year round, but there are certain drinks that just scream summertime -- one of those is Agua de fresa! Agua de fresa, or Strawberry Water, is a light non-alcoholic drink made with strawberries. In the region in which we live, we have a very short growing season so when local strawberries are ready to be picked not only do they end up in salads, straight popped into our mouths, or into desserts, but they are so abundant that we also use them to make beverages. Using up your super ripe strawberries is perfect, especially when you can't eat them up fast enough!
This particular beverage is part of the family of drinks referred to as Aguas Frescas, literally translated as "cool water" or "refeshing water." You find these drinks generally referred to in Mexico and Central America but can definitely find a few variations in Mexican restaurants in the U.S. all around. They can be made with fruits, flowers (hibiscus, in Spanish, jamaica), or with grains or seeds (horchata is a good example). In Peru these types of beverages are often referred to as chicha, or if it's warm/hot, emoliente (though I have definitely had Agua de manzana, apple, in many a restaurant in Peru too).
Throughout Latin America and North America, Native peoples have
been using fruits to make natural fruit juices with indigenous berries by soaking them in water with maple syrup or honey. Today, people often use sugar as their sweetener of choice. Making your own fruit juice is so much more healthy as you know exactly what goes into it, you can control the added sweetener content, where your fruit came from, if it's organic, etc. and it's super easy to make. Many people do not realize, but certain varieties of strawberries are indigenous to the Americas. Colonizers and conquistadores found 2 different varieties growing; One was found growing wild in North America, the other in Central and South America. The first cultivated garden strawberries are thought to have been grown in France at the end of the 1700s. Today, we find many hybrid varieties to enjoy. Here in the U.S. about 75% of all our strawberries are grown in California, around the Watsonville area, where many migrant workers painstakingly pick by hand, bent over, in direct summer heat and sun.
This year, Kahlo and I decided to try our hand in growing our own strawberries (quinault variety). They are just starting to grow more rapidly but we certainly haven't grown enough to make agua de fresa. For first time gardeners, I am super excited that they have begun to produce enough to provide fun and healthy snacks, however. I would have taken pictures recently, but Kahlo ate all the ripe berries before I had a chance! Despite heavy rains this year which ruined some of our farmers crops this year, we are still finding a good amount in our local markets. We picked up a couple of pounds and got to work! As I have been working towards eating more locally and using more indigenous ingredients, we've stopped using cane sugar for the most part and have begun using more maple syrup, maple sugar, agave, and honey to sweeten when needed. The recipe below used maple syrup and it was so incredibly delicious! We hope you like it. Enjoy, amig@s!
Agua de fresa -- 8-10 servings
4 cups strawberries (stems removed), sliced
1 cup maple syrup
8 cups water
8-10 limes, cut into wedges (optional)
8-10 mint sprigs (optional)
In bowl, add strawberries, maple syrup and 1-2 cups water (to cover), and mix. Refrigerate for at least 4 hours. Also, keep remainder of water in the refrigerator.
After 4 hours, or overnight, remove mixture and place in blender. Using a sieve, pour mixture into your pitcher. Discard or re-use pulp, if wanted.
Mix in remaining water. Done!!
Note: Each cup can be served with a wedge of lime and a sprig of mint if you want to get a lil fancy!