As I was researching the Palestinian cuisine for my book Plated Heirlooms,
I had come to learn a lot about Sumac. Apart from the popular Summaqiah (a traditional Palestinian concoction/stew made using sumac the recipe and origins of which are fully covered in the book), Sumac was also used in the Old Palestinian kitchen to replace lemon when lemon was out of season. Rightly, the red berries of edible sumac do taste sour and in the Palestinian kitchen as elsewhere in the Levant, sumac is sprinkled over food to lend its tart flavour (read more about sumac and its uses in this link). Sprinkled over fish for instance, it has the same effect as a sprinkling of lemon. As such, it would not have escaped them that a sour juice of sumac could in fact replace lemon juice when needed. And at some point people managed to find a way to get a sour liquid out of the otherwise non-juicy sumac clusters! They had soaked it in water and noticed that the longer you soak sumac in water the more sour and pungent the flavour of sumac is in that water. Eventually, they would strain the liquid and use the water in the place of lemon juice whenever needed and not available and whenever the more sumac flavour was preferred. We all know that where there is flavoured water or any liquid with flavour there is juice! And as such, people would sweeten the sumac water with honey, sugar/syrup to create a sweet sumac drink.
I had just recently learnt though that the native Indians of America had also been making a sumac drink, which nowadays is referred to as Sumacade! Basically the same soaked sumac drink, sweetened with sugar/stevia/agave… and served as cool drink! I love finding such shared recipes in areas/times that do not necessarily have anything to do with one another… just another testament of how food eventually unifies us as a species with the same needs and the same access to resources eventually the same common sense! When the focus is back on earth and utilising what it provides us with, the process is more or less governed by what’s available and what is needed… what can be done… and the outcome is always decadent!
Sumac has many health benefits most important of which are the loads and loads of antioxidants, vitamin C and its antiaging properties (read more on this link). This makes this drink not only deliciously refreshing, but also very good for you. Give it a try and see how you like it.