Staghorn sumac makes a lovely, vitamin-C-rich beverage sometimes called Indian lemonade. I’ve shared how I make sumac lemonade in a previous post, and this recipe is a variation on the theme. Fermenting the lemonade with wild yeast gives it some tang and effervescence, in addition to adding probiotics to your delicious beverage.
I often ferment fruits, and beverages using a starter like whey, but with wild fermentation, no starter is required. Read Pascal Bauder’s book The New Wildcrafted Cuisine for lots of delicious recipes.
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The source of the wild yeast in this recipe is raw honey, so be sure not to use pasteurized honey which will kill the yeast. Yeasts don’t normally reproduce in honey because the moisture content is relatively low, but as soon as you add water they will begin to reproduce and ferment your sumac lemonade.
Foraging Staghorn Sumac
Staghorn sumac’s native range is eastern and central North America. It is often seen growing along roadsides in full sun.
The leaves are pinnately compound with serrate margins, and are alternate on the stem.
There really is no worry of accidentally mixing this plant up with Poison sumac. Poison sumac does not produce the fuzzy, dark red fruit cluster found on Staghorn Sumac, and grows in wet areas.
More information on Staghorn sumac identification may be found here.
Harvest Staghorn Sumac by breaking off the berry clusters. It’s best to wait a few days after a rain, since rain will wash away much of the tart flavor in the fruit.
To test to see if the fruit is ripe, either lick the fruit, or wet your finger, rub the fruit and then taste it. If the taste is sour, but pleasant (not bitter), the fruit is ripe.
More Than Weeds
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More Foraging and Fermenting Posts
Sumac Lemonade Fermented with Wild Yeast
- 4 cups seed head of staghorn sumac broken up
- 1/2 cup raw honey
- chlorine-free water
- Place the sumac in a 1/2 gallon glass container.
- Add the 1/2 cup of raw honey and fill the container with chlorine-free water. Stir thoroughly until honey is dissolved.
- Cover loosely with a coffee filter or tea towel.
- Stir 3–4 times per day. Bubbling should begin to occur within 2–4 days.
- After your ferment begins to bubble, strain and transfer to flip-top bottles. Allow to ferment another 12–24 hours at room temperature.
- Refrigerate and enjoy cold.
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