Switching it up
We’re a bit spoilt in this county for drinks; real ales, larger, cider, whisky, vodka and gin are produced to an exceptional and award-winning standard in pretty much every corner of Cumbria. However, they all share one common factor, and that’s that they are all alcoholic. So, when Laurie Freeman popped into the restaurant several years ago to drop off some samples of a new beverage he’s concocted which was alcohol free, made in Cumbria with organic and responsibly sourced ingredients and importantly unlike anything else around. We were definitely up for trying it. And for me it was love at first sip - delicious and really refreshing, and even better still bringing something different to the drinks market.
Like me Laurie is more than a little bit passionate about his food. He’s a trained cheesemaker and brewer obsessed with the provenance of the ingredients he uses, which as I’m sure you know is something that I can very easily relate to.
The first thing you may find more than a little bit intriguing is the name for Laurie’s creation ‘Zingi Bear.’ The name originates from the Latin name for ginger - `Zingiber officinale.’
As it turns out ginger was one of the first spices to be exported from Asia, where is originates, arriving in southern Europe in the homes of both the ancient Greeks and Romans via the spice routes through Persia.
That’s me heading off down a Roman rabbit hole. You might have noticed by now that I do like my history, and I guess in this instance that’s pretty relevant to Cumbria too, with Hadrian’s Wall, the vast network of forts such as , Brocavum at Brougham and Galava at Ambleside, associated interlinking roads like High Street and Stanegate, temples and ports at places like Maryport & Ravenglass and more recently the discovery of an Imperial Bath House in Carlisle!
Any way I digress… back to the drink… The added benefit of Zingi Bear’s name is that it alludes to the fact that it delivers a real zing to the palate when drunk. It also identifies that this is not in fact a ginger beer, but a style of drink called a switchel. With the zing flavour-wise comes from the inclusion of apple cider vinegar.
What’s a switchel? Basically they’re an old-school drink that originated in the Caribbean during the 15th century, took off in the Americas in the 17th century, particularly in the southern states and latterly became popular on these shores in the 19th century, often drunk by thirsty farmers during hay timing, earning it the nickname ‘haymakers punch.’ I strongly suspect though with our links to through Whitehaven to both the Caribbean and the Americas that Switchels were consumed in Cumbria before many other places, especially with the inclusion of spices like ginger in many of our historic recipes.
Whatever the truth of the matter a switchel is a refreshing and rejuvenating all-round natural thirst-quencher! Big and bold like a bear I guess you could say! First off you are hit by the ginger, then gently mellowed by honey, and then lifted by the zingy hit of Sicilian lemon juice and apple cider vinegar – delicious!
When I found all of this out it reminded me of an old recipe that my Granny Adams gave to me; which she got it from her mum - my Great Nan. This inspired me to rummage about through book shelves and have a look for other interesting family recipes that I could perhaps doing something with or might even inspire me so that I could create a new dish or two for the restaurant. During my search I found a couple of loosely bound books, however, when I started looking through the recipes in more detail, I discovered they were all to do with household health or domestic-chores in some shape or form.
Lots of families up and down the country used to have recipes that they passed down through the family just like the ones in mine. Something the delightful Isabella Mary Mayson aka Mrs Beaton would be well aware of when she was pulling together her seminal household management book. Perhaps like me, with her Cumbrian heritage, she was also aware of one of the more glamourous collections of recipes kept in book form in the library at Muncaster Castle, which if you have the pleasure of looking through give you a fascinating insight into running the Castle over the centuries.
You see the thing is the word recipe has nothing really to do with food – it’s actually a physician’s term used at the start of a prescription for a medicine they recommend someone takes. In other words it’s actually a formula for the composing of a remedy written by a physician, from the French récipé and you guessed it from the Latin recipe which means to take! (Those Romans in again…)
Anyway back on track our family recipes like Muncaster’s were passed down from generation to generation, and were mostly for the purpose of keeping the children in the family healthy. Though I can’t lie, when I found a recipe for French polish it wasn’t quite what I was looking for! And the recipe for rheumatic embrocation was an interesting one containing spirit of turpentine and ophitic, whatever that is!
I’ll stick to trusty Calpol for Charlie and Bella for now! However though out-of-date, it was fascinating to read and get an insight into my Gran’s Irish family heritage. It also turns out the hot toddy is an elixir and my wife’s go-to drink when hit by a cold. It has to be said my personal go-to elixir is a strong gin and tonic, which as it turns out was also a ‘recipe; originally invented to fight the black death in 16th century but happily it also helps after a stressful week at a restaurant!
We use Zingi Bear in the restaurant in a couple of different ways, it features in one of my dessert recipes, though that is pretty complex and requires quite a bit of professional kitchen kit to make, so in view of that – I’ve decided to switch thing up and share one of our cocktail recipes on this occasion. Naturally, it features several Cumbrian ingredients, Zingi Bear from south Cumbria, Jefferson’s Rum from west Cumbria and Eden Yard Rapeseed Honey from the Eden Valley - you might say this is a planter’s punch with a kick…
Zingi Bear Cocktail.
100ml Zingi Bear
25ml Jefferson’s rum
25g honey rapeseed
25ml warm water
Dissolve the honey in the water. Add to a highball glass with the rum and stir to mix. Then add ice, pour over the Zingi Bear and adjust the flavour with lime to you personal preference.