Last week, New Yorkers suffered record high temps and my dad called from Boston to express his concern – namely for the well-being of Minna, my schnoodle.
There had been an incident of paw-fryingly hot pavement. So, off she went to pound the shaded trails of Cape Cod’s seashore by day, and pant under the cool ocean breeze by night.
And what of the girl left to roast in the city? I decided to quit bellyaching and take a cue from our neighbors to the South, who annually endure this forsaken heat. How do they do it?
If we’re to believe the movies, it’s through a steady regimen of porch sitting, and social fanning. But according to my pal Samantha, a Hotlanta native and resident expert on Southern living, it’s the iced tea that sustains Southerners thru the dog days of summer. Well that, and something known as, “Shootin’ the Hooch.” I’ll start with the tea and keep you posted on the logistics of tubing in Central Park.
Classic Southern-Style Iced Tea
Makes 11/2 quarts
This strongly brewed tea, also known as tea concentrate, is sweetened generously with sugar. It’s traditionally made with black tea, like Earl Grey, but you can use any variety you like! I’m a fan of Orange Pekoe.
6 cups water
10 tea bags or ¼ cup loose leaf tea
Pinch baking soda
2 cups boiling water
½ cup sugar
In a small pot bring 2 cups of water to a boil; remove from heat. Add tea and baking soda to pot, cover, and brew for 15 minutes (or put the tea and baking soda in a ceramic tea pot or glass measuring cup, boil the water in a kettle and pour over the tea and baking soda).
Remove tea bags, or strain if using loose tea, and transfer tea to a heat-proof pitcher. Stir in the sugar until dissolved and add the 4 remaining cups of water at room temperature. Allow to cool completely at room temperature before refrigerating to prevent clouding. Chill and serve over ice.
Note: Baking soda mellows the bitter flavor of tea’s natural tannins
Tip: To save space in the fridge, cool tea concentrate to room temp, pour into mason jars, refrigerate and reconstitute by the glass.
Tip: The amount of sugar in this recipe approximates the real deal. Being a tepid Northeastern gal, I fancy this blend with as little as ¼ cup sugar.
Sugar-Preserved Lemon Slices
While not entirely a purist, I die for Southern iced tea with these candied lemon rounds, which melt in the glass while you sip.
¼ cup granulated sugar, plus more for dredging
½ cup water
2 lemons, very thinly sliced and seeded
1. In a large, nonreactive skillet, combine the ¼ cup sugar and water over medium heat. Without stirring, bring to a rolling boil, then lower to a simmer and add citrus slices to the pan in a single layer. Gently simmer for 35 to 40 minutes, until rinds are soft and translucent.
2. Scoop slices out of syrup with a fork and transfer to a cooling rack placed over a sheet of parchment. When slices are cool, dredge in the remaining sugar and return to the rack and air dry until sugar has formed a crust. Refrigerate in an airtight container, between layers of parchment, for 2 to 3 weeks.
Thai Iced Tea
Makes 1 quart
This medley of strong black tea, spiced sweetness and cream is the perfect accompaniment to a spicy meal on a sultry summer night. (Think a Time to Kill.)
4 cups water
1/4 cup sugar
5 star anise
7 cardamom pods, crushed (use the heel of a chef’s knife or a mortar and pestle)
¾ cup black tea leaves, such as Oolong, which has a reddish tint
1/4 cup sweetened condensed milk
Half and half or evaporated milk, for serving
1. In a medium saucepan, combine water, sugar, star anise and cardamom. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring, until sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat, stir in black tea leaves, cover and steep for 45 minutes to 1 hour. Strain mixture into heat-safe pitcher and whisk in sweetened condensed milk. Refrigerate until cold. To serve, pour tea over ice and top with a splash of half and half.
Note: The intense orange color typical of restaurant Thai Tea is most often from food coloring.
Tip: Due to the strength of the brew, it’s much easier to use loose-leaf tea than a whole box of bags.
Makes 1 quart
Brewing delicate green tea in cold water insures the purest of flavor.
In a sealed container (like a mason jar or pitcher with a lid) combine 1/3 cup loose leaf tea with 4 cups cold water. Cover and refrigerate at least 1 hour and up to overnight. Strain and serve.
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