Wednesday, July 11, 2007

The world's most refreshing drink

I have recently been introduced to the most delicious and refreshing beverage known to humanity. All you need for this drink are two basic ingredients - málna szörp and ice cold (fizzy) mineral water. Now obviously while most of the people reading this can easily access the second of those ingredients, you may be less familiar with the first. Indeed you may actually need to make the málna szörp before you can go ahead and then use it in the drink. Oh, and by the way, in case I haven't flogged this horse far enough, the European centre of fizzy mineral water is Harghita County, Romania, and it is utterly great - I can either go and buy it by the case load for ridiculously small amounts of money (something like 0.8 RON/litre ≈ 15p/€0.25/$o.30), or I can just go and fill up a bottle for free in any spring in the vicinity (and every village has at least one spring. 25% of all Europe's mineral water springs are in Harghita County. Yes, 25% of all of Europe.) Not everyone is fortunate enough to live in this fizzy-watered paradise though, so you can just go and buy a bottle of whatever takes your fancy in the mineral water front. One day you'll all be drinking Borsec and Perla Harghitei, but while Romanian remains 50 years behind the rest of Europe, our water-exporting infrastructure is not ready to handle the huge demand that will one day see Harghita County world-renowned for its borviz.

So, what is málna szörp, you may be asking. Málna is the Hungarian word for raspberry, and szörp sounds like it should mean syrup. It probably doesn't as that would be far too easy, but it'll do (I've seen it translated as "cordial"). Since I've never seen málna szörp on sale anywhere, not even here, you'll have to make your own. This however is very easy:

Take your raspberries. I don't know from where you "source" your raspberries (to use the modern management vernacular), or how much they cost, but you can use any quantity (I'd recommend a kilo or more). We got a bucket full off one of the gypsy women down the market which turned out to be 3.5kgs (that's quite a lot of raspberries). Put your raspberries into a big pot (or two big pots if you've got too many to go in one). Mash them. Use a cup or something to squash them as much as you are able. When you've mashed them to a pulp, pour in a litre of water for every kilo of raspberries (this doesn't have to be mineral water, regular tap water will do). Leave them overnight.

The next day, rig up some kind of elaborate draining system. If you don't have that many raspberries, this will probably be a sieve which drains into another pot. If you have more than your sieve can hold, then you'll need a kind of muslin lined colander. In the pot into which the liquid is to drain put 1 kilo of sugar for every kilo of raspberries (I know that sounds a lot, but trust me on this.) Then go ahead and leave the raspberry mush/water mixture to drain onto the sugar, ideally overnight again, but a few hours ought to just about be enough if you're pushed for kitchen space.

Et voila. The next day you have large quantities of delicious sweet málna szörp sitting waiting to be bottled. So, you wash out a few bottles, fill them with the málna szörp and bob's your uncle. 3.5 kgs of raspberries produced 6 litres of szörp. And 6 litres of málna szörp goes a long way - to make the drink that will quench your thirst and set your taste buds atingle, you need to put about a centimetre in the bottom of a glass and top up with your ice cold* mineral water.

(*I should perhaps add here that my insistence on ice cold mineral water is a bit controversial. While you or I might think for a refreshing summer drink, ice cold is best, here any kind of food or drink served at a temperature outside of an approximately 20 degree wide lukewarm band is regarded as a bit suspect. People happily drink coffee that has gone cold, don't really like their soup to be too hot, and eschew very cold drinks. It's all very odd. I am regarded as a bit freaky in my insistence on drinking my hot drinks hot, my cold drinks cold and having my cooked food served hot. )


Anonymous said...

You can do a similar thing with elderflowers (or Soc, as the Romanians call it) and it's delicious - needs a bit of lemon juice as well as the sugar, though. And if you don't have access to fizzy mineral water you can just put it into bottles as it comes out of the muslin colander thing, with a bit of sugar and leave it to start fermenting. Leave it too long and it's not nice, but just a little while and it's fizzy and lovely.

This is, of course, the only thing the elder is good for. Don't believe anyone who tries to tell you elderberry wine is nice. It's like drinking TCP. In most countries where grapes grow elderberries do too. But they all choose to make their wine from grapes alone. There is a reason for this.


Anonymous said...

oops, meant to say, put it into bottles with sugar *and water*. Otherwose it'd be like drinking neat Ribena or something.


Andy said...

Yes, I've had that Richard, and I agree it is excellent. the people at Perla Harghitei have obviously spotted the commercial potential of that one and have actually bottled it

Alex said...

He, I haven't tried this stuff, but I can understand your feeling about having the drinks, and specially the food served cold. Several times, I have been waiting for 45 minutes in a restaurant, only to have the food served cold. Makes you wonder what the (insane high number of)waiters are doing meanwhile.

Great blog, by the way. Been reading it for a while.

Anonymous said...

Absolutely true! And those busy lives, or no sense of adventure (or no raspberries), can buy the syrupy part - zmeura (raspberry), soc, visine (sour cherry) - in bottles from Laurul, available from all good alimentare.

Marshall said...

Now, this is nice. Thanks. I appreciate how you blend the personal and the cultural.

I may just try this with our local raspberries. Sounds sensational.

Anonymous said...

Sounds yummy! I second the elderflower cordial (socata) but the world's most refreshing drink is Ayran (in Turkey, or doogh in Iran) - try it and you'll see what I mean.

Diana Adela Martin said...

feeling a bit guilty for not even trying home made recipes. what i actually did was going into a bar and ordering a shirley temple cocktail, very fizzy & refreshing. grenadine and mineral water :)

Spangly Princess said...

that sounds rather good, only I don't seem to see many raspberries here (Rome). I shall keep an eye out for them.

I know what you mean about the temperature thing since the Italians to it too, at least with regards to leaving hot food to go cold. Tepid roasts are not nice, nor tepid soup.

Anonymous said...

Oh! Your writing about the wonderful mineral waters in Harghita County is music to my ears! When I moved to New York 6 years ago from Csikszereda I was dying without my daily dose of Perla Harghitei. Soon I learned that there is no water like the water back home. I tried many French and Italian spring /mineral waters, but I was very disappointed with every one of them. However in the last few years I discovered that many Polish, Romanian and Hungarian delis have Borsec here in NYC. (price of 1 liter is between $1.50-$2) I don’t buy it regularly, but each time I drink it, makes me home sick!

Anonymous said...

I also have some great cocktail recipes, but I have no time to do them:(So my drinks are from bars.