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Town Hall Brew

While gazing up from measuring Dichanthelium today I spotted a large patch of fruiting sumac. The past summer I had been itching to make some sumac lemonade, and the abundant stand of smooth sumac (Rhus glabra) presented an irresistible opportunity!

After a quick and easy harvest of the fruits (called drupes) that are found in compound clusters at the end of branches, some team members and I returned for brewing.

There are many methods for making sumac-ade on the world wide web. The variables are sumac berries on or off the stem, the temperature of the water, and the duration of the soaking time. I decided to try out two at first, both leaving the fruits on the stem, one adding cold water and a longer wait time, and one where hot water is added and steeping only lasts 30 minutes. (Sumac is pictured below, jars thanks to Gretel and Stuart)

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After many test rounds, two taste testers and I agree that the colder, longer brew time results in a more palatable, tart, and less bitter final product. The hotter, shorter method heats up the stems and causes them to release bitter sap. (In the picture below the sumac in the jar on the right was submerged in boiling water, and it is actively releasing sap).

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Future projects include sumac-ade popsicles, as well as fruit drying for winter use and spice grinding.

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