No matter how many years you have worked in the sun and the heat of the day, eventually you are likely to experience heat exhaustion. We all know the steps of hydration, but sometimes situations prevent us from taking care of ourselves well. We ignore the subtle symptoms that warn us to take a break and before long we find ourselves in trouble. Good hydration is one of the most important steps you can do to prevent heat exhaustion. To avoid artificial sweeteners, I opted to search for an electrolyte drink that I could make at home with all-natural ingredients. Switchel, the original homemade sports drinks, has been the drink of choice to maintain hydration and provide a electrolyte boost for decades!
An Unhealthy Combination
When Philip and I were on the homestead for the Spring Workcation, I got very sick the last few days of the trip. I had been on antibiotics all week, having gotten an infection just before our scheduled trip. It wasn’t very hot during our Spring Workcation, a typical spring day in Kentucky. I had been working alongside Philip all week.
On the day that we were planting fruit trees, I started to not feel well. I drank all the water that we had with us. Not one to complain, I pushed through trying to finish. Finally, it got to be too much, and I told Philip I needed a break. Our best guess is I suffered from heat exhaustion and dehydration. It was amplified because I was taking antibiotics, so while it wasn’t too hot and I wasn’t really exerting myself, the combination put me down hard. It was a rough few days.
One of our followers, Amanda at Homesteading Homeschoolers, suggested that I try a homemade electrolyte drink. Only after her comment did it occur to me that I really needed more to drink than cold water. I googled a solution and although I didn’t have all the ingredients to make it exactly, I thought I needed something. Using what I had on hand, I mixed up a simple recipe that really did help me feel a bit better.
I’m not a fan of popular electrolyte drinks or energy drinks available at the grocery store. Not to mention the convenience store sports drinks usually contain artificial sweeteners that I try to avoid. I decided I needed to come up with an alternative to an electrolyte drink that I could make at home. I was sharing my thoughts with my mom, Betty-Lou Seager, she asked me if I tried homemade Switchel in our family cookbook?
What is Switchel?
Switchel is a refreshing drink that was commonly used in colonial america Colonial farmers called it haymaker’s punch because they commonly depended on this concoction to help keep the haymaking crews hydrated on long days of work in the hot sun. Haymakers would store this traditional drink in a stone jug in the shade to keep it cool. Switchel or haymakers punch is considered the original sports drink!
Typically, it includes water, unfiltered apple cider vinegar, and natural sweeteners of some sort. There are many switchel recipes that include lemon juice, lime juice, ginger, honey, real maple syrup, and even brown sugar. It’s also a good idea to add a pinch of salt. Some versions of switchel are dark in color, while others are lighter more like a lemonade color. In it’s basic form, the different combination of ingredients creates different flavors to appease any pallat. In the winter, people would warm the switchel to serve as hot drinks and often would add rum.
Ingredients of Switchel, The Original Sport’s Drink
The ingredients of switchel are all well known for their health benefits. It’s no wonder that this combination of ingredients has been a staple for generations to keep hard-working farmers hydrated on a hot summer day.
Apple Cider Vinegar
My mom’s recipe has raw apple cider vinegar. Apple cider is well known for its health benefits. It includes many vitamins, sodium, potassium, calcium, magnesium, and phosphorus. It has been a popular home remedy for decades. It’s known to reduce blood sugar, reduce cholesterol and many believe it aids in weight loss. Apple cider vinegar that contains the mother is full of antioxidants and amino acids.
Molasses is what I would consider an old-fashioned sweetener. It is a byproduct of sugar production. It is repeatedly boiled to create a dense sweetener. Since molasses is boiled down multiple times it is a nutrient-dense product. Molasses is a healthier sweetener than sugar. it is rich in antioxidants which help prevent chronic illness. Be aware that blackstrap molasses is different from regular molasses and may taste bitter.
Ginger also is known to have a multitude of health benefits. It can be used in several forms. Fresh ginger root packs the greatest punch. I chose to use dried ginger powder because I did not want to strain the switchel. Ginger aids in lowering blood sugar improves heart disease risks, is a digestive aid and helps menstrual pain.
I chose to use raw honey in the switchel since we have plenty of honey. It is also well known for its health benefits and sweetening. It’s full of antioxidants and vitamins. Many home remedies contain raw honey as a base for its antibacterial and antifungal properties.
How Does Switchel Taste?
A glass of switchel is a bit tangy, with a slight sweetness to it. Initially, I taste the molasses. While I don’t mind molasses, I think in the next batch I will tone it down a bit, as it’s a bit strong for me. Likely I will cut it in half and see if that is better. Admittedly switchel has a flavor that has to grow on you. However, it’s not bad and it really is refreshing. I enjoyed this great drink cold with ice. The best thing is the recipe can be adjusted to suit your personal taste.
The next time you need an all-natural drink to replace electrolytes after a busy day in the sun, give switchel a try, it’s the original sport’s drink! A simple drink trusted by generations of hard-working farmers!
- 8 cups water
- 1 cup honey
- 1/2 cup apple cider vinegar
- 1/2 cup molasses (I recommend less, add to suit your tastes)
- 1/2 tsp ground ginger
- Mix all ingredients together in a saucepan.
- Heat gently to completely mix. (Do not boil).
- Chill before serving.
About the Author: Barbra-Sue Kowalski grew up on a small hobby farm. She was always drawn to farm life, however, she was stuck in an urban life far from her roots. Barbra-Sue was a single mom for 13 years, raising her 3 children on her own. She met Philip in 2018 and they married in 2021. Between the two of them, they have 5 grown children and 4 grandchildren. These empty nesters are following their dreams! As they both turn 50, they are building their off-grid homestead to live the life that they dream about. Learn more about Philip and Barbra-Sue here. Contact them here. To leave a comment on this post, please scroll down.