Old School Cooler: Barley Water

from Canal House Cooking, Volume No 4

Sometimes I want a cooling drink that's not too sweet, so I was intrigued to discover a recipe for Barley Water in the new summer issue of Canal House Cooking (Vol 4). I'll admit that it sounds a little odd. I mean, who would think that sipping on water that was used to boil barley would be a good thing, even with the addition of lemon and orange and a touch of sugar? But I cannot recommend this simple drink highly enough. It is indeed far greater than the sum of its parts. Read on for the recipe and a quick peek into the new issue of Canal House Cooking.

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Canal House has just released their fourth volume, coming full circle from last year's launch with the Summer issue, volume one. (See our review of volumes one and two here and volume three here.) This issue is comes with a snazzy cloth-wrapped cover in a brilliant shade of orange and endpapers featuring a lovely photo of summer fruits.

As with the other issues, the book opens with a welcoming letter from authors Melissa Hamilton and Christopher Hirsheimer. There's a nice chapter of appetizers and another completely devoted to the avocado. The soup chapter features chilled soups such as Consomme Bellevue (served with a dollop of unsweetened whipped cream) and Corn Soup with Lobster and Avocado.

Other chapters focus on herbs, tomatoes, luncheon salads, fish, the grill and sweets. The book ends with a few preserve recipes such as red currant jelly and apricot jam.

The 'It's Always Five O'Clock Somewhere' section is a regular feature and a favorite. I'm all for resurrecting the cocktails-before-dinner ritual and there is always inspiration to be found here. There are usually a few nonalcoholic offerings and this time the Barley Water recipe caught my eye. Curious, I gave it a try and as previously mentioned, it's a hit. (I'll let you know how my complexion is faring.)

Barley Water (The Queen's Recipe)
makes about 1 quart

This is Mum's recipe for barley water. If memory serves, it was originally called the Queen's Barley Water, pulled from a newspaper, the original now lost in time. Refreshing, nourishing, and very good for your skin, Mum kept a jug of this in the fridge to minister her little clucks, effectively, and most delicious it was, too. -- Jeremy Lee, chef of Blue Print Cafe, London

Jeremy grew up in Scotland's beautiful Taye River Valley, very near Balmoral, the royal summer retreat, where there is an ancient tradition of drinking barley water for its restorative attributes. Fifty years ago, popular lore credited the young Queen Elizabeth's beautiful complexion to barley water -- take that, Botox!

1 cup pearl barley
6 oranges
2 lemons
Demarara sugar to taste

Wash the barley well. Tip it into a pot and cover with 8 cups of water. Bring to a boil over medium-high heat. Reduce the heat to low and gently simmer for an hour. Strain and reserve the barley for another use (it is excellent in a soup of sorts), and pour the barley water into a large jug or pitcher. Add the rind of 3 of the oranges and 1 of the lemons, and all the juice from the oranges and lemons. Stir in sugar to taste -- it should not be too sweet! Refrigerate until cool and drink within a day or two.

Note From Dana: Be sure to keep the flame low and simmer gently. You do not wan't to boil the water away. (Ahem!)

Related:
Recipe Review: Canal House Cooking's Serious Ragu
Recipe Roundup: Lemon Barley Water

(Images: Dana Velden)

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