For many of us, and for various reasons, the holidays can be a stressful season. Stress over money, extended family dynamics, and keeping the kids occupied can be overwhelming. I’d love to explore a few tools that we can all use. One thing that I’ve learned from my own experience is to catch these moments of stress before they happen. I have always known that a stressful time of day for me is late afternoon before dinner. So I practice my movement and breath and take a few moments to set the course for the evening. Another outlet I have is to take some time for creativity and make a fancy drink. There are many ways to relax without turning to the bottle so let’s get over the mom wine culture that the media has been feeding us, because we all have access to more tools than a glass of wine to wind us down. Listen to your body — you know best what you need to do to relieve your stress.
I know the effect that sugar has had on my kids since recently we’ve had Hallowe’en and a birthday party. The highs and lows of sugar effects have been strong. These highs and lows add stress to the body and our emotions and affect our ability to deal with anxiety. I’m sure you’ll be seeing some sugar in your life over the holidays, so here’s a recipe to take a little break from it, or at least use the natural sugars of fruit with minimal additions.
I love to add a little fermentation to my drinks because often that is where the complexity and pleasure lie. Sugar need not be the only thing that pleases the tastebuds, and we don’t need alcohol to experience the delights of fermentation.
Miso is a longstanding Japanese ferment made from soybeans (or other grains) and rice. There are various colours and depths depending on the length of fermentation and the types of grains used. White miso is a great introduction to the world of miso as it is the lightest and sweetest of its family. In my recipe below we’ll blend white miso with pears, which are now in season (or at least still happily waiting for you in cold storage from this season’s harvest), and an acidic base. I love to use vinegar in my drinks as it is a readily available acid and it’s local as well. It is a nice change from the lemons and limes which we have grown accustomed to having on hand, despite their long journey to get to us. Between “living” apple cider vinegar and the benefits of fermented miso, your gut will thank you for some healthy culture to aid your digestion and for a break from sugar and alcohol. Your hand will still hold a pleasing drink that you can use to toast the holidays with your friends and family.
When testing this recipe with my friend Beth, we tasted the base separately with each addition of a new ingredient. We couldn’t believe how a simple infusion of pears and cinnamon immediately turned to caramel with the simple addition of miso paste. Then we added a touch of apple cider vinegar and the flavours rounded out and became even more complex and delicious. In my second round of testing, I added ginger, and that was just the kick it needed to bring the flavours together.
If you have not purchased miso before, I would encourage you to stop by your local grocery store and get some! You can easily get it at EOS in Wolfville, or at the Superstore or Sobeys. It is in the fridge of the health food section. It is a living product and needs to stay refrigerated. It will be a welcome addition to your pantry as it takes anything you add it to up a notch. I added it to burgers this summer and wow! It’s also great in salad dressings, and of course in soups. Just be sure not to add it to boiling water as that will kill the living cultures in it. I have yet to try it in desserts, but there are many ways to use miso in sweets as well.
Pear Caramel Fizz
1 C water
1 ripe Bartlett pear (or any other ripe pear), peeled and cubed
1 cinnamon stick
1 Tbsp finely grated ginger
2 tsp white miso paste
2 Tbsp apple cider vinegar
4-6oz combination tonic water/sparkling water/ginger beer
Ensure you choose a ripe pear, as much of the sweetness from this drink comes from the pear. There is no sugar added.
Place water, cinnamon stick, peeled and cubed pear, and grated ginger in a small saucepan and bring to a boil. Simmer for 10 minutes. Leave to cool and steep for 20 minitues-1 hour. Remove cinnamon stick and add miso paste and apple cider vinegar. Blend with a hand blender or a stand up blender until miso is incorporated and the pear is pureed.
Cool the syrup in the fridge and mix 1 ounce of syrup with 4-6 ounces of tonic water (note there is sugar in tonic water) or sparkling water and ice. I’d suggest half and half tonic water and sparkling water, or half and half ginger beer and sparkling water.
Serve and enjoy!