Shyam Sherbet – Drink of the Gods

Shyam Sherbet
There is an older post in this blog about drinks that make life healthier and more delightful here. However, when it comes to summer, one needs a nice soothing cold drink all through the day and night. It is because of this that commercial aerated drinks are such a hit. However, commercial drinks contain a lot of chemicals, some with known health issues and others about which not much is known, but one may not be fully assured about the latter because they are not natural substances. Food for life comes form life and whatever comes from a lab is suspect, at least to this blogger.

In Middle East and Asia where it is hotter, a cooling summer drink called a sherbet is frequently consumed.  There are very many kinds of it. If it contains the right ingredients, it can be a great health booster too aside from the fact that a nice sherbet is simply delightful. Made at home, it does not cost much and one can be sure of what goes into it. May I share with you the recipe of a Sherbet we make in our home during summers. It has been developed from traditional ingredients by me and my godson Shyamu and hence I have just named it Shyamu Sherbet because a recipe does need a name.

There are four simple stages to the preparation of this sherbet requiring a total of about half an hour of work.

First Stage, preparing the Stock: Begin with a liter of good quality drinking water. If one can find some from a Himalayan spring nothing like it but in case not, make do with the best available drinking water. To this water, add half a cup of fennel seeds, a quarter cup of cinnamon sticks, six crushed pods and seeds of green cardamom and ten to twenty almonds with their shells but crushed into pulp with a hammer. Now bring the water to boil in a stainless steel or enameled pot. And let boil for ten minutes. The woody broken almond shells are boiled with the kernels. They are strained out later.

Second Stage, adding the floral and herbal bouquet: the second stage requires four more ingredients. The ones we use are half a cup of dried scented red roses, half a cup of dried Palash flowers, two heaping tablespoons full of tea and another two heaping tablespoons full of dried holy basil leaves.  Add these to the boiling pot. Boil for another two minutes and turn off the heat.

Depending on where you live, you might have difficulties in finding all of the four ingredients of this second stage. However, you need not worry because you can skip some of them or use replacements from dried flowers used as tea in your area. Failing even that, replace with an equivalent amount of raisins. Holy basil leaves are now available in USA too in Ayurveda stores. Its Sanskrit name is Tulsi. There is an older post on the Palash tree in this blog if you wish to know more about it.

Third Stage, the sweetening: Now let your pot rest for about an hour and then strain the contents through a fine strainer or muslin into a second pot. Add half a kilogram of honey if available, otherwise sugar will be acceptable and bring to boil again until the sugar dissolves. Incase you are not comfortable with sugar, replace this with a natural sweetener – Stevia. There is an older post in this blog about that too. Once sugar is dissolved turn off the heat and let the mixture cool. It is also possible to use a mix of different sweeteners depending upon what is available to you easily. 

Fourth Stage, flavoring and scenting: This final stage too requires four more ingredients that are easily available anywhere. These are 2500 mg of vitamin C tablets crushed to a powder, a level tea spoon of citric acid powder, and some essence and red food color to sense. You could skip the red color but we do add some every time. If you can find vitamin C tablets from Rose hips all the more better. For essence prefer a dash of rose essence and another of almond essence if available to you.  Stir thoroughly and if some of this does not dissolve fully do not worry.

There is nothing rigid about the ingredients and if you wish to experiment with other ingredients or skip some that you can not find it is OK, but use replacements with caution because many end up with the sherbet of the devil instead of the sherbet of the gods by adding some nasty new ingredient like lemon or orange juice that is not compatible with the present mixture. Now bottle the syrup quickly and store in fridge. Consume over a couple of weeks since we do not have a preservative in it and in case any fungal or other growth takes place throw it away. We have never had fungus develop with these ingredients but some developed when some red dried flowers called Karkari, very popular in Egypt, and very delicious with a deep crimson color of their own, were used in the recipe.

The way to consume the sherbet is to add a little in a tall glass, some crushed ice or ice cubes and pour nice drinking water over it to fill the glass. Adjust sweetness to your taste. Stir lightly and your sweet elixir is ready. We have this sherbet at any time of the day and nowadays when it is so hot, instead of fruit juice at breakfast.

One can add a little alcohol to it - vodka - for a party punch instead of making the same old punch with cranberry, orange juice etc. It will be nicer and if the punch is allowed to rest for eight hours or so before the party taking care not to shake or disturb after the initial stirring upon adding the vodka. It will then have the same taste and effect as a good young wine.
My god grandson, Golu, wants to know why it tastes much better than coke or fresh fruit juice at our usual breakfast of eggs and toast, and my answer is the same every time – because it has the best of ingredients that mother earth gave.


keiko amano said…

I wish I could taste a glass of Shyam Sherbet, but the recipe sounds too complex. I've never heard of some of spices you mentioned.

Today, a friend of mine was talking about the people in 50 centigrade below zero so I told her about the high temperature in India. She said she heard Indians consume water melon a lot during extreme hot weather because the melons are the only one grow well under such condition. She also said Indians eat three melons a day to survive during the worst period. She asked me to ask you if they are true or not. If it is true, how big is a typical water melon? Are they cooled down in a deep well as we used to do in summer or by large cubes of ice?

Sending you cool breezes from Southern California.
ashok said…

Good to hear from you after a gap.How are you?

Keiko, the recipe is quite simple and the most important ingredients are the ones in the first stage that are well known and easily available in an American super market. The recipe is not difficult, it i just like preparing tea and adding sugar to eat to make a syrup that one stores and consumes later by adding water to it. many of the other things in the other stages can be skipped, just use the ones you find. a bit of tea is always there and food coloring too is easily available in a super market.

When I was young, watermelons used to be very huge about 2 feet in diameter but now smaller ones around 6 inch diameter are more popular. I think the seed has come from Japan perhaps or that is what they say here. They used to add ice cubes inside the older ones but the smaller ones can be kept in a fridge.

No Indians, do not eat three watermelons a day. LOL :), and many never have them including me. There are a lot of other fruit in the market and lot of other stuff grows in summer. Mangoes are very popular and bananas very common and cheap in India all through the year. but my favorite is green coconuts. I am not much of a fruit eater though.

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