363 days ago, on July 23, 1010, I wrote this post on a hot day. Now, in 2011, much of the United States is baking in an even more intense heat wave. While many of us love the heat, it’s a time to be careful. We all need plenty of good fluids. Sodas and alcohol are not the best way to lubricate your cells. And, if you are like me, I get about two glasses into my ten glasses of water a day and begin to rebel. I want flavor. This Strawberry Aqua Fresca is just the touch.
I hope you enjoy this recipe and, please, be careful during these intensely hot days and nights.
Fruit flavored waters, the agua frescas of the world, are terrific beverage alternatives in our summer heat. Sometimes, even the best of pure water can be boring. Conventional sodas have those lovely additions of caffeine, sugar, corn syrup and other wonder chemicals that, if consumed modestly, probably won’t kill you. In the summertime, who drinks modestly? It’s hot, I’m thirsty and I want something refreshing. Something new.
The solution is Mexico’s great contribution: aqua frescas made with melons, berries, or just about any fruit. I’ve already posted a watermelon agua fresca, which is delightful and quick to make. This one, with lovely but not-too-intense strawberry flavors, caught my eye for two reasons. One, I love strawberries. Two, this one is not quick to make. The fruit macerates for hours in sugar — just a little sugar here, it’s NOT a soda — and water before being totally ground up in a blender. Okay, on a shady Mexican street corner they would make this by hand and not use the blender. But, good lord, what a flavor level you can achieve in just two minutes on high speed!
Brian and I love lemonade, including strawberry lemonade, but this strawberry agua fresca is a bright new pathway towards beverage satisfaction.
Strawberry Agua Fresca
Yield: 8 cups
4 cups ripe strawberries, hulled and sliced
1 cup granulated sugar
8 cups water, divided
Ice cubes or crushed ice (optional)
The amount of sweetener needed will vary depending on the sweetness of the fruit you are using. Some may not require any at all. Sugar substitutes may be used to reduce calories further.
In a large bowl, place the strawberries, sugar, and 1 cup of water. Mash the strawberries slightly and mix well. Cover with plastic wrap and place in the refrigerator to macerate for approximately 4 hours. Stir occasionally during the 4 hour period.
After macerating the strawberries, remove strawberry mixture from the refrigerator and place in a blender. Process the strawberry mixture until liquefied and smooth. Pour the strawberry liquid through a wire mesh strainer set over a large bowl; strain the mixture, discarding the pulp and seeds. Add the remaining 7 cups of water and mix well.
NOTE: Traditionally an authentic aqua frescas are made without blenders and done by simply mashing the fruit with a fork or masher before adding the water and sweetener.
Chill at least 30 minutes (several hours are better) before serving. Serve with or without ice cubes. As a decorative touch, add slices or chunks of strawberries just before serving.