How to Make Tangy Sumac Extract


| 9/4/2013 9:46:00 AM


sumac drinkI’m not usually a big fan of fuzzy food. But by the time I’ve turned sumac’s hairy berries into a lemony, rosy extract, the fuzz factor is gone and the result is one of my favorite wild edible plant products. Sumac extract tastes something like lemon juice, has the beautiful blush color of rose wine, and comes from a plant that's almost certainly growing near you.

The tart flavor of sumac comes from tannins and from acids on the hairs that cover the fruit. You don’t actually eat the fruits. Instead, you extract their tasty sourness in water and then use that liquid in both savory and sweet preparations.

When I did a year-long local foods challenge , eating almost exclusively foods grown within 250 miles of my home in Brooklyn, New York, I obsessed about the lack of citrus, especially lemons. Our Brooklyn winters are far too cold for citrus trees to survive here. A whole year without a lemon in my kitchen? Yikes.

Sumac was one of the foods I relied upon during that extreme food challenge year to take the place of lemons in my cooking. Taking a tip from Wildman Steve Brill, I froze sumac extract in ice cube trays so that I could have it on hand year round.

You’ve already tasted sumac if you’ve ever eaten at a restaurant that serves Middle-eastern style food. It is one of the ingredients in the ubiquitous Middle-eastern seasoning blend za’atar, and it is the reddish powder sprinkled around the rim of your plate in Egyptian restaurants.



“Red za’atar,” as dried, powdered sumac is sometimes called, usually comes from Rhus coriaria, a sumac native to the Mediterranean region. In North America, we have other sumac species. One of the most common is staghorn sumac (R. typhina), a shrub native to the Northeast. You’ve seen this plant growing alongside highways: It’s the shrub with pointy, compound leaves and upright rust-colored berry clusters that have a cone-like shape.staghorn sumac

MikiD
9/16/2013 11:47:30 AM

I would advise care and caution the first time you try sumac in anything! I ate some for the first time in a Middle-Eastern restaurant the other day and had a massive allergic attack that almost put me in the hospital!


MikiD
9/16/2013 11:47:20 AM

I would advise care and caution the first time you try sumac in anything! I ate some for the first time in a Middle-Eastern restaurant the other day and had a massive allergic attack that almost put me in the hospital!




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