How to make barley water

When I was searching for entries in the book which I could recreate myself this one immediately jumped out at me. I have lovely memories of drinking lemon barley water on hot sunny days as a child and it was something I was keen to recreate (shame about the lack of hot sunny days in March, damn you British weather!).barleyingredientsx600

The ingredients are nice and simple so I thought this would be an easy task, however I did not bank on the international barley crisis*. I tried my usual supermarket, no barley (not even in the health foods section with its shelves heaving with dried beans, pulses and obscure grains). I tried my closest supermarket, feeling more confident I would find the elusive barley as this is a ‘posh’ supermarket, but no, still no barley.

Supermarkets failing me I trekked into Cambridge where I sought out a health food shop and there at last was some barley. Ingredients secured, let the task begin <blows whistle>.

* There isn’t really an actual international barley crisis.

The instructions

The recipe comes from Cassell’s Home Encyclopedia (1934) a fascinating book full of amazing advice and instruction (there is a really lovely entry in the How to Skin a Lion on how to set a sundial that I also got from this book). The instructions are as follows:

barleycookingx600Wash 2 tablespoonfuls of pearl barley in cold water, put it into a saucepan with two pints of cold water, bring to the boil and boil gently till the liquid is reduced to 1 pint.’

It is at this point I realise my barley quest wasn’t quite as successful as I first thought, I had bought ‘pot’ barley not ‘pearl’ barley. A quick google suggests the difference is not disastrous and in fact the pot version may be a little healthier.

I left the concoction to boil and reduce for at least half an hour and it turned a lovely caramel brown colour. The instructions gives various options at this point, either adding salt, sugar or milk to enhance the drink, but I opted for lemon:

For large quantities of barley water as a wholesome drink make as above, adding to every pint, while hot, the  juice of half a lemon and one tablespoon of sugar.’

I squeezed in one whole lemon (not worrying about the pips as it was going to get strained anyway) and two tablespoons of caster sugar, which quickly dissolved.

I then strained the liquid into a jug to cool. Unfortunately I didn’t leave it long enough so when I served some up for the kids to try over dinner they were a little put off that it was still warm!barleydrinkx600

My 7-year-old was most impressed declaring ‘You made this drink all on your own – wow!’ He was fairly keen and said it was ‘warm and zesty’. The 3-year-old was less keen and said ‘I don’t like it’, while the 4-year-old was in such a bad mood he wouldn’t even try it!

It was nice warm, but was even better the next day when it had properly cooled down. It tasted really nice and lemony and almost exactly like the lemon barley drink from my childhood. I will certainly be making this recipe again as it was so easy and I can see it being a lovely refreshing drink to have on a summers day.

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