I would like to share with you one of my favorite summertime drinks that you can make utilizing the large and seedy cucumbers that would otherwise be unpleasant to eat. If you are a gardener who has grown cucumbers you know that it is very easy to miss the harvest for a few days only to come back to your plants to find massive cucumbers that are full of seeds. Instead of hanging your head low at the sight of all of the overgrown cukes, you can now celebrate - it's time to make some agua fresca!
Aguas frescas, which literally translates to "fresh water", is a popular street drink in Mexico and the U.S. My personal favorite flavors are jamaica (hibiscus) and pepino (cucumber). Cucumbers are perfect for making agua fresca because they consist mainly of water anyway, so a good portion of the liquid in this recipe comes from the cucumber to impart an amazing fresh flavor in the drink.
The secret to a well extracted agua fresca is to use a quality high-powered blender. I own a 1200-watt Ninja Intelli-sense blender that I absolutely love and use at least once a week for smoothies, soups, drinks, salsas, sauces, and much more. The Ninja is a nice affordable option if a Vitamix is a little too costly for you, but the Vitamix 5200 is also a great choice if you want maximum blending power.
Amazon has a great deal on the 1500 watt Ninja system right now, which comes with smoothie cups, a food processor, and the tall blender:
Equipped with a nice blender you are ready to make one of the most refreshing summer drinks in just a matter of minutes. The first step to this is to harvest (or purchase) cucumbers. Any cucumber will work for this, but I choose to use the large seedy cucumbers that were left on the vine a little too long. You will want to peel and chop the cucumber into small pieces and fill the blender up with about 8 or 9 cups. Add about 4 cups of water to the cucumber to fill the pitcher up the the "max liquid" line. Top it off with a 1/4 cup of lime juice and blend until nice and smooth.
Once you have blended the cucumber, water, and lime together you now have a decision to make. You can leave the pulp in the water and proceed to the next step as is, or you can strain the water for a pulp-free drink. I always strain mine and compost the pulp, but this is completely up to you. If you want a smooth and strained agua fresca then the next step is to pour the mixture from the blender into a pitcher or bowl through a fine mesh strainer. Use the back of a spoon to press the juice through the pulp and strainer, being sure to extract as much liquid as possible!
Whether strained or un-strained, the next step is to sweeten the delicious cucumber water to your liking. Cucumber and lime water is delicious by itself, but there is something magical that happens when a little bit of sweetness is added to balance out the acidity. To sweeten the water you can use honey, agave syrup, or sugar. If you are using sugar it is best to make a simple syrup first in order for it to blend into the liquid smoothly. Don't worry, simple syrup is very simple to make!
Once you have your simple syrup it is now up to you to add as much sweetness as you want to your cucumber and lime agua fresca. Personally I like to add 1/2 to 3/4 cup of simple syrup, but you can add 1/4 cup at a time and test for sweetness until you find your perfect amount. When you are happy with the sweetness it is time to chill the agua fresca, or put it over ice if you want to enjoy the deliciousness right away! Garnish with a lime wedge and a mint sprig and you are ready to kick back and enjoy the summer.
Hint: This can also be served with some bubbly to make a cucumber mimosa. Alternatively you could add gin or vodka to make a refreshing summer cocktail.
Written by Corey Wahl
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Corey Wahl - director of farm operations at Ronin Farm - Bryan, TX.