I’ve been playing with sumac this weekend. I happened to catch Rachael Ray talking about sumac as a spice for cooking. Up until now, sumac was that shrub we have out by the driveway; I hadn’t heard of using it in cooking. So off I went to Google and Pinterest to see what I could find. I learned that, not only was the sumac in my driveway suitable for culinary uses, but it could be harvested right now. I’d never paid much attention to these cones before, on closer inspection they are made up of tiny reddish fuzzy berries. When I rubbed a cone between my fingers it was sticky, and tasted tart. I collected several cones, put half aside to dry as a spice, and then set about making sumac extract. I put the rest of the cones in an ice cream bucket. I suppose the bucket was at least half full. Then I filled the bucket with cold water, and rubbed the berries off into the water with my hands, as shown in this video from Leda’s Urban Homestead. I let it soak for a few hours, and then strained through a mesh strainer and then a cloth. Now I had sumac extract. The next day I dissolved 1 part sugar in 1 part boiling water, and sweetened the sumac extract with 1 part sugar water to 4 parts sumac extract to make refreshing sumac-ade. So far so good. I made up a batch of sumac syrup according to this recipe. I haven’t done anything with that yet, but can imagine cooking it up with some blueberries and serving over pancakes. Then I went out and picked some more to make another batch of extract. I made a ‘lemon’ pudding cake based on this recipe, replacing the lemon juice and skim milk with 1 cup sumac extract plus 1/2 cup whole milk. The cake part of the pudding was an odd greyish, slightly pinkish color, but the flavor was wonderful. It was enough to convince me that I wouldn’t be wasting other ingredients (that I actually have to, you know, pay for) if I experimented further with using the sumac extract as a substitute for lemon juice in other recipes. Today I made bars adapted from a standard recipe for lemon bars. This one is a definite keeper, and I’ve thrown several pre-measured packages of sumac extract into the freezer so I don’t have to wait until next fall to make it again.
- 1+1/3 cups sifted all-purpose flour
- 1/3 cup confectioners’ sugar
- 2/3 cup butter, cubed
- 4 eggs
- 2 cups white sugar
- 1 teaspoon baking powder
- 1/4 cup all-purpose flour
- 2/3 cup sumac extract
- Preheat oven to 350 degrees F (175 degrees C).
- Spray a 9×13 pan with cooking spray
- In a food processor, pulse together crust ingredients.
- Press into the bottom of the prepared pan.
- Bake for 20 minutes in the preheated oven, or until firm and golden.
- While baking, beat eggs until light.
- Beat sugar into the eggs.
- Beat the flour and baking powder into the eggs.
- Stir in the sumac extract.
- Pour over the prepared crust and return to the oven.
- Bake for an additional 25 minutes until the top forms a crust.
- Loosen the edges while warm.
- Cut when cool.
- Dust with powdered sugar (optional)