Labor Day offers chance to enjoy last sip of summer
This is the pinnacle of the year, the climax. The beginning of school, the end of summer, a forecast of fall, the kickoff of SEC football, weekends of tailgating, plus the 3 remaining holidays all converge on this one weekend. Add a devastating hurricane and you have a typical Labor Day weekend in the South.
If you’ve noticed, stores are stocked for anything and everything at this moment. And, when the temperature dips, even slightly, out come boots and scarves and it’s so hard not to put a pumpkin on the porch when there are Christmas decorations in the stores. And we’re all hurting for Texas and the people affected by Hurricane Harvey. Oh, Labor Day, you make me so tired.
It’s nice to have the day off. The holiday gives us a pause before the busy end of the year. There’s a lot that takes place before December 31, and it starts now. Makes me want a nice glass of iced tea and a few relaxing minutes to enjoy the last days of summer.
It seems that iced tea is at its pinnacle too. Nowadays you can order iced tea anywhere and everywhere and most is rather good. I confess I’m hooked. Tea’s been a popular beverage around the world for centuries. A taste for tea has discovered new lands, started a war, provided barter for trade and kept us Southerners from famishing during the sweltering days of summer. It’s been famously dubbed as the “house wine of the south.” There’s no telling how much tea we do drink! But thankfully, that just may be okay. It appears that drinking two or more cups is actually good for us. (Unsweet or barely sweet; too much sugar causes other problems.)
Consider your drink: Tea brewed from black or green leaves contains flavonoids that act as antioxidants to stop the destructive work of cancer causing free radicals. Free radicals are in the environment and in our bodies. The cell damage they cause contributes to chronic conditions such as heart disease and cancer. But tea reduces the risks. Unsweetened tea has no fat, no calories, no sodium, nor sugar.
Too much caffeine? Tea may be the answer. Regular brewed coffee has about 135 mg of caffeine, black tea only has about 50 mg and green tea only 35 mg per one cup. Decaffeinated tea has 4 mg of caffeine per cup.
Green and black tea come from the same plant, a bush that is a member of the camellia family, Camellia Sinensis. And because it grows well in the South, tea could become a new cash crop. The color of the tea is determined by the processing. Green tea is dried for a shorter time than black and does not go through the fermenting process. Fermenting makes tea leaves black.
On ice. Chilling does not affect the health benefits of tea and is why it’s our favorite beverage during the summer. Leaf teas are easy to brew and chill and do not contain the extra flavorings or sweeteners that instant teas may have.
Every Southern cook has her/his own special way to make a pitcher of tea. But, the basic way is to bring one cup of water per individual sized tea bag (or per 1 teaspoon of loose tea) to a boil. Plastic and metal tend to pick up extra flavors so a clean glass container is preferred. If you do use a plastic container, reserve it for only tea – no juice, no punch, no lemonade, nothing that would influence the flavor. Pour the boiling water over the tea and let it steep until it reaches the strength you prefer. Leaving the tea leaves in too long, though, can give the beverage an acidic flavor. Tea keeps in the refrigerator for 3 days, 4 days at the most.
Drinking iced tea is a good way to get your eight glasses of water every day, too. Add a wedge of lemon or lime or mix it with orange juice for a different twist. To keep ice from diluting a good glass of tea, make ice cubes from tea. They’re good in fruit juice, too.
More please! Tea is good for healthy bones and teeth. It’s a great source of fluoride and phytochemicals that may promote stronger bones and tannins which seem to slow the growth of plaque around teeth. Strong teeth and less plaque are the key to keeping your teeth into old age.
Relax! You can have your tea…and drink it too.
So cheers to a good Labor Day weekend. Relax for a minute. Things are about to really get rolling.
Recipe of the Week
Smoked Turkey Breast
Slice, shred, serve on buns or on a salad with a nice glass of iced tea.
Hickory wood chunks
1 tablespoon salt
1 tablespoon garlic powder
1 tablespoon dried rosemary
1 tablespoon cracked black pepper
1 5-pound bone-in turkey breast
Soak wood chunks in water for 1 hour. Combine spices; rub mixture over turkey breast. Prepare smoker per instructions. Place wood chips on coals or in bottom of smoker, fill water pan to fill line. Place turkey breast in center of lower rack. Cook covered for 5 – 6 hours or until thermometer registers 170 degrees. Add additional water as needed. Remove from smoker; let stand 10 minutes before slicing. Makes 6 – 8 servings.