It’s ten thousand degrees outside, every part of you is drenched in sweat, and, like a dog or a performing seal, you need a treat in order to perform whatever new task is expected of you.
You need a good treat.
Not a low-fat smoothie or a Diet Tab or God forbid a protein shake. You need something delicious with enough pow and zap to launch your dilapidated meat corpse into whatever the next activity of the day is.
Hopefully there’s air conditioning. But even if there’s not? There’s iced coffee.
This coffee comes from one of the genuine legends of both cooking and writing: Ms. Edna Lewis. She’s a genius, everyone knew this, and I am just late to the party.
If you haven’t yet read The Taste of Country Cooking, you’re missing out. I love this book. I want to get it on audiobook and fall asleep to it. It’s beautifully written, like a clear glass of cool water. I could listen to people talk about what they cooked and why for 99% of my waking hours, but Ms. Lewis’s writing is exceptional.
More than that, though, her recipes are incredibly unfussy, and they really, really work. Her salad dressing is the best I’ve ever had, her fried fish recipe changed my life, her butter cookies are otherworldly. Go buy this book, it’s a classic for a reason.
One of the big life-changing recipes for us was what we now call Edna Coffee (she just calls it java.) It’s very simple to make, but it turns even the most acidic, fruity coffee into a smooth, mellow dream. No shenanigans necessary – no aeropress, no French press, no k-cups, no nothing. You could make this coffee over a campfire if you wanted to.
I’ve genuinely never had more buttery-smooth coffee in my life, no matter the state of the initial bean. It doesn’t jangle the back teeth or parch the throat, it’s absolutely delicious. It’s so smooth that you don’t need milk or sugar – it doesn’t taste like dark brown punishment, it’s gentle and mellow and has enough caffeine to punch you clear into next week, like a time-traveling Kool Aid man.
And over ice? Forget about it.
That smoothness means that it doesn’t create the acrid harshness of your average iced coffee, or cold brew or whatever you might be used to. You might think it’s not strong enough, but just wait for your eyeballs to start jiggling and the hairs on the back of your neck to start doing the wave, because they will. One glass is plenty. It is, in the words of the poets, FIERCE MILD.
You can drink it black and it will be great. You can have it over ice, you can have it with milk, or sugar, or vanilla or simple syrup or poured over ice cream and blended into a milkshake. If you were fancy, you could shake it with ice like a cocktail and pour it out, or you could blend it with ice and sugar like a frappuccino. I like to make it into what my sister calls “basically melted ice cream”, with lots of milk, and lots of condensed milk. Don’t fear the reaper.
Coffee recipe taken directly from Edna Lewis’s The Taste of Country Cooking. Go out and buy it right now. I’m not kidding.
Makes about 4 cups, or half a pitcher’s worth. I usually drink about a half a cup of this at a time, and fill the rest of the cup with ice and milk, so it goes pretty far.
You can also totally just pour this into a coffee pot or pitcher and serve it hot. It’s great hot, and a great way to make lots of coffee for a crowd. I just don’t have air conditioning right now, so I can’t think about that at this time.
4 cups cold water from the tap
5 level tablespoons of ground coffee
A pinch of salt
Cream, milk, sugar, simple syrup, condensed milk, vanilla extract if you miss your iced vanilla latte, ice cream, crushed ice, one of those little spritzy fans you used to bring to day camp, a lounge chair in the dappled sunshine under the trees, next to a turquoise pool at about 11am, somewhere in the Mediterranean.
In a medium saucepan, bring everything together at a quick boil on the stove, then lower the heat and let simmer gently for 12-13 minutes. Immediately add a splash of ice-cold water and take off the heat – let sit for a minute for the grounds to settle. Strain into a large bowl or pitcher to cool – I use a strainer lined with paper towels to make sure none of the grit gets in.
Once cool, store in the fridge until you need it.
I like it over ice with LOTS of condensed milk, or over ice with sweetened whipped cream, or just cold with milk and sugar. You can milk and sugar the whole batch if you know how you like it, and just have it on tap. It should last in the fridge for about two weeks.