During one Shabbos meal, my guest was in the kitchen while I poured bottled lemon juice, sugar, and water into a pitcher. She looked very surprised and asked if that’s how I always make lemonade. I sheepishly told her that we usually use fresh lemons, but we
were out of them so I had to make do. Her eyes got even bigger as she clarified that she usually uses powdered lemonade mix, and had never seen it done this way. And let me tell you, this woman was no newbie in the kitchen. She produces gourmet dishes and mouth-watering baked goods on a pretty regular basis. Definitely an aha moment for both of us. But, see, that’s what I love about this column. With just a few little tips and tricks, and tidbits of information, you can expand your repertoire to include more authentic foods in your family’s life. That powdered stuff is usually loaded with chemicals, and honestly, you can taste them. Fresh homemade lemonade is a diff erent story entirely. So, yes, go ahead and take your shortcuts when you need to (with my blessing!), but when you’re ready for the real thing and you’ve got the time, read on, and get ready to brew some truly delicious summer beverages.
A LEMON BY ANY OTHER NAME
Meyer lemons are a hybrid of lemons and mandarin oranges, yielding a sweeter, juicier fruit. They have thinner skin, are less tart, and are a fabulous substitute for regular lemons in almost any recipe. Meyer lemons are typically available between November and March — so remember to get them when they come into season!
There are probably a million ways you can amp up your lemonade and add even more fruity nutrients, but here are a few to start you off:
1. Add a cup of orange juice and a few orange slices.
2. Add a cup of pineapple juice and pineapple rings.
3. Add fresh peach slices for a gorgeous, summery drink (and enjoy the lemonade-soaked slices when the drink is gone). This is super southern. Just sayin’.
If you’re aiming to go gourmet and catering to a more mature palette, try infusing your lemonade with lavender, or add a few tablespoons of ginger juice. For an alcoholic version, add ½ cup flavored vodka or ¼ cup fruit liqueur to your pitcher.
MAKE IT SPARKLE
If you like sparkling lemonade, follow a basic lemonade recipe, but use cold seltzer in place of water. (If only everything in life were that easy… )
One of my personal favorites is putting mint leaves in ice-cold lemonade. Many days you’ll see me toting a large water bottle full of lemon slices, mint leaves, filtered water, and a squirt of honey. We all know we need to drink more, and adding flavor without adding too much sugar is a great way to do it!
For a fun and flavored lemonade, freeze different fruit juices in ice cube trays, like orange juice, pineapple juice, grape juice, and/or apricot or mango nectar. Add to the lemonade, and watch in fascination as the colors and flavors slowly release. (Do I need to get out more?)
There’s a proper way to sweeten lemonade, and that’s by cooking sugar into a simple syrup. Add sugar and water (usually in equal quantities) to a small pot on the stove, stir, and heat on low until you have a light, sticky liquid. While the syrup is cooking, you can add citrus zest or herbs (like mint or lavender). Simple syrup without any additives can be stored in a bottle in your cabinet; with additives, it should be stored in the fridge. If you have no time for pots, simply mix your sugar with boiling water, stir until dissolved, and then continue with your lemonade.
ROLL YOUR LEMONS
This is a great trick any time you need fresh lemon juice — press down on the lemon with your palm as you roll it back and forth on the counter, exerting pressure on the fruit. This enables the juice to flow more freely when you squeeze it. (Zest your lemons before squeezing them and store in tiny containers in the freezer for future use.)
HALF AND HALF
This popular combo has nothing to do with coffee. It’s a combination of iced tea and lemonade, and it’s super refreshing. To make your own, brew a small amount of strong, plain tea. Add simple syrup and cold water to dilute. Mix with lemonade, add ice, and voila!
RED, WHITE, AND BLUE
A beautiful summer dessert to show off your patriotism or just wow your kids with your creativity is layered frozen lemonade. Divide lemonade into three parts. Leave one untouched, mix one with frozen strawberries, and mix the third with frozen blueberries. Freeze until each is slushy (about 1–2 hours). Layer strawberry lemonade on the bottom, then add the plain, and then the blueberry. Top with a few small slices of star fruit to really take it over the top.
NOT TOO TART
Sliced lemons and/or limes may look great in the lemonade pitcher, but if you’re storing it overnight, remove the slices and store separately. The oils in the peel release flavor as they sit in the liquid, and can give a strong, bitter taste to your lemonade.
PRETTY IN PINK
The easiest way to make pink lemonade is to add a splash of grape juice. It adds just a touch of flavor, and it yields beautiful pink lemonade. Best of all, it’s completely natural and adds antioxidants to your drink. Another option is adding cranberry juice, which typically contains corn syrup, or adding pure pomegranate juice. Add just a little bit at a time, and taste and adjust as needed.
Authentic Strawberry Raspberry Lemonade
- 8 strawberries
- 4 oz (110 g) frozen raspberries
- 1 cup plus 2 Tbsp sugar, divided
- 1½ cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (about 10 lemons)
- 7 cups water
- extra lemon slices
- ice cubes
In a blender, combine strawberries, raspberries, and 2 tablespoons sugar. Cover with one cup water. Blend until smooth. In a small pot, cook remaining sugar and water together until simple syrup is formed. Bring to a boil, stir, and remove from heat to cool. Combine cooled simple syrup with pureed fruit and fresh lemon juice. Stir until combined. Add ice and lemon slices, and serve.
Quick and Easy Lemonade
1 cup freshly squeezed (or bottled) lemon juice
1 cup sugar
1 cup hot, boiled water
6 cups filtered water
1 lemon, scrubbed and
sliced (discard ends)
In a pitcher, combine sugar with ½ cup hot water and mix until smooth. Add lemon juice and another ½ cup hot water. Mix, and add filtered water. Stir, add lemon slices and ice cubes, and serve.
(Originally featured in FamilyTable, Issue 647)
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