It’s lemonade stand season – I’ve seen a few in the past weeks, and they’re sure to increase as kids wrap up school and are off for the summer. My son and his cousin have their own system of making lemonade from scratch using fresh lemon halves, sugar and a vintage lemon juicer my sister bought at a garage sale – the lemonade making is more of a production, drawing small crowds of neighbours and friends on bikes to check out the process. They squeeze a whole lemon, halved, straight into the glass, then add sugar and water (or sparkling water) to fill it up. They’re known around these parts for having the most authentic lemonade on the block. (And cookies, of course.)
If you don’t happen to have a vintage lemon juicer in your basement, it’s easy to make your own lemonade concentrate from scratch – it’s just a simple syrup, made with lemon juice instead of water. You could go equal parts lemon juice (or lime, or grapefruit) and sugar, or 2:3 sugar to juice (you’ll need even less with pink grapefruit, but go by taste). Bring it to a simmer just until the sugar is dissolved, and that’s it – you’re done.
I made a couple batches on BT Calgary this morning for the folks at Sunkist, who grow citrus year-round. (In spring and over the winter, try using Meyer lemons, which are thought to be a cross between lemons and mandarin oranges – they’re juicy and mild in flavour.) Of course making your own provides the opportunity to add other flavours to the lemonade concentrate as well – a handful of fresh mint, a few sprigs of rosemary or thyme, fresh ginger, fresh lavender, chopped rhubarb or loose tea leaves all make divine, interesting lemonade bases. Or make your own pink lemonade by grating a bit of raw beet into the syrup, then straining it into a pitcher or jar to store. Look at that pink colour! It doesn’t make the lemonade taste like beets, but adds a very mild earthiness that’s delicious with the fresh citrus.
Stash your lemonade concentrate in the fridge for up to two weeks, and use it to make lemonade by the pitcher or glass. Of course grown-ups can add a drizzle to prosecco or cocktails – a version made with lime juice and mint is particularly tasty in a bubbly gin or vodka cocktail. Happy summer!