If life gives you lemons, make lemonade!
Hot summers all over the world share many traits: bright sunshine, lush flower beds, boisterous family trips, kids out from school, long days, and sweat dripping off foreheads.
In the midst of all this is a common thread: thirst. And what better way to quench it in a flavorful burst than some crisp, cool, just-made-this-batch of down-home lemonade?
As a boy who spent summers under the Mediterranean sun, this writer's Greek mom Catherine, now 92, had a simple twist to a very basic lemonade recipe that was a hit in her Athenian neighborhood with the kids: adding lime on top of the lemons.
"Oh yes, the lime," Mom said. "That's something my mother and grandmother did in their ancestral village in Greece. That's back when they cooled the lemonade in clay urns by sitting it in a pooled up area of the stream behind their home."
But adding one freshly squeezed lime, Mom continued, can be done in just about any variation of lemonade.
"It adds a nice fresh zing to the tail end of the aftertaste," she said.
Another consideration when making freshly squeezed lemonade is what to do with the lemons beforehand. This seemed to be a point of emphasis among many lemonade aficionados.
According to Annette Dixon of Pownal, Vt., who takes joy in making lemonade for her grandchildren, the treatment of the lemon directly affects how much juice can be extracted.
"Rolling your room temperature lemons on the counter several times with pressure will yield more lemon juice when you squeeze them," Dixon said. "Also, confectioner's sugar dissolves faster than granulated sugar to sweeten with."
The joy of making lemonade, Dixon continued, is the ability to taste as you go.
"For that reason, I don't use a set recipe," she said. "It's way more fun to sample it as you go."
But recipes still rule, and there are about as many templates for lemonade as there are glasses in which to pour the final product.
On her farm in Woodford, Vt., Nancy Coleman, who grew up in the St. Louis area, said she enjoyed icy lemonade as a girl to cool off the scorching Midwestern summers.
These days, she enjoys cold lemonade on her vast country porch after a tough day of mucking cow stalls, baling hay and chasing chickens. She said she lost her old recipe long ago, but found a very close parallel online that does the trick.
"It ended up being even better than the original, and is now my all-time favorite," Coleman said, while putting a cold glass of her concoction against her forehead after a recent hot day of late afternoon farm frenzy.
She also noted the prior treatment of lemons, as well as a twist of convenience that could help speed up the process.
"People who squeeze their own lemons recommend microwaving the lemons for 10 to 20 seconds before squeezing," Coleman said. "That way, they get more lemon juice from the lemons and it is easier to juice. However, I've been using concentrate lately when pressed for time, and it's great — can't tell the difference!"
Reach award-winning freelance journalist Telly Halkias at email@example.com or on Twitter: @TellyHalkias
(Courtesy of Nancy Coleman, via allrecipes.com, with two variations)
1 3/4 cup sugar (some people cut the sugar to 1 1/4 cup)
1 1/2 cup squeezed lemon juice
8 cups water
In a small saucepan, combine sugar and 1 cup water.
Bring to boil and stir to dissolve sugar.
Allow to cool to room temperature.
Cover and refrigerate until chilled.
Remove seeds from lemon juice, but leave pulp.
In pitcher, stir together chilled syrup, lemon juice and remaining 7 cups water.
Nancy's Speedy Farm Variation: Use concentrate instead of freshly squeezed lemons
Catherine's Greek Summer Variation: After lemonade is made, not during process, squeeze one fresh lime into carafe and mix (Courtesy Catherine Halkias).
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