Tuesday, April 28, 2009

When life gives you lemons

So-called "spring" was short in San Francisco this year, just those few warm days last week when I wrote about tortilla soup. We're back to the usual, with highs in the 50s and intermittent fog, and I burrow under the electric blanket each night. However, there's always the hope of more warm weather (though if the climate fails to comply in the city, Marin and the Peninsula are really only twenty minutes away), and now I'm prepared. Prepared because I have the syrup for lemonade in the fridge ready to be mixed up at a moment's notice.

Harbingers of springtime abound right now: for the Christians, it's Easter; for the pagans (and the Communists?), Mayday; for our new CSA, the packing of strawberries in the box; and for me, several food-related milestones, like the first lemonade of the year and the first al fresco meal. We ate outdoors with B's parents this weekend in Sacramento, but technically our first outdoor meal was a few weeks ago when we were visiting my parents in San Diego. (My mom likes eating outside so much that many years ago my dad bought her outdoor heat lamps for Valentine's Day.)

Though everyone's favorite store (Costco, that is) often carries heat lamps, an easier way to bring springtime indoors is with lemonade. Once you've tasted this fresh-squeezed lemonade, the metallic tang of those lemon-flavored Snapples and Nantucket Nectars and others will become unbearable (don't say I didn't warn you). This lemonade is sweet and cool and refreshing. The recipe was designed with all age groups in mind, as it originated from the Anne of Green Gables Cookbook I had as a child. On reflection, I can't actually remember any scenes with lemonade (though it has been a while since I pored over the book).

The syrup is easy-peasy (equal parts lemon juice, sugar, and water) and, once mixed, stays in the fridge for at least a week. You can also substitute lime juice to make lime-ade (my brother is a particular fan of this iteration), but as I have plenty of Ponderosa lemons from my generous book club host S last Sunday, my next batch will once again be lemonade. It is essential to use fresh citrus for this recipe. Once you've made the syrup, simply dilute three to one with water or soda, garnish with a sprig of mint or rosemary, and drink!

I know the picture below for some reason really looks alcoholic (in other trickery, that glass has straight sides in real life), so you can also add some vodka if you like. Enjoy!


Makes approximately 8 c. lemonade
Time: 20 minutes active, 45 minutes total

For lemon syrup:
5-6 lemons
approximately 1 c. sugar
approximately 1 c. water

For the lemonade:
6 c. still water or soda water
mint or rosemary sprigs, for garnish, leaves slightly bruised if desired

Squeeze lemons, and measure the amount of juice produced (it will be approximately one cup). Set lemon juice aside. In a small saucepan over medium heat, mix together sugar and water to make a 1:1:1 proportion with the measured amount of lemon juice. Once sugar is completely dissolved, turn off heat. Allow simple syrup to cool (approximately twenty minutes, or longer). Mix lemon juice with simple syrup and refrigerate, tightly-covered (syrup will keep for at least one week).

When ready to make lemonade, mix together lemon syrup and water in a 1:3 proportion (that is, 1/4 c. syrup for every 3/4 c. water). Add plenty of ice. Garnish with mint or rosemary, if desired.


  1. Did not know that Anne of Green Gables Cookbook existed. I am buying this book!

  2. As I remember it, it's an adorable cookbook. I can't say that I've flipped through recently though.