Life Gave Us Lemons

Back in the Spring I watched my lemon plant sprout it’s buds. They smelled incredibly sweet. And weeks later the first signs of mini lemons started popping out – green and tiny, but unmistakably lemons. Throughout the summer those babies get bigger and fatter. By the time fall arrives you can see them start to turn yellow. By November they are completely yellow and ready for harvest. But somehow I don’t get around to it until December.

Ready for harvest

Ready for harvest

Well, yesterday I started the harvest. And my family’s favorite use for those lemons is to make fresh lemonade. So our first batch of lemonade is now history. And I have enough lemons for another batch – maybe in the next few days.

One thing I always try to remember is to zest those lemons before I juice them. For me, a simple grater works quite well. I zest them onto a sheet of wax paper or parchment paper. I create small piles (maybe about a tablespoon each). Then I lay it flat in the freezer for a few hours. Once frozen i wrap each pile in some plastic wrap and put them all into a freezer bag. They keep most of their flavor for a month or two that way. Even after that they still have just dissipates. I just use a more than I would need if it were fresh.

You’ll see tons of different ideas for making lemonade. Many begin with making a simple syrup by bringing together water and sugar and boiling it down into a sweet syrup. I’ve done that and the results are wonderful. But I like to keep things pretty low-sugar when I can, so I tried a sugar substitute-based (Splenda) lemonade. And I have to say, the results have been pretty darn good as well. 

Zesting the lemons before juicing

Zesting the lemons before juicing

And you know what? Even with tips, tricks, and recipes aplenty, I have found that the simple method is just as good as any other. I squeeze as many lemons as I want. I add the lemon juice to a jug. I add water and just keep tasting. I stop when I get to the right balance of water to lemon juice. Then I just add Splenda – and again keep tasting. You’ll know when you hit the right balance. 

Lemonade is one of those things that can vary so much I’ve found that recipes just gets you in the “ballpark”. Everyone’s tastes are different. And each batch of lemon juice has differing levels of tartness and strength. Generally equal amounts of water and lemon juice are typically about the right place to start. Then just taste and adjust until you get just the right mix.

My advice? Keep it simple. All great lemonade really needs is fresh lemon juice, some cold water, and a little sweetener to be great. Enjoy the citrus of winter!

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