Saturday, August 27, 2011


This as actually a recipe for a lemon flavoured syrup as opposed to lemonade per se. I mean, who needs a recipe for lemonade, right? Juice a couple of lemons, put the juice in a glass, add about 3 tablespoons of sugar, fill with water, stir forever, and voila! The purpose of this recipe is to avoid the "stir forever" part, and to get more mileage out of your precious lemons. So onwards!

The basic recipe for this comes from The Joy of Cooking. There is a cool section in there on drinks, and sugar syrups is my favourite part of that section. I found their version to be a little to lean on lemonyness (someone call Oxford!) so I've modified it a little.

A basic sugar syrup calls for two cups of sugar and one cup of water. You just need to add lemon juice to this basic sugar syrup later to make your instant lemonade mix. I'm telling you this now because I've determined (through much trial and error) that the perfect ratio of lemon juice to sugar (for me) is 1 to 1. The recipe in the book calls for 2 parts sugar to one part lemon juice -- this 100% difference tells you there is some leeway here, but if you want to reproduce Joe's Perfect Lemon Syrup, you'll need about 6 lemons, 2 cups of sugar, and a cup of water. And if you're feeling wild and crazy, throw the juice from some limes and/or oranges in there too!

The first thing to do is get the peel off of three of the lemons. Try to remove as little of the white pith as possible. I like to use organic lemons for at least this part in the optimistic hope that they aren't covered in wax and pesticde (they will be covered in mould spores however, so choose your poison; rinse them well regardless).

Juice all the lemons (and an orange or a lime too). Put the juice in the fridge until later. You should have about two cups of juice. If you don't, don't sweat it -- if you're between one and two cups you should be fine. Just remember how much juice you had and see if you like how sweet your lemonade comes out and adjust accordingly next time. (And oh yes, there will be a next time!) Or, if you're a big smarty pants, reduce the amount of sugar and water you use in the next step so that your sugar:lemon juice ratio stays at 1:1.

Ok, now for the sugar. Put two cups (or whatever, see above) of sugar into a sauce pan and add one cup (or whatever, see above too) of water. I am always amazed that two cups of sugar can dissolve in one cup of water. I stop being amazed as soon as I remember how long it takes.

Add your lemon rinds to the sauce pan and heat somewhere between low and medium, stirring occasionally until the sugar dissolves. You are bound to raise the heat as you get frustrated with how long this takes, so start lowish. Like I said, this takes FOREVER. (Ok, half an hour.) Don't be tempted to crank the heat too much, or you'll get a boil over that will leave you and your kitchen sticky til the end of your days.

I judge that my sugar is dissolved when I can see the bottom of the pan fairly clearly. The sugar I use still has some molasses in it, so my mix is more brown than yours will be if you use white sugar. Once the sugar is dissolved, cover and simmer for 5 more minutes.

Now turn off the heat and let your syrup cool.

When the sugar syrup is cool, get your lemon juice out of the fridge and pour it into the sugar syrup. Then get a funnel and some bottles ready to receive your genius creation! (Note: You should probably sterilise your bottles first if you expect this to sit around in the fridge forever. However if that's the case, you probably shouldn't bother making it. My genius way of avoiding this tedious step is to use the stuff up fast.)

I have a cool funnel with a strainer built in, but if you are not so fortunate, you'll need to use a seive to get the lemon rinds and any stray seeds out of your syrup.

Bottle up, and store it in the fridge. I like to use old whisky (or whiskey, depending) bottles for this. I figure they are pretty sterile to start with, and if there happens to be a few drops of booze in the bottom at bottling time, then so much the better. (Which reminds me, this mix is great for Lyncburg Lemonade if you are so inclined.)

To use your syrup, pour a bit in a glass and fill with water. That's it! I go for somewhere between 5 and 10 parts water for each part of syrup (i.e. about one finger of lemon syrup in a 250 ml glass) but try a couple and see what suits your fancy. I find a batch lasts less than a week (a couple of days if it's hot) but it is SO much better than any commercial lemonade preparation I've tried that it is well worth the effort!

Cheers to the lovely lemon!

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