I'm fortunate to have a mature lemon tree in the backyard of the apartment I rent, and most of the time there are plenty of lemons that can be reached from a normal sized ladder (for the higher ones, it would be great if I could find a "lemon grabber." Does such a device exist?). On warm weekend days, or when I go to a potluck or party, I try to make a batch of lemonade.
The recipe I use is a bit different from the standard method. Instead of pressing lemon halves on a juicer, I mash thinly sliced pieces of lemon with sugar, thus releasing the aromatic and flavorful oils from the peel and dissolving the sugar. The flavor is far more complex than standard lemonade. It's not for everyone, but I like it.
Whole Lemon Lemonade
Adapted from Cooks Illustrated, July/August 1998
10-12 medium organic lemons
1 1/4 cups sugar
5 cups water
Measure the 5 cups of water into the pitcher or jar you plan to use for the lemonade in and place it in the refrigerator. For extra quick chilling, make your 5 cup measurement using a combination of water and ice cubes.
Wash and scrub the lemons very well to remove dirt and other garden residue. Slice each lemon in half length-wise, then cut into thin (1/8", 3 mm) slices.
By hand: Put the sugar and lemon slices into a big bowl or saucepan that has a flat bottom and that you aren't worried about damaging (e.g., don't use a pristine Le Crueset or non-stick pot) Use a potato masher to mash the lemon-sugar mixture. Keep mashing until it looks like most of lemon segments are all broken (i.e., juiced).
Using a stand mixer: Put the sugar and lemon slices into the bowl of the stand mixer (Do not put any ice cubes into the mixture! See note below.). Attach the paddle. Drape a kitchen towel or piece of newspaper over the mixer to contain any splattering. Turn the mixer on its lowest setting, and let it run for a few minutes. Remove the bowl from the mixer stand.
Pour the water into the bowl and mix lightly by hand. Set a large strainer on top of a pitcher or mixing bowl (preferably one with a pouring spout). Pour the lemons and liquid into the strainer; scoop out whatever doesn't pour. Let it drain for a few minutes, pressing lightly to release more juice. Transfer the liquid to the serving or storage pitcher.
Replace part or all of the sugar with honey. I once tried using some piloncillo (Mexican raw sugar), and the color was an unattractive yellow-brown and the flavor was nothing special.
Replace a few lemons with limes, oranges or other citrus.
Important note about using a stand mixer:
Although it is tempting to put ice cubes with the lemons and sugar to cool it down faster, do not do this! I tried it once and one of the cubes became stuck between the paddle and the mixing bowl, causing the mixer motor to make a hideous sound (and untold internal damage).
Image Credit: Lemon photo from elroySF's flickr collection, subject to a Creative Commons 2.0 license.
Random link from the archive: A Week of Eating (November 2006)
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