Winter is the season for citrus. Oranges, grapefruit, limes, and, of course, lemons are at the peak of ripeness this time of year. And that’s very fortunate during cold and flu season when we could benefit from extra doses of vitamin C in our diets.
When there’s an abundance of lemons and they’re affordable, it’s a great time to make up big batches of homemade concentrate to store in the freezer. It couldn’t be easier, and it’s a great way to have the means to mix up healthy beverages on demand. Since you’ll be mixing up your concentrate in variable quantities depending on how many lemons you decide to get, the recipe ratios for the concentrate are listed in “parts.” If you’re not familiar with this style of measurement, it’s easy to get the hang of. “Equal parts” of ingredients simply means you use the same quantity for each thing. For example “equal parts sugar and water” could mean one cup of sugar and one cup of water, or it could mean one tablespoon of sugar and one tablespoon of water — it just depends on the unit of measure you choose. It’s a really flexible way to measure, and one that I prefer when working with basic recipes because it’s such an easy way to scale up or down.
Photo by Fotolia.
• One part freshly squeezed lemon juice (make sure you dry the zest and/or candy the peels to use in other recipes — minimize waste and maximize your dollar!)
• One part water
• One and half parts sugar
1. First, make simple syrup by heating the sugar and water together. Watch it carefully — you don’t want to make caramel, just heat it through until the sugar is just dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature, then add the lemon juice.
2. Once the concentrate is mixed, portion it for the freezer. I like to freeze it in jumbo muffin tins (half cup per portion) that way I can make as little or as much lemonade at a time as I like.
3. To use the concentrate, you’ll mix one part of concentrate with three parts water, unless you like your lemonade super strong, in which case you’ll want to use one part concentrate to two parts water — it’s entirely up to you.
While ordinary lemonade is great, if you’re fighting off a cold or flu, there are two variations you’ll want to try — herbal lemonade and warm lemonade toddy. Both are great beverages to add a little variety to the hot tea with honey illness routine.
For the herbal lemonade, use one part of the water you’ll use to mix up the concentrate and make a hot “tea” with it first — I like to use equal parts lavender, lemon balm and elder flowers. Lavender is relaxing and soothing, while lemon balm and elder are both renowned for their cold-fighting abilities. They all have a flavor that is nicely complementary to one another and lemons.
Once the herbs have steeped for about 10 minutes, strain the liquid and let it cool. Mix with the remaining parts of water (either one or two, depending upon the strength of lemonade you’re going for) and the lemonade concentrate. Serve chilled or at room temperature, depending on personal preference.
For the warm lemonade toddy, you can mix either plain lemonade or herbal lemonade, and simply add a shot of brandy to it. Served warm for a tasty, soothing drink!
So, when life gives you actual lemons — make lemonade concentrate with it. You’ll be glad you did.
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