Strawberry Lemonade

We’ve all heard the old adage: “When life gives you lemons, make lemonade.” And while the idea of turning something sour into something sweet is a great lesson, what happens when life gives you more than lemons? What if it gives you, say, strawberries? Lots and lots of strawberries? Because — let’s face it — seldom do we get only bad news. More often than not, life doles out lemons and strawberries in equal abundance (though, seasonally, not always at the same time). The trick is not to focus on each exclusively, but to look at them together.

This is a recipe that balances the tart with the sweet — a great example of how refreshingly complex things can be if you open yourself up to the possibilities of what is in front of you. June’s own little example of yin and yang. Strawberry Lemonade.

A cool, refreshing glass of strawberry lemonade

A cool, refreshing glass of strawberry lemonade

Daughter 1 and I stopped at Stults’ Farmstand after school one day this week to marvel at the fresh picked strawberries. And by marvel, I mean drool, and buy. Pint after pint, because this time of year, who can stop at just one? Daughter 2 approved, asking immediately when she saw the strawberries on the kitchen counter whether she could have one (and again, by one, I mean a whole heaping handful).

Fresh Strawberries from Stults' Farm in Cranbury, NJ

Fresh Strawberries from Stults’ Farm in Cranbury, NJ

With the temperature pushing 90 degrees I decided the time was ripe for a little refreshment with dinner, after our counter-side strawberry snack. This strawberry lemonade is easy to make but does take a little time to chill, and there is some minimal cooking involved for all of about 5 minutes. By briefly cooking the strawberries in a lemony simple syrup before pureeing them you’ll bring out even more strawberry flavor than if you pureed them raw. If you’re going to make this lemonade, start preparing it about two hours before you want to serve it.

We often serve up factoids with our recipes and today is no different. Doing a little research on lemonade I learned that the US version of lemonade — lemon juice, water and sugar — is known as either “traditional lemonade” or “homemade lemonade” in the UK, where “ade” drinks (lemonade, limeade, etc.) are fruit-flavored sodas. Suddenly the idea of a shandy makes so much more sense to me!

Why yes, I do believe I'll have a glass

Why yes, I do believe I’ll have a glass

I also love the multiculturalism of this humble little drink where, in other parts of the world, lemon juice may be mixed with ginger, or rosewater, or mint, or vanilla or — going in a more savory route — garlic or cumin to produce some complex variations on the lemonade to which I’m accustomed. Makes sense, considering how ubiquitous the lemon has become even in countries where it doesn’t grow natively.

That we chose to mix a homemade strawberry syrup into our lemonade suddenly seems a lot more plausible. Besides, if big chain restaurants can do it, we can certainly one-up them by using ultra-fresh ingredients and controlling how much sugar we put in our version.

I hope you give this strawberry lemonade a try. After all, it’s vegetarian, vegan, and all around good sipping for the early summertime!

Happy sippers

Happy sippers


Strawberry Lemonade

1 pint strawberries, washed, hulled, and cut into quarters (you may use frozen thawed strawberries if you can’t get fresh)
1 cup sugar (or equivalent amount of honey, agave nectar, or other sweetener…adjust measurements according to the sweetener you choose)
The peel of one lemon (use one of the lemons you will be juicing for this recipe and, with a vegetable peeler, cut large sections of the peel)
2 cups cold water
6 medium lemons, juiced to yield approximately 1 cup fresh lemon juice
2 pints (4 cups) cold seltzer water, or plain water if you don’t care for the fizz
Mint sprigs for garnishing

Begin by combining the strawberries with the sugar in a mixing bowl. Allow to macerate for 30 minutes to draw out some of the strawberry juices.

Transfer the strawberry and sugar mixture to a large sauce pan, add the lemon peel and water, and bring to a boil. Simmer for 5 minutes and remove from the heat. Allow to cool slightly, remove the lemon peel, and transfer the strawberry mixture to a blender. Puree well and strain the mixture through a fine mesh sieve into a large mixing bowl to remove any seeds. Throw away the seeds that remain in the sieve (there will only be about a tablespoon or two).

Strawberries and lemon zest cooking in simple syrup, and the before and after of straining cooked strawberries

Strawberries and lemon zest cooking in simple syrup, and the before and after of straining cooked strawberries

Add the fresh lemon juice to the strawberry mixture and stir well. Transfer the strawberry lemonade concentrate to the refrigerator until well chilled.

To serve, combine two parts of the strawberry lemonade concentrate with one part seltzer water (or plain water if you prefer) in a glass filled with ice. Stir to combine and garnish with a mint sprig.

If this ratio of concentrate to seltzer seems too sweet, use a 1:1 ratio instead.

Serves: 8 – 10

BONUS! For some “no kids allowed” ideas (aka, killer strawberry lemonade cocktails for the adults), try one of the following:

  • Strawberry Lemonade Punch: Combine 1 part strawberry lemonade concentrate with 1 part sparkling wine.
  • Strawberry Lemonade Vodka Cooler: 1 part concentrate, 1 part seltzer, and a splash of vodka served over crushed ice.
  • Strawberry Lemonade Margarita: 3 ounces strawberry lemonade concentrate, 3 ounces of tequila, and about a tablespoon of orange liqueur, shaken with ice and strained (or blended with ice for a frozen margarita).
A pitcher of Strawberry Lemonade concentrate...and some fizzy water to mix with it

A pitcher of Strawberry Lemonade concentrate…and some fizzy water to mix with it

Kid rating: four and a half stars. This pleasingly pink beverage is refreshingly tart — something our Stout Sprouts noticed right away. Not surprisingly, they wanted Strawberry Lemonade with dinner and again for breakfast though I can tell the tartness is a bit of an acquired taste. For our Sprouts, I used a bit more water than called for above to offset the tang. Also, they like theirs with plain, non-fizzy water. Which makes sense to me, since they don’t normally drink soft drinks. Garnished with a strawberry, this drink makes them feel ultra sophisticated.
Parent rating: four and a half stars. OK, I’ll admit that when we were making this I couldn’t stop counting the various cocktails into which it could be crafted (see the bonus section above!). But the simply beauty of this strawberry lemonade is that it’s just as good on its own as it is mixed with sparkling wine or another spirit. This is the quintessential summer drink, both nostalgic and festive. And what a great way to use some of those strawberries that are so readily available this time of year. Don’t be afraid to use a little more sweetener if your lemons are especially tart, or to hold back on the sugar if your lemons (or waistline) don’t need it.

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