The secret to making delicious homemade lemonade is finding fresh lemons. Tree-ripened lemons are so much more delicious and flavorful than their supermarket counterpart. Upon arriving at my brother’s house in Las Vegas, the first thing I noticed was a small lemon tree with it’s branches bending under the weight of dozens of perfectly ripe lemons. My son made his first batch of homemade lemonade; absolutely delicious. 5-stars.

Unfortunately, I don’t have my own lemon tree at home. So Chris Kimball offers some unique tricks to coax more lemon flavor out of supermarket lemons. I combined his recent tips together with his nearly 20 year old recipe for Classic Lemonade. The results were delicious; but takes an astonishing 6 hours (almost entirely unattended time). Overall, 4-stars. Still not as naturally flavorful as tree-ripened lemonade, but definitely worth making on a hot summer-like day.

More Tips:

  1. Chris Kimball has a trick to reduce the amount of sugar used (see here). Allowing the lemon juice to soak in lemon zest for 5 minutes allows you to reduce the amount of sugar by 10% to 25%, depending upon your personal taste.
  2. Lemon juice left to ripen in the refrigerator for 4 hours after squeezing have more complex flavor (see here). But Chris Kimball also warns that any longer than 6 hours the juice will begin to loose it’s flavor.
  3. If you want pink lemonade pink, add one tablespoon of grenadine.
  4. Always select thin-skinned lemons, that yield slightly as you squeeze then. They have more juice than thick-skinned lemons, even when the lemons were identical in size, shape, and weight (see here).

Rating: 4-stars.
Cost: $3.
How much work? Low/Medium.
How big of a mess? Low.
Start: 10AM. End time: 4:!5 PM.

The original Cook’s Illustrated recipe is here. The recipe as I cooked it today is as follows:

7 – 8 lemons, scrubbed well
1 cups granulated sugar (less 2 to 4 tablespoons if zesting technique in step 2)
pinch table salt (optional)
4 cups cold water

  1. Allow your lemons to come up to room temperature for 2 hours. Chill your 4 cups of water in the refrigerator (and allow to spend the last 45 minutes in the freezer; if you like really cold lemonade).
  2. Zest lemons into a small bowl. Juice lemons, adding juice into the same bowl with the zest. Allow to soak for 5 minutes, before straining into a serving container. Refrigerate the strained lemon juice for 4 hours.
  3. If you’ve let your lemon juice steep in the zest, reduce the 1 cup of sugar to between 3/4 and 7/8 cup. Add sugar to lemon juice, allowing it to dissolve and thicken for 5 minutes until into has a syrup consistency.
  4. Add the 4 cups of cold water, stir until combined. If you didn’t pre-chill you water in step 1; allow lemonade to chill in refrigerator for at least 2 hours.

2 Responses to Lemonade

  1. Sonya says:

    I had printed out the CI notes about using zest, too, but I didn’t know that there was any difference between sources of lemons. Thank you for teaching me something new!

    • Hi Sonya, I think living in the Northeast my supermarket lemons are particularly bad; dry, hard, and thick-skinned. 😦 The difference with my brother’s lemon was amazing.

      But CK’s tricks do help to overcome some of the problems with lackluster lemons. Do you live near fresh lemons?

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