How to make lemonade with real lemons

lemonadeIn Beyonce’s new album, ‘Lemonade’ she voices the well-known maxim “if life gives you lemons, make lemonade”. She also includes a recipe on how to make lemonade in a spoken-word segment on the album:

“Take one pint of water, add a half pound of sugar, the juice of eight lemons, the zest of half lemon. Pour the water into one, then to another several times. Strain through a clean napkin. Grandmother. The alchemist. You spun gold out of this hard life. Conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kitchen. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter, who then passed them down to her daughter.”

Her recipe is pretty much a traditional recipe used for homemade lemonade, including plenty of sugar. It’s delicious but the amount of sugar does change it from a healthy to a less healthy drink. Fortunately, when making lemonade, you can adjust the sweetness and even use alternatives to granulated sugar. Some people prefer sweet lemonade – I prefer it to be more tart.

Lemonade basically consists of lemon, water and a sweetener. The health benefits of lemons are well known. When you make it yourself at home, using real lemons, you can be sure it does not contain any preservatives or flavor enhancers.

Squeeze more juice out of your lemons

To get the most juice out of a lemon it needs to be warm and you must apply pressure. This helps to weaken the membranes trapping the juice inside the flesh of the lemon.

  • A cold lemon is more frigid than a room temperature one because the membranes inside it are constricted. Lemons at room temperature are much easier to work with.
  • Rolling the lemons firmly on a countertop also helps to break the membranes inside the flesh, making the juice easier to extract.
  • It helps to warm up the lemons in a bowl of warm water (not boiling or steaming). Keep the lemons in the water for about 30 seconds. When you taken them out they should feel warm to the touch.
  • Using a microwave to heat the lemons is another option. Pop them in for about 15 seconds. This excites the molecules and makes the flesh softer, so it is easier to squeeze.
  • Cut your lemons lengthwise for the most juice. This exposes a larger surface area of pulp.
  • I prefer to use a simple stainless steel juice press to apply pressure to the lemons It works better than a plastic one and it is easier to clean than a mechanical one.  Place half a lemon with the cut side facing down. Apply force by pressing down the handle and the juice comes squirting out of the lemon with ease.

Traditional Lemonade Recipe

Ingredients:
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
2 cups fresh lemon
1 gallon cold water

Method:

Add sugar and water to a medium saucepan and bring to the boil over a low heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved. Remove from the heat and allow to cool down. Pour the gallon of cold water into a pitcher and add the lemon juice and sugar water. Stir well and pour into tall glasses. Garnish with lemon slices and you can add some fresh mint if you wish.

Natural sweeteners:

For those who want to make lemonade without the sugar, there are a number of alternatives.

Honey – my preference is definitely honey, especially if it is the best honey. Instead of the sugar, use about half a cup of raw honey.  The honey adds numerous nutritional benefits to the drink and if you are worried about the additional calories, you can reduce the amount you use.

Agave – the sweetener is not the raw nectar that comes from the plant.  The sugars are processed by treating them with heat and enzymes. A tablespoon of Agave contains 60 calories, compared to 40 calories per tablespoon of table sugar. Agave has a low glycemic index – it’s low glucose content means it doesn’t cause blood sugar levels to spike. What people are less aware of is that it does contain a large amount of fructose. This may contribute to insulin resistance and have other harmful effects over the long term if too much is used.

Stevia – the leaves of this South American herb are harvested, dried and steeped in hot water. The liquid is filtered, purified and dried.  It has to be used very sparingly as it is about 25 times sweeter than granulated sugar. It contains no calories and does not affect blood sugar levels.  That is supposed to be a good thing but some experts speculate that when a blood sugar rise is expected and it doesn’t occur, it’s stressful for the body.

Xylitol – the name puts me off as it sounds like a chemical but in fact it is a naturally occurring sugar alcohol.  It is found in the fibers of many fruits and vegetables. The main source for commercial use is corn cobs. It is extracted and processed to make the white, crystalline powder that looks pretty much like sugar. It contains 40% less calories than sugar, however, and may be better for your teeth than sugar as it does not feed the bacteria in your mouth.

Conclusion

Lemonade made with real lemons creates a natural, healthy drink that tastes wonderful and replaces unhealthy drinks containing preservatives and flavor enhancers. The sugar is the one element in lemonade that many people are concerned about but it is easy enough to replace with natural sweeteners.  I personally prefer to use a small amount of honey in lemonade instead of using any of the other natural sweeteners. What natural sweetener do you prefer? I would love to hear your comments.

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