Summer’s here! A first swim of the season, albeit an icy one, and a first long, cool, iced lemonade. Bliss.
I’ve been staring at two enormous bowls of lemons on my kitchen surface for a week, ever since I caught my neighbour in his garden and lowered a basket down over the rubble wall; we’re a good 15 foot difference in garden levels. This is a regular ritual in the spring as his citrus trees creak under the weight of huge, ripe lemons. They, and he, need to make room for this year’s, which are already forming on the trees having wafted their magical scent over into my garden a few weeks ago now.
I’ve already used up some in various lemon desserts, like the mousse, and frozen lots of juice in ice cubes. But still the glut continues and I need to use them quickly before they rot before my eyes. This last weekend was the first real feel of summer’s heat to come. Two glorious, deep blue days finally with no haze, Libyan Saharan dust in the air, nor messy rain on the wind. The car is melting inside at midday – literally; the vinyl on the inside of the doors has bowed out in a funny shape! Time to head to my local rocky inlet, a mere eight minutes away, and take the plunge. My heart almost stopped it was so cold, but what a great feeling to be in the sea again; the first time since mid November. My familiar neighbourly fish were there, nibbling the sea grass and playing hide and seek like Nemo. A single jelly fish, and some weird looking seed-pod-like things floating on the surface (‘jellies’ not seen before, the locals all said), didn’t deter me.
Back home to the still cool house and those lemons. After the beach, late afternoon, a long drink of real Lemonade is the second herald of summer. Winter fruit they might be, but summer’s the time we turn to that standby of refreshment, the simple, and simply flawless lemon.
Mint & Bay pep up this Lemonade
This recipe requires some forethought as you need to cook the day before and allow the lemon to steep with the bay and mint. These two herbs, the mint the more traditional lemon accompaniment, the bay not, add a bit more depth of flavour and surprisingly take edge of the raw bitterness of the lemon. It’s easy to make and you use up the lemon husks as well as the juice – so nothing goes to waste.
All images © Liz Ayling 2014
- 12 (approx.) whole lemons, unwaxedprint button transparent
- 2 litres water (approx.)
- 4+ tablespoons caster sugar
- good sprig of mint and bay, plus some to serve
- ice cubes
- Wash the lemons, then halve and squeeze out the juice. Reserve juice for later.
- Chop up the lemon husks roughly into quarters and place in a large, non-reactive, deep pan along with any pith and pips left over from the squeezing. Pour in the water and add the sprigs of fresh mint and bay leaves.
- Heat to boiling, then reduce and simmer for around one hour, with lid on.
- Turn off the heat, allow to cool a little then stir in the reserved lemon juice and around 4 tablespoons of caster sugar – or more to taste. Cover and place in the fridge to cool and steep the herbs – ideally overnight.
- When ready to serve, strain the lemon mix through a non-reactive sieve, discarding all the husks, pith and cooked herbs. Decant into a glass jug, adding some fresh bay and mint, and serve in tall glasses over ice cubes. Garnish with mint sprigs. Stir in more sugar to suit your taste. The lemonade will be a bit cloudy. Dilute with more water if you prefer it less strong.