So, I started the summer with a terrible hankerin’ for homemade lemonade. Yes, using real lemons.
Feeling a little overconfident, I challenged my friend Keith to a “lemonade throwdown,” Bobby Flay style. He advised me that his was superior and there was no need for a contest, but bring it on anyway. He and his awesome blogger wife Sunshine held an Independence Day party at their home, so I planned to bring some with me.
His exact snarky comment, as posted on Facebook:
All the fancy pants foodie techniques and organic lemons from the French Alps don’t stand a chance. There can be only one.
Well, I couldn’t make just plain old lemonade after that, right? I have to live up to my fancy pants reputation. So after a bit of research, I came up with this:
Amazing Basil Lemonade
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups water plus more to taste, divided
- 1 cup fresh basil leaves, washed
- 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (PLEASE don’t use bottled for this!)
- Peeled zest of 2 large lemons (3-4 of small ones)
- 1/8 to 1/4 tsp. cayenne or chipotle powder
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the yellow rind/zest (avoiding the white pith underneath as much as possible) off two of the lemons (or more if they’re small). Saving the peel, place the naked remains of the lemons in the microwave for 30 seconds, then roll them on a countertop with firm pressure. Cut the lemons in half and juice them using a reamer or whatever kind of juicer you like. (I like my Pampered Chef juicer if the lemons are small enough to fit). Continue the same technique juicing more unpeeled lemons until you have 2 cups of juice.
Put the sugar, 2 cups water and lemon zest in a heavy saucepot over medium-low heat. Tear and crush the basil a bit and place in the pot. Heat and stir occasionally until all the sugar is dissolved and you start to see the very first bubbles of a simmer. Turn off the heat (moving the pot if your cooktop stays hot) and leave the syrup to cool for ONE HOUR. Do not cheat! The basil uses this time to steep like a tea. Yummmm…..
When the too-long hour has passed, use a wire strainer to strain the mixture into a bowl, preferably one with a pour spout. (Again, I like my Pampered Chef batter bowl.) Then you can pour the resulting liquid into the final container of your choosing, using a funnel if the opening is narrow. We used gallon-size plastic juice bottles, because they’re easy to seal with the screw cap and shake up as needed, which is your next step: add 8-10 cups water, shake and taste. Adjust as needed. You may even need to divide your ‘ade into two bottles if it’s too strong. When you’ve got the concentration right, add the spicy powder of your choosing and shake some more.
I like to put the lemon peels back into the finished lemonade. But if you fish them out of your strainer, just make sure you don’t get any basil, as it is likely to turn funky. The peel, however, gets more tender, sweet and lovely over time in the lemonade. Enjoy!
At the party, nobody seemed in the mood to be judges, but both lemonades got good reviews.
But we all know who woulda won, right?