You know that old saying, that when life gives you lemons, make lemonaid? Well life gave us lemons.
So we made some lemonaid.
The recession being the big ugly uncle it promised to be, a restaurant owned by some folks we know just went out of business. We visited them the other day, and their house was jammed with a wild mishmash of kitchen innards: refrigerators, an assortment of tongs and other tools, a large box of every flavor of syrup under the sun - everything you could possibly think of that you might need to run a restaurant kitchen. And on the front step? A very, very large box of lemons.
So we took a big bag home. And then they sat on the counter for what seemed like FOREVER. I just couldn't make up my mind! There are so many wonderful things to do with lemons, it's totally ridiculous, but the OPTIONS! were! paralyzing! me!
Then I found myself in the grocery store earlier this week, parked in front of a big frosty freezer case. It's been SO hot lately, it felt good to let the icy air gush over me as I looked for a non-lethal can of frozen juice mix. When you've got a diet restriction like me, it's important to read the labels on EVERYTHING processed so no-one sneaks one past you and you end up eating something that will, you know, kill you. All I wanted was, you know, something kind of natural? Something that didn't have corn syrup, citric acid, and yellow food coloring as the three main ingredients? Something with actual JUICE in it? And you know what? I don't know if it's just that I shop at the ghetto grocery store of Huntington Beach, but there wasn't a single can of juice there that fit the bill. Not a single one! Maybe if I went to the hoity toity grocery store by the harbor I might find fancier frozen juice (if they even deigned to carry such a product) but they sure didn't have it here.
And then it hit me like the side of a barn. HELLO? You only have about 20 pounds of lemons sitting on your countertop. Makes some lemonaid from LEMONS already!
So I did.
But I couldn't resist fancying it up, so I crushed up some lemon verbena and some mint leaves and added them in too. And you know what? It was good. Really good. Much better than corn syrup + citirc acid + yellow food coloring. And probably about a million times healtier what with all those vitamins and minerals and stuff (I don't think it's coincidental that food that TASTES better also happens to be better FOR you!) So next time you're contemplating a frosty can of lemon flavored liquid corn syrup, put the can back in the freezer case and walk to the produce department and buy some LEMONS. You can do it!
Homemade Lemon Verbena and Mint Lemonaid
Makes 1 gallon
You probably want to use at least one organic lemon if you want to leave the peel on and slice one up and let it float around the top all pretty. However, I didn't. And look! We're still alive and have not yet sprouted additional limbs!
I grew the lemon verbena and mint myself - I bought this fun little mint container at my local Trader Joe's a few weeks ago - it has lemon verbena, sweet mint, and pineapple mint in it. I love it! Growing fresh herbs yourself is so easy. Can you grow weeds? Because if you can grow weed, you can grow herbs. Really, they're nothing but fragrant, tasty weeds. I can't even fathom why they charge so much for them at the grocery store. The things are impossible to kill and it costs less to buy the whole living plant than cuttings from them. Grow your own in a pot in the windowsill. It's nice!
2.5 cups of sugar
cold filtered water
1 lemon verbena sprig
2 mint sprigs
a 1 gallon container (I like my iced tea jug)
Reserve one lemon for garnish. Juice 16 lemons using an electric juicer or hand juicer. Discard or compost peels. Pour lemon juice into 1 gallon jug.
Thoroughly wash remaining lemon to remove dirt and/or pesticides. Slice crosswise into 1/4 inch slices and add to lemon juice in jug.
rinse 1 sprig lemon verbena and 2 sprigs mint in cool water. Remove leaves from stem and discards stems.
crush lemon verbena and mint with a mortar and pestle, or with your fingers.
In a medium sauce pan, ombine 2.5 cups sugar with 2 cups water. Bring to a boil, stirring constantly until sugar is dissolved. Reduce to a simmer and add lemon verbena and mint. Simmer 2-3 minutes, until herbs are soft and bright green.
Remove syrup from heat. Add syrup to the lemon juice. Stir to combine. Fill jug the rest of the way with cold filtered water. Stir thoroughly to combine. Serve chilled over ice. Be extra fancy and add a little sprig of lemon verbena or mint. Voila! Lemonaid. Don't you feel accomplished?