I love a good glass of lemonade. Real lemonade. Not the powdered stuff.
And, with summer lasting about 8 months in Texas, it’s almost a necessary staple, along with water, iced tea, and beer, to power through the heat.
The basic lemonade recipe consists of three things: lemon juice, water, sugar. The flavor all depends on how you personally prefer it – sweet or tart. Personally, I like it more on the tart side.
Of course, since it is such a basic recipe, it leaves lots of room for interpretation and experimentation. You can add just about any herb or spice that goes well with lemon – mint, basil, thyme, rosemary, oregano, tarragon, ginger, pepper – for example; or, even add other fruits or juices to the mix – the list on that is pretty much endless.
My personal favorite is probably one of the more obvious ones – mint and berries. I think it’s because during the summer, when berries are truly in season, I like to find as many ways possible as I can to use them. And, mint is a natural affinity flavor for lemons and berries. It’s a win-win.
So, here is my recipe for Berry-Mint Lemonade.
A few notes:
1. Yes. I have used lemon juice from the green plastic bottle. I know fresh squeezed is better, but I don’t always have a bottle of the fresh-squeezed juice around. If you really want fresh squeezed and don’t have any or can’t find it, you can either squeeze it yourself (a pricy and time consuming prospect), or just go for the green bottle. It’s fine and most people won’t know the difference. I will say the one distinct added plus to the green bottle lemon juice is that the flavor is consistent. Fresh lemons can vary in tartness and yield.
2. You can use all of one berry in this if you like. I just always happen to have a large container of cut berries in my fridge during the summer as Husband Steve’s & my go-to fruit. Bear in mind, however, that the color and overall flavors will definitely change. As it is with anything completely natural, there are always going to be differences in flavor – either more sweet or tart.
3. You can use either white or raw sugar in this. I prefer the raw because it’s a little less sweet than the white.
4. If you don’t like or don’t have mint, you can use another herb in this. Most herbs & spices that go with lemon work well with berries, too. You may want to experiment on the amount you want to use. Some are definitely stronger than others (i.e. rosemary, ginger, oregano), so you want to be sure what you’re using won’t overpower the other flavors.
1 c. sugar (either raw or white)
1 c. water
1/4 c. lightly packed mint leaves
2 heaping cups mixed berries
1 1/4 c. lemon juice
3 c. water
1. In a small saucepan, combine the water and sugar over high heat. Stir frequently to make sure the sugar is dissolved.
Bring the syrup just to a boil, take the saucepan off the heat, and add the mint leaves. Allow the mint to steep in the syrup until it has cooled, about 1 hour to 1-1/2 hours.
2. Meanwhile, puree the berries. With a food processor running, drop the berries either through the feed tube. (Adding the berries in while the machine is running guarantees that all of the berries will be pureed. You won’t be left with any large pieces.)
Let the berries process until they are pureed.
Place a small strainer over a large measuring cup (at least a 4-cup), large bowl, or a pitcher. Pour half of the pureed berries through the strainer and, with a rubber spatula, work as much of the liquid out of the pulp through the strainer as possible, leaving behind the seeds and pulp. Be sure to scrape the outside bottom and sides of the strainer. Dump the leftover seeds and pulp into a small bowl and repeat with the other half.
If you like, take the remaining seeds and pulp, put them back into the blender or food processor and puree again. You’ll be surprised how much more liquid you can get out of them. (If you are fine with a more “country style” lemonade, you can skip this step and simply pour the pureed fruit into the pitcher without straining.)
3. Once the syrup is cooled, pour the syrup through the strainer so it can catch the mint.
I like to leave the strainer on so I can pour the lemon juice and water over the mint as well. This way, you can get as much flavor out of the mint as possible. Mix thoroughly.
4. Place the lemonade in the refrigerator and let chill. Mix it again before checking for flavor.