After the coldest, snowiest, wet-est spring on record (the lilacs are still in bloom , that’s how cold it’s been) the last week of June and the first week of July a switch seemed to flip here and we’ve had a string of the most glorious days. You can feel everybody humming with pleasure as they stroll the lakewalk, sit on their porches with happy hour drinks, or hike through the forests, thinking to themselves, “oh right, I remember why I live here now.”
I’ve been taking the dog for morning walks along the shores of the Lake (and I do mean the Lake, as in Lake Superior, the largest body of freshwater in the world, woop!) and I’ve been feeling as though I could burst into a million pieces with the joy and beauty of my surroundings. The sun burbling and streaming in, the surface of the Lake rippling and sparkling as though some underwater kingdom has decided to put all their royal treasure on display, gentle breezes coming off the Lake in tendrils, keeping the temperature just below 80 most days. We may not get a ton of perfect days around here, but when it is perfect I can’t imagine anything better, anywhere in the world.
With the arrival of nicer weather, the children of the various neighborhoods in town have set up shop. I swear there’s a lemonade stand on almost every corner. “Lemonade, 25¢!” Or maybe pink lemonade, limeade, iced tea, fruit punch… plus “Cold water, free!” (That’s my favorite. A favorite of runners too, I think.) I try to stop and support the ones in our neighborhood, even though I can’t say I much care for lemonade made from powder. And lemonade stand lemonade is almost always made from powder, or frozen concentrate, if you’re lucky.
Do you remember setting up lemonade stands in the summer? What a great way to run a business! Your parents supply the raw materials and cover overhead (a table, some chairs, posterboard and markers, etc.) and you make all the profit. Payment for your labor, I guess, since you put in the time at the street corner yelling convincing things about the deliciousness of a glass of cold lemonade to passersby and carefully counting out change for those who stop before excitedly returning to running up and down the street calling, “Lemonade! Lemonade!”
In my neighborhood as a child, lemonade stands were a group effort, a dozen kids working the stand. We pooled the wealth from raiding our separate cupboards and freezers for lemonade (or juice – we took an artistic approach to the definition of what you could sell at a lemonade stand) mix and concentrate. We shared the work of making the sale, driving the bargain, some of us bold enough to wander blocks up and over to bring customers down to our stand. And we split all the profits, which meant that none of us ever made more than a couple dollars, in spite of the hours spent manning the stand. Not that it mattered. A day in the sun, on the corner, running a “business” with friends was payment enough.
I’ll keep supporting our neighborhood stands, though once out of sight I may not drink what I’ve bought. But, the thought of a real glass of lemonade with the floral qualities of freshly squeezed lemon juice and the perfect balance of sweetness and pucker has been calling to me after my walks in the sun. When I saw this recipe for strawberry basil lemonade on Food52, I knew immediately I had to make it. A lemonade I would drink. And perhaps, even, a suitable replacement for my cherished summer evening glass of rose, which I am definitely missing this summer.
The combination of strawberry and basil with the lemon is wonderful and refreshing. The basil has an almost haunting fruity, herbal quality against the lemon that reminds me a little of Thai food and a little of a beachside cocktail and a lot of something I want seconds of. The juicy, sweetness of berries makes the lemons blush with pleasure. And rubbing your sugar against the skin of the lemons before making a sugar syrup releases the oils of the lemon peels and brings a nuance to the lemon flavor above and beyond the freshness of the juice.
Making the components yourself puts you completely in charge of how sweet or tangy you want it, how concentrated or dilute. I have a half a mind to set up a stand to sell this stuff because it’s so good. But, I think I’d rather keep it for myself.
- 1 cup raw sugar
- 3 cups fresh strawberries, hulled and cut into quarters
- about 20 medium-size basil leaves, torn into rough pieces
- 1½ cups fresh lemon juice (from about 8 lemons, wait to juice the lemons until after you've made the sugar syrup)
- Put the sugar in a heatproof bowl. Wash the lemons well, then rub the sugar over the outsides of them, which releases some of the aromatic oils into the sugar, gently flavoring it. Make sure you get all (or as much as possible) of the sugar back into the bowl during/after this process. Then, pour 1 cup of boiling water over the sugar and stir until the sugar dissolves. Allow to cool. This is your syrup.
- Combine the strawberries and basil in a blender along with ¼ cup of the syrup. Blend until smooth - I let mine blend at least 1 minute.
- To make a glass of lemonade, stir together approximately 3 Tbs. strawberry mixture with 3 Tbs. lemon juice and 1 or 2 Tbs. sugar syrup. Add ice cubes and top with a bit of cold water (still or sparkling water are both tasty). Stir well. Add more of any of the components to suit your taste, then enjoy!