Not a fan of the bone chilling weather as of late I’ve been rather neglectful of the back-fourty area of our spacious backyard where the lemon tree grows as it requires me to venture outside which is ridiculous as in the summer you cannot drag me indoors yet in the winter it is the complete opposite.
Until this afternoon that is as I slid into my favorite pair of Ugg fur-lined knee high rubber boots grabbed my new pruning shears and strutted out-back full of vigor & intention. Yes I was still clothed warmly in my footed pajamas but it doesn’t matter I was still productive so don’t judge me.
Yes this is a recipe, however I’m also a story teller so if you just want to get to the recipe scroll down a bit and you’ll find it. If not I hope you enjoy the journey on the way to it. I won’t take it personally either way.
An hour or so later & several bushes dead-headed from their current state of crispy brown foliage bitten by the frost yet previously lush green just a few months before, I made my way back to the house feeling refreshed & sated in the knowledge that I had spent some time in nature today reconnecting to my earthly roots.
Stopping dead in my tracks at the sight of the lemon tree. I was stunned.
While so much of the garden has been assaulted & punished by the bitter cold unforgiving freeze of January 2015 she has been thriving.
Her foliage lush green and her branches bending with the weight of her swollen bright yellow fruit hanging gracefully from them… She took my breath away she did.
Parched from my time out in the yard foresight failed me; I hadn’t packed a traveler beverage as I headed out-back earlier.
It’s @ that very moment I decided to make some lemonade from her gifts.
I suspect she’s a Meyer Lemon although I cannot confirm that as she was already here when we bought her home 1 year ago this month and no identification markers are present…
I was raised in a time graced with the priceless gift of a great grandmother with whom I can still remember.
Nana possessed one of the greenest thumbs I’ve ever seen along with the apparently effortless gift to foster,nurture and feed by hand, fallen baby birds… In addition to this she grew the most juicy, tart yet slightly sweet lemons on her gigantic tree.
Her Meyer Lemon tree which still lives today; 30-some years after my great grams passing now lives under the care of my Aunt Pam who calls Nana’s home her own.
This is a recipe although not apparent at the moment. I’m getting to that part.
She’s a very old strong tree… I have no idea as to her precise age however from the tales of the only neighbor who has been living in our new-to-us neighborhood for as long as our home has been here John says she was planted by the original owners who built our home upon buying the barren piece of land it resided on back in 1957.
Todays harvest from her yielded some of the heaviest, juice filled lemons I’ve had the pleasure of experiencing in my years to date. Even bigger than Nana’s but just like Nana’s; in appearance, flavor, scent & juiciness. I’m calling it:
She’s a Meyer.
The heaviest single lemon weighing in at .940 ounces on my digital scale; just over the half pound mark.
Her lemons are monstrous, filled with more juice and the least amount of rind and peel.
This knowledge makes me giddy! It’s also at this time that I miss my sugar consumption days as I’d be cranking out some of the most coveted Double-Lemon Bars with homemade butter crust from my favorite Epicurious.com recipe right about now.
Don’t be dissuaded by the 3.5 Fork ‘user rating’ on the website; not everyone can bake nor does everyone know what ‘double-lemon’ means. It means: Zingy! I still keep the recipe even if I haven’t attempted to make it sugar-free.
Since I am no longer a sugar eater I’ve decided to turn her lemons into some sugar-free lemonade instead & freeze her juice for freshly squeezed & homegrown lemonade all year long at my whim 😉
Note: This recipe is not one in which I precisely measured. In all honesty for those who require precise measurements for their recipes I may not be the gal for you. However if your feeling self-confident in your tastebuds, imagination and gusto then give it a whirl adopting the sage creed:
It’s easier to add than to take away.
Definition of Sage Creed: You can always add more of something to adjust it’s flavor, consistency or taste BUT removing & correcting it once you’ve already added it is a much bigger endeavor.
Now let’s get on with it!
Ingredients & Tools
6 large lemons– the juicier the better. My 6 yielded over 2 cups of juice. I know right!!! I’ve never to date purchased store-bought lemons and yielded anything over one cup; if I was lucky and it sure as hell took way more than 6 of them to reach a single cup. I’m sorry she’s just amazing.
(Use less juice if you desire less lemony zingy deliciousness; more juice if you love that mini-cramp in your mouth leading to your mouth watering & the uncontrollable desire to have another sip; immediately.)
*Do not cut them in half before you roll them first. Rolling: described below.
Sweetener– Your choice. Sugar, Stevia, Splenda, etcetera. That’s your call.
Me? I used a mixture of Stevia & Splenda in my recipe and did so “to taste” as in I added about 1/2 a cup of Splenda to start with and several individual packets of Truvia brand Stevia to finish the sweetness off to what I wanted it to be; sweet yet refreshingly tart.
It appears that the 11 year old & the husband prefer a gallon or more of sweetener than I so looks like this batch is all mine.
Reamer for juicing your lemons. Although you don’t know me very well at this moment & time I’m eternally thrifty & seldom purchase stuff new but instead prefer to buy used yet still in useful condition. However the current Wood Reamer I have and adore is 16 years young this year & was purchased new.
I splurged at Williams-Sonoma back in 1998 after my first marriage during the returns process for those who refused to adhere to my pre-selected wedding registry list and go for something they felt I needed more. My Williams-Sonoma wooden reamer is one of the spoils of that ‘return trip’ which continues to serve & provide me with pleasure nearly 2 decades later.
My reamer is still with me; the 1st husband not so much.
16 years & counting & this lil beauty is one of my all time favorite kitchen utensils as she’s basic in design yet highly functional making juicing any citrus whether a seasoned cook or not inexplicitly easy, quick & quite honestly fun.
She literally manages to get every drop of juice out of your chosen fruit; I don’t know how she does it quite honestly.
You don’t have to use a reamer for juicing as a standard kitchen fork will do the trick as well as will any other juicing appliances & gadget you use.
Fine Mesh Colander/Strainer – If you don’t currently have fine mesh then you can use a regular styled one but you may need to strain your juice twice. Cheesecloth would work too but my God what a labor intensive act.
Me? I love the pulp and add it back into the juice however prefer not to fish out each and every seed which is why I use my fine mesh colander for this job. The seeds? Well I save them and plunk them back into the earth ensuring I have a steady supply of future lemon trees from the mother tree.
Sharp Knife – Serrated or flat blade; sharp is best.
Pitcher or container for making your lemonade
Me? I used my 2-quart/2-liter Quick-Stir Pitcher from Pampered Chef. It has a built in stirrer in it making it my #1 pitcher of choice in the house. However I didn’t buy it new for $20 instead picking it up for a single dollar at a yard sale. Over 6 years ago. Thriftiness rocks.
Stirring utensil of choice.
Vodka – Optional. However on a side note this nectar pairs deliciously with Gin & Vodka served icy cold. Lemon drop martini’s anyone? Yummy!
Thirst – Bring it!
Roll your lemons: Take your lemon and roll each one under firm pressure of the palm of your hand; back and forth on a hard surface. Why? It gently massages her from the inside out, releasing her juices and makes juicing any piece of citrus much more fruitful & less laborious.
Cut the lemons in half.
Place your colander over a bowl of choice. Grab your juicing utensil of choice and juice it! Goggles optional.
Allow the colander to catch the pulp & seeds for you as the juice drains through into the bowl. Repeat until you have juiced all your lemons. If you’re using a granulated sugar as your sweetener of choice verses say Splenda then I’d suggest you make a simple syrup using equal parts boiling hot water and your sugar. Stirring until completely dissolved.
Why? Because sugar dissolves fastest in a warm liquid verses trying to stir it into its desired dissolved state in a cold liquid. Nothing worse than slurping up crunchy undissolved granules of sugar. Yuck!
Take your freshly squeezed lemon juice sweetened to taste & add it to your pitcher topping it off with water. Add additional sweetener and or lemon juice to taste.
I enjoy mine poured over ice in a large glass.
Before you throw away your left over lemon halves might I suggest some additional uses for them?
Okay I will.
Keep your food masher aka: garbage disposal squeaky clean and smelling fresh by throwing a half or two of a lemon into it once a week and turning it on along with the piping hot water. The citrus oils and flesh of it will clean its inner workings unlike any other chemicals can plus its healthier on our environment. Extra smelly grinder? Pitch in a few tablespoons of baking soda on top of the lemon before you flip the switch.
Keep your nails, cuticles and hands beautifully clean and sparkling!
How? Take one of the lemon halves and similar to when you juiced it scrub your nails, fingers and hands with its flesh washing the residuals off under fresh water when done.
Been cooking with onion and garlic and can’t smell the stand your hands afterwards? Take a lemon half and wash your nails and hands well with them being especially careful to get the flesh and juice of it under your nails. It neutralizes the chemical compounds which stay behind after your done working with the offenders. May not kill it entirely but will dramatically reduce the pungency 😉
Cutting boards: Fallen in love with one you just can’t part with even though it’s been with you longer than any other human? Take it to the sink. Moisten it with water. Take a healthy pinch of coarse salt and pitch it onto its surface and scrub vigorously using one or more lemon halves; especially the outer peel. Rinse well. Let air dry after you towel dry it. Once dry, reseal the wood with a few coats of mineral oil rubbed into it and buffed dry.
Compost. Pitch them into your compost patch after your done. Green living 101.
Now this one may gross you out but you know what’s even grosser?
Filthy elbows. There I said it. I said it out loud. And, it’s been going on for centuries. Personally ever since my Nana made me scrub mine as a small kid with half of one of her lemons after she pointed out how filthy they were asking me if I ever actually washed them during my baths. I stood there speechless looking up at her not knowing what to say.
After realizing she wasn’t going to get an answer to her rhetorical question she scrubbed one of them for me, made me stand in front of the mirror comparing the before & after elbow, then handed me the lemon and told me to do the other myself.
Nana was ahead of her time. And she scarred me for life as I cannot go anywhere now without zeroing in on humans elbows and recoiling each time I see the masses sporting more build up of crap on them than the bottom of their shoes. Nor have I ever been the same after this knowledge of proper elbow hygiene and care.
You can thank Nana for that mental imprint I’ve just left you with. Sorry. Just paying it forward.
Well, that does it for this go round. See you next time 😉
The pictures & ramblings within this post are the property of Jana Leigh Thomas-Ortega and the TheArtOfThisNThat.com.