Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Basil-Infused Strawberry Lemonade

I may not be the first person in my family to go to University, and even if I don't finish my program I won't even be the first the drop out of graduate school...but I am the first one to make lemonade from scratch! Woo: I finally achieved something unique around here! I never thought I'd do something like this, but I found the recipe on the blog Babyfood Scoops and just had to try it! In case you're wondering: yes, making it from scratch really does make a difference.

I have all these wonderful herbs growing in the family garden this year: I don't know if it's because of all the rain or what but they've done really well for themselves. I picked fresh basil, washed it and luxuriated in its fresh scent. I really do love the smell of basil in summer!

The basil gets infused into a simple syrup of equal parts water and sugar; as soon as the syrup boils you take it off the heat, stick the basil in, cover it and just let it do its thing. I'd never made syrup before and it turned out to be really fun and easy. The kitchen smelled lovely, too.

The syrup doesn't overwhelm at all in the final product: it just makes the drink smell really fresh and helps with the sweetness. I was afraid it would be too herby, but instead it was perfect!

The strawberries from Quebec are in, too, and they're really sweet this year: these came from a fruit stand off the side of the road near-ish where I live. I love getting local produce because it makes me feel like I'm supporting something worthwhile...plus, everything is fresher when it doesn't have to travel from far away! They may not be as close as the blackberries that grow in the yard, but they really do it for me.

I blended up the strawberries to make a puree then pushed them through a fine-mesh sieve in an attempt to get out most of the seeds. I was only partially successful since some of the seeds got through. But I have to say, it was pretty fun! I thought pushing things through a sieve would be a huge pain but it wasn't that bad. Cleaning the sieve out was pretty annoying, though.

I got my lemons from a fruit and vegetable store in Laval where they had a huge table piled with a mountain of them! Mmmm mountain of lemons! I love it because they're so bright and fresh and amazing and also I just really love lemons. It makes me feel like summer, somehow.

Anyway, I juiced them with a reamer (I got the idea from a Martha Stewart segment on the show Everyday Food). Anyway, because of all the extra stuff I got off the lemon in an attempt to extract all the juice, the lemon-matter had to go through a sieve, too. Nevertheless, I swear by my amazing reamer: it really gets all the juice out! It also helps you realize just how many tiny cuts there are on your hands. Oh lemon, thou revealer of all!

I mixed all my ingredients together with a whole bunch of water and stirred them up. Then I tasted them: sublime! The drink was a little less lemony than I was hoping for, but very delicious and not too sweet. The lemons gave it a nice tart finish under all the sweetness, and the basil gave it freshness but not an overwhelming herb-type hippie taste. All in all, it tasted simple and summery and everything worked well together.

I was especially thrilled to be making this because of the whole pink lemonade thing from my childhood. When we were growing up, my mother used to make pink lemonade from frozen concentrate and we really loved it. It got served to my friends when they came over, too. To me, pink lemonade is the definition of summer.

My mother always used to tell my friend Laura that the lemonade was pink because of all the crayons she put in! Not that we believed her, but it was a good joke and my friend still remembers it. This new lemonade obviously used red marker instead, but it still brings back that happy story to my mind and all the memories of mud-and-poison-berry pies we used to make in our driveways.

I'll never give up pink lemonade from concentrate, but this recipe is a keeper, too. You can find it at the Babyfood Scoops blog site.

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