Our Eureka lemon tree is loaded right now with so many lemons! It is absolutely beautiful. And the blossoms for next year’s lemons have just opened. The scent is magnificent. And, the bees are very busy buzzing all around the tree collecting their coveted pollen.
Each spring it is the same… what to make with all those beautiful lemons?! The cooking magazines are always filled with great suggestions. Lemon Meringue pie is always a favorite in my house, as well as lemon bars, and lemon curd sandwich cookies, and we enjoy barbequing marinated Greek lemon chicken this time of year. But my guys have been asking for lemonade. All three of us love that liquid sunshine… and it is so easy to make.
For me, lemonade brings me back to a simpler time in my youth… as it probably brings you back too. It makes me think of hot summer days playing with the kids on my block until the darkness of night. I probably think of “lemonade” and “summer” together because us kids always had a lemonade stand!
My two best friends growing up were the sisters that lived next door to me, Vicki and Janan. They are a few years older that I am and were a wealth of information in my youth as little “Terry.” I idolized the two of them and hung on every word they said to me. We had a large contingency of boys and girls on our block and enjoyed numerous games and activities together. Although, I have to say, playing Barbies with Vicki and Janan was my all time favorite thing to do with them! Vicki and Janan are still my very close friends! Their lifelong friendship has truly been one of the greatest gifts of my life.
Every summer we would have a lemonade sale in one of our front yards. There was always great excitement and busy work preparing for our lemonade venture. Vicki, who is the eldest, was always our fearless leader, regardless what we did, and would delegate our lemonade stand jobs to get it started. She was then, as is now, a born leader. Vicki not only was our CEO but she was CFO too… she took care of the moneybox. Janan is a creative type like me and would focus on making the lemonade and quality control. Being the youngest, I did what ever I could to help, but I recall “styling” being my forte’ then. I would help put the tablecloth on the table, pick fresh flowers and arrange them in a vase, make order of the cups on the table, and help color a sign in crayons. Funny how I haven’t veered too far from that job now!
My mother had a Myers’ lemon bush in her backyard, which is still happily producing numerous lemons today. In fact, most of my neighbors had lemon trees in their yards as well. We would pick lemons with wild abandon until one of our moms would shout out the kitchen window, “Stop picking all the lemons!” In one of our kitchens, we would squeeze the lemon halves into juice until our small hands would ache and be stinging from the acid. We would dump all the needed ingredients, juice, water, and sugar, into pitchers without measuring and stir, stir, stir… recipe not required.
Lemonade? Check. Glasses? Check. Lemonade sign? Check. Moneybox? Check. Finally we were ready for business! We would sit in folding chairs on the shaded sidewalk during the heat of the afternoon and wait. The big decision to make was whether to sell the lemonade for 10 cents or 20 cents a glass. We would get a few customers… a random neighbor lady… the kids on the block… our moms. We eventually always got thirsty and began drinking the product that wasn’t selling. Our lemonade stand afternoons always ended the same… with a lot of laughter and an empty pitcher! I miss those days…
With so many precious memories swimming around in my head, I had to make a pitcher of lemonade and photograph the liquid sunshine as homage to those happy childhood days. As I walked to my vegetable garden to pick lemons and take pictures, I passed some of my favorite spring flowers that only bloom once a year: Calla Lily, Snowball Viburnum, Montana Clematis, and dwarf geranium. I have a predominately white flower garden, which I just love. This article is dedicated to all things unique and special this time of year: lemons and my spring flowers… and Vicki and Janan.
Janan, Terry, and Vicki
I have also made one of my favorite desserts for you to enjoy… Lemon Bars… I absolutely love them! Remember… when life hands you lemons make lemonade!
3 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
2 cups of superfine sugar
4 cups of water
2 lemons sliced a 1/4″ thick
1/2 cup cranberry juice (optional for pink lemonade)
In a medium size pot, add the sugar to two cups of the water and heat to dissolve the sugar – stir sugar water to help dissolve. Turn off heat immediately after sugar has dissolved. Let cool. While sugar water is cooling, squeeze the lemons to make 3 cups of lemon juice. This could take 2 dozen lemons or more. Add lemon juice to a large pitcher and add sugar water and the balance of the 2 cups of water. If you want pink lemonade, add the cranberry juice at this time. Add the lemon slices to the pitcher for garnish. Add ice and serve.
Makes 8 cups.
Recipe by Susan Logozzo at Cook’s Illustrated Magazine
Makes two dozen bars
1 3/4 cups all-purpose flour
2/3 cup confectioners’ sugar, plus extra to sprinkle on top of bars when finished
1/4 cup cornstarch
3/4 teaspoon salt
12 tablespoons unsalted butter (1 1/2 sticks), at very cool room temp., cut into 1-inch pieces, plus extra for greasing the pan
4 large eggs, beaten lightly
1 1/3 cups granulated sugar
3 tablespoons all-purpose flour
2 teaspoons finely grated zest from two large lemons
2/3 cup juice from 3 to 4 large lemons, strained
1/3 cup whole milk
1/8 teaspoon salt
1. FOR THE CRUST: Adjust oven rack to middle position and heat oven to 350 degrees. Lightly butter a 13 X 9-inch baking dish and line with one sheet parchment or wax paper. dot paper with butter, then lay second sheet crosswise over it.
2. Pulse flour, confectioners’ sugar, cornstarch, and salt in food processor work bowl fitted with the steel blade. Add butter and process to blend, 8 to 10 seconds, then pulse until mixture is pale yellow and resembles coarse meal, about three 1-second burst. sprinkle mixture into lined pan and press firmly with fingers into even 1/4-inch layer over entire pan bottom and about 1/2-inch up sides. refrigerate for 30 minutes, then bake until golden brown, about 20 minutes. Let cool on cooling rack.
3. FOR THE FILLING: Meanwhile, whisk eggs, sugar, and flour in medium bowl, then stir in lemon zest and juice, milk, and salt to blend well. Wisk until all of the flour has been incorporated. This mixture will be pour as is onto warm shortbread when it is ready.
4. TO FINISH THE BARS: Reduce oven temperature to 325 degrees. Stir filling mixture to reblend; pour onto warm crust. Bake until filling feels firm when touched lightly, about 20 minutes. trasfer pan to wire rack; cool to near room temperature, at least 30 minutes. Grab the two edges of the lengthwise lining paper that you have used. Gently lift the lemon bars out of the pan and place on a cutting board. Peel paper down, and cut into serving-size bars, wiping knife or pizza cutter clean between cuts, as necessary. For decoration, lightly dust the lemon bars with the powdered sugar.