Wednesday, May 4, 2011
When Life Hands You Basil
It's hard to find a perfect lemonade on either side of the Atlantic. Here in the Netherlands, the Dutch (and Europeans in general) don't believe in ice. In the US, you'll get lemon-flavored sugar water instead of lemonade that puts you into a hyperglycemic coma before you've finished a glass. The obvious solution--to make your own--is hampered by our willingness to believe that we could possibly use that much sugar in our lemonade.
Fortunately, I've been baking for a long enough time to get used to the idea of "cups" when it comes to measuring out sugar. And fortunately, you don't actually need whole entire cups to make a liter of lemonade. Unfortunately, ever since I introduced Karel to the concept of basil-flavored lemonade, he's had an unsatiable hankering for more, and every summer, he follows me around the house whining for more--er, no wait, that's Noodle. But he does make a point of keeping me well-stocked with lemons.
It's not that difficult to make [herb-of-choice]-flavored lemonade, so I'm not sure why he insists that my lemonade is somehow "different". If you were to ask me, I think it comes down to the fact that I don't use a citrus-juicer, or a fork, to juice the lemons. No matter how careful you are with those instruments, it seems that you always scrape a bit of the pith into the juice, and that gives the lemonade a bitter edge. I use a tea spoon to extract the juice.
Basil, dragon, and mint all go great with lemon, but the trick is to cut it up very finely and work the juices into the sugar, first. Then you dissolve the sugar into the lemon juice, plants and all (the plants will not dissolve), and keep on brusing the leaves and stirring. I've never had the patience to wait for the sugar to dissolve entirely, and usually end up washing the whole thing into the pitcher, and finishing up the stir-job there. Straining the leaves is optional--if you leave them in, obviously the flavors will continue to infuse--and I leave them in on the principle of working in more fiber ;-)
It really is a lovely drink, but be forewarned: you may never drink lemon-lemonade again, and if you have a significant other, you may never hear the end of this.