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Lemonade, a true summertime treat

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The temperatures are really rising! By now, many of you have been enjoying picnics, barbecuing and other activities we do in the hot weather. Though the official start of summer isn't for another week, we can still enjoy the treats that go with these temperatures.

Naturally, we associate summer with foods that are cooling and hit the spot whenever the summer heat robs us of our energy. What more fitting summertime beverage is there to enjoy than lemonade! It's the one drink that never fails to please in the summer. While there are several good packaged lemonade mixes on the market, you really can't beat a pitcher of lemonade that's fresh and homemade.

I'm sharing two recipes for lemonade in today's column. First, a recipe for "Perfect Lemonade." This is the best lemonade I've ever had and it's well worth the time and effort it will take to make it. You'll see in the recipe that it calls for fresh lemon juice and the zest of four lemons. If you're fortunate enough to have an electric juice extractor, juicing the lemons won't take much time to do. My recommendation for preparing the lemons is to peel the colored part of the lemon with a vegetable peeler and grind it in the food processor with the steel blade attached. It will take a bit of time to finely grind it, but it will save you from having to do it by hand and even avoid accidentally grating a knuckle! You can then run the lemons through the juicer. If you're also fortunate enough to be growing some fresh mint, add some sprigs of this with some slices of fresh lemon as a garnish and you'll have a picture-perfect glass of lemonade! You won't be able to get a more satisfying and refreshing lemonade that this one.

If the urge for a glass of lemonade hits you at an odd time and you want to be prepared in advance for when that happens, consider the next recipe I'm sharing, which is for a "Make-Ahead Lemonade Base." This is a concentrated lemon syrup you make and store in the refrigerator ahead of time. Whenever you want a glass of lemonade, you combine some of the concentrate with water. Add some ice and you're all set! This is a handy and convenient way to have lemonade at a moment's notice.

If you like pink lemonade, either of these recipes can be turned into pink lemonade by adding the desired amount of maraschino cherry juice to a glass or pitcher of lemonade. Add the juice in small amounts, stirring as it's added to the desired shade of pink. It's pretty and equally as refreshing and good-tasting!

Recently, I shared a recipe for a "Lemonade Cake" that would go great with these summertime beverages. Just in case you missed it the first time, here's the link so you can get it again:

http://www.examiner.com/article/a-luscious-lemon-cake

Follow either or both of these recipes to say "cheers" to summer!

PERFECT LEMONADE

1 cup superfine sugar*
1 cup water
1-1/3 cups fresh lemon juice
zest (colored rind) of 4 lemons
2 quarts cold water
lemon slices
crushed ice
fresh mint leaves
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan, bringing the mixture to a boil over medium heat. Simmer for 5-6 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove from heat and cool. Add the lemon juice, zest and cold water. Stir vigorously. Serve over ice and garnish with lemon slices and fresh mint.
*Superfine sugar is sold in some grocery stores. It can also be made by placing 1 cup of regular sugar in a food processor fitted with the steel blade and processing for about 1 minute.

MAKE-AHEAD LEMONADE BASE

1 tbls. lemon zest (colored rind)
1-1/2 cups sugar
1/2 cup boiling water
1-1/2 cups fresh lemon juice
In a jar with a tight-fitting cover, place the lemon zest, sugar and boiling water. Shake until sugar is dissolved. Add the lemon juice and stir. Refrigerate. To make lemonade, combine 1/4 cup of the concentrate to 1 cup water and plenty of ice. Adjust proportions to suit your own taste.

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