Make Lemonade Without Lemons! How and Why to Make "Cheater" Lemonade This Summer
Lemonade is a delicious refreshment at any time of year, but is especially synonymous with summer. Some make it themselves, some buy it ready-made at the store, and some seek out the nostalgia of the roadside lemonade stand. Still many other have discovered the ease of making "cheater" lemonade. Chances are you already have the ingredients: water, sugar, maybe some ice, and - that's right - dig into the back of your fridge for that bottle of lemon juice! It isn't just for sprinkling on fish or adding to sauces and marinades; it's also the crucial ingredent in "cheater" lemonade, providing the needed tang and the nutricious vitamin C, while also saving time and your eyes from the inevitable citrus squirt of the lemon juicer.
You may be asking yourself, if it's so simple, why write an article about it? To help you make it better of course! Through choosing better-quality ingredients, your cheater lemonade will taste better and won't cost much more either; you may even find it costs less, and will taste so good that it will trump your cravings for soda and other questionable pre-made beverages.
The best ingredients to use when making cheater lemonade are organic lemon juice and organic cane sugar, which you can find in any natural food store and most conventional grocery stores, too. This is not simply due to fears of preservatives or of processed sugar; these products have a superior flavor. To find a lemon juice that only has one ingredient, lemon juice, is very difficult unless you buy it organic. Yes, it is about twice as expensive, but because there are less fillers, there is more lemon flavor and you don't need to use as much.
As for the sugar, you can use any kind of sweetener that you want, but I would recommend using anything but plain old granulated sugar. Brown sugar, honey, stevia, demerara, or any other sweetener you could use would work, and would lend the lemonade it's own unique flavors, making it much more interesting. I have tried using brown sugar, honey, and demerara sugar before, but I have found that it is more difficult to make honey and demerara sugar blend themselves into the flavor homogenously, and using brown sugar increases the amount of sweetener that is necessary, but then, I have a sweet tooth. I use an organic cane sugar with a finer grain than the demerara and easier to mix in, while having the flavor I like in demerara sugar. But feel free to experiment with different sweeteners to find what works best for you.
The most efficient and satisfying way to make cheater lemonade is to start with a clear glass cup or mason jar and pour in a splash of lemon juice. I never accurately measure how much I use; in a mason jar (1 quart sized), I pour little by little until the level of juice at the bottom is about the width of two US quarters. Then I pour in just enough sugar so that there is a layer of dry sugar above the layer of sugar that has soaked up the lemon juice. You don't need to use that much; as I said earlier, I have a sweet tooth.
After I put in those key ingredients, I put in a few cubes of ice and fill the jar with water. In a mason jar, you can cover the jar, and by shaking the mixture until the ice is almost completely dissolved, you can be sure that the sugar is thoroughly mixed in and that your drink is sufficiently chilled. If you aren't using a mason jar, you can simply stir vigorously. If your lemonade is either too tangy or too sweet, adjust the amount of lemon juice, sugar, and/or water until you get what you are looking (or more accurately, tasting) for.
You will find that this beverage will quickly become your favorite; if you desire, you can also add a shot of rum (or vodka, or whatever alcohol you like), on days when you want to party a little. You can substitue frozen fruit (strawberries are especially recommended) for ice as well. A friend of mine likes to add a dash of vanilla extract to his lemonade. The possibilities are endless!
By using a product that contains 100% lemon juice, without other ingredients, you are avoiding the combination of sodium (or potassium) benzoate and citric acid, which combines to form benzene, a known carcinogen. Many sodas still use this combination in their ingredients, as do all the commercial lemon juices that I have come across that are not organic. At a couple points during the last few decades the combination has been investigated by the FDA, which has suggested (but not ordered) that beverage companies phase it out of their drinks, but if you explore the labels, you will find that it still exists. It is hard to say how dangerous this combination is in comparison with other carcinogens, or in small amounts, but it is better to be safe than sorry, and the lemon juice makes better lemonade without it.
I hope you enjoy your "cheater" lemonade as you search for more easy ways to refresh yourself in the summer heat. This will be made easier now that you aren't squirting citrus juice in your eyes!