Why It Works
- Maceration allows lemon rinds to express their natural oil, creating a more aromatic and flavorful drink.
- This no-cook technique dissolves sugar without any need for firing up the stove.
- Weight measurements ensure the perfect ratio of sugar to citrus, despite natural variations in fruit size.
- From the bowl and strainer to the pitcher, nonreactive equipment prevents the flavor of the lemons from turning harsh.
This fresh lemonade gets the maximum flavor out of just two ingredients (three if you count water). It's based on the technique for no-cook Fresh Lemon Syrup, harnessing the power of citric acid to dissolve sugar without heat, while capturing the bold flavor of the lemons' essential oils.
- 3 pounds (1.3kg) lemons (10 to 14 medium lemons)
- 14 ounces sugar (2 cups; 400g)
- 24 ounces cold water (3 cups; 700ml)
Bring lemons to room temperature, then roll firmly against the counter to soften their rinds. Halve and juice; pour juice into a sealable container and refrigerate. Cut rinds into 1-inch chunks. Toss with sugar in a large nonreactive mixing bowl, cover tightly with plastic, and let stand at room temperature, stirring once every 45 minutes or so, until sugar has completely dissolved, about 3 hours. (You can let the mixture stand up to 12 hours, if desired.)
Add water and 8 ounces (1 cup) of reserved lemon juice (see note). Stir well, then strain through a nonreactive fine-mesh strainer or piece of cheesecloth into a glass or ceramic container. At this point, the concentrated lemonade can be refrigerated for up to 1 week.
When ready to serve, pour lemonade over ice and adjust to taste with additional water or lemon juice, depending on personal preference; bear in mind, though, that the lemonade will be diluted as the ice melts. (You will likely have some fresh lemon juice left over, which can be reserved for another use, though exactly how much you have will depend on how much you added to adjust the lemonade.)
Cheesecloth or nonreactive fine-mesh strainer, 2-quart pitcher
If you like, some or all of the lemons can be zested beforehand and reserved for another baking project. Lemon Meltaways, perhaps? Leftover juice can be used to make Lemon Bars as well. We prefer a tart lemonade, made by adding 8 ounces (1 cup) of reserved lemon juice to the lemon rind syrup. If you prefer your lemonade sweeter, start with 6 ounces and taste before adding more.