Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Lavender Scented Lemonade

I've already written about my trip to Bald Mountain in Napa, CA in my post about seared prosciutto wrapped scallops, but I didn't mention the lemonade. We had some pretty hot weather while we were there, but none of that sticky heat we are stuck in here in St. Louis (and, as I understand, the whole Eastern half of the country). Still, it was good weather for lemonade. And right out the kitchen door in the rock garden, there was a beautiful, flowering lavender plant all covered in honey bees. Instead of leaving all the good stuff to the bees, I took my scissors out and cut off some fresh fragrant buds to steep in simple syrup.

And that is the secret to amazing lemonade. Fresh lavender steeped in the syrup. Of course, you can try other herbs too. Rosemary works in the same way. Basil is good, but you don't want to cook it all, so you can just stir in strips of basil leaves.

But back to lavender. If you grow it, of course use it fresh, when the buds are not yet opened. Also pick off some of the flowers that already budded and set them aside for garnish. To really make it pretty, I like to slice a lemon really thin and put in the lemonade at the end.

One more thing: ALWAYS use fresh lemons in lemonade. And in everything. Just keep a bag of lemons in the fridge. Seriously, that bottled pre-juiced stuff is more expensive and tastes like plasticky vinegar, compared to the tart fragrance of fresh lemons.

This lemonade is an elegant and delicious thirst quencher on a hot summer's day. And if it's getting further towards evening and it's still lemonade weather, a splash of vodka is just what this lemonade needs.

Lavender Scented Lemonade
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
2 tablespoons dried lavender, or small bunch of fresh sprigs
3 or 4 cups cold water
1 cup lemon juice, approx.
1 lemon, thinly sliced, for garnish
fresh lavender flowers, for garnish

Heat the sugar and water to a simmer so that the sugar dissolves. Stir in the lavender, remove from the heat, and cover. Let the syrup steep for 20 to 30 minutes, then strain the lavender out and let it cool completely (you can stir in ice if you want, just reduce the water accordingly.

Stir together the syrup, the water, and the lemon juice. Taste and adjust the sugar and lemon to your taste. Fill a pitcher one third full of ice, add the lemon slices, then pour the lemonade over the ice and lemons. Top with the flowers.

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