Friday, June 29, 2012

Strawberry-Basil Lemonade

Ahhh, summer. Time for 4th of July picnics and family reunions.  This recipe for strawberry-basil lemonade is just a little different and will suit everyone from kids to adults (turn it into an adult beverage with the addition of a little vodka) plus the color is so pretty.

I made this recipe for The Lawyer's parents' 70th (!) anniversary party this past weekend.  (The guys at the party were busy checking out the bikinis by the pool that you can see in the background.)  It makes about 3 quarts of lemonade so you'll need a pitcher to accommodate.  I found this one at Crate and Barrel -  especially love the shape (reminds me of Kool-Aid commercials from way back) and the fact that it's plastic so it's lightweight and unbreakable.  It's hard to tell high-quality plastic ware from glass these days until you pick it up.
I received the original recipe from my friend Terry (part of our Gourmet Club along with her husband, Hiram).  I think she had it at a friend's house and wanted to pass it along.  Thanks Terry!

Terry and Hiram

When I made the recipe I had really fresh, very fragrant basil straight from the farmer's market that morning.  I mean fresh enough that you could smell it all over the kitchen.  That may be why I thought the basil flavor was a little strong and reduced it in the version below.  The original recipe called for 3/4 cup tightly packed basil leaves and I reduced it to 1/4 cup.  Just something to keep in mind if you try it.  You can even leave the basil out entirely if it doesn't appeal to you and just serve it as Strawberry Lemonade. 

I also found strawberries at the farmers market (yeah!!!! farmers markets).  The stand that I stopped at was selling 1.5 lb (more or less) containers, which was exactly what I needed.  The berries in the photo below weren't even the most perfect ones, which I saved for the garnish.  Beautiful and delicious.

You cook the strawberries in simple syrup (sugar and water) to extract their flavor and color.  Why does hot water make broccoli greener but make strawberries lose their color?  Who knows.  Anyway, the color and flavor of the strawberries goes into the syrup to make a pretty red syrup.  Then you add the basil which imparts flavor but not color (don't ask) and strain the whole thing.  The syrup is cooled and added to fresh lemon juice and cold water to taste, which is great - you can make the lemonade as tart or sweet as you want.  Just note that it takes an hour or two to chill the syrup and lemon juice so you want to start this process at least few hours before serving.

Have a great holiday week and enjoy summer!

* * click here for a printable recipe * *

Strawberry-Basil Lemonade
Makes about 12 cups

1.5 cups granulated sugar
1 cup water
1.5 lbs strawberries, divided
¼ cup packed basil leaves
2 cups fresh lemon juice, chilled (8-9 juicy lemons)
8 cups cold water
Vodka (optional)
Additional basil leaves for garnish (optional)

Gently wash the strawberries. Hull the berries and slice ½” thick. Set aside ½ cup for garnish.

Place the sugar and 1 cup water in a medium saucepan over high heat and stir until the sugar dissolves and the mixture comes to a boil. Add the 1 cup of strawberries, reduce heat to low, and simmer until the strawberries have softened, about 10 minutes.

Remove from the heat, add the basil leaves, and stir. Cool for about 45 minutes, then strain through a fine-mesh strainer set over a medium bowl; discard the solids. Cover the syrup and refrigerate until chilled.

When ready to serve the lemonade, combine 2 cups of chilled lemon juice with 8 cups of cold water and 1.5 cups of strawberry-basil syrup in a 3-quart pitcher and stir to combine. Taste and add additional syrup as needed.

To serve: add ice and reserved strawberries (and optional basil leaves or vodka) to serving glasses and pour lemonade over.

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