Sunday, July 29, 2012

English-style lemonade

When I was little, my dad - who is originally from Nottingham, England - took a sabbatical to spend a semester teaching in the U.K. Our family moved with him - me, my mom, and my four-year-old sister.  Unsurprisingly, nine-year-old me mostly hated the experience: I missed my friends, I hated my strict school, and I swiftly grew tired of museums and castles (though writing that now makes me cringe - who gets sick of castles?).

However, there were some bright spots in our time abroad, at least in my opinion. Doughy sourdough rolls called stotties, which we bought at the corner bakery every day; our weird little Edwardian apartment, with its nooks and crannies; and the tart, carbonated beverage called lemonade.

Lemonade in the U.S. is sweet and flat - delicious and uncomplicated. In England, lemonade is fizzy and sour and when I look back on living there, I seem to remember drinking it by the gallon (I hope this isn't true, for the sake of my teeth). I've found fizzy lemonade once or twice in the U.S. - usually Fentimans, which contains ginger and other botanicals and is completely wonderful. As tasty as it is, though, it's both expensive and tough to find, so I thought I'd try my hand at making my own. 

I've made fizzy drinks with yeast before, but this time I decided to experiment with the golden child of the homemade movement: lacto fermentation. I'm a little leery of fermenting things in general, and I thought that this recipe might be an easy gateway drug. 

Lacto-fermented fizzy lemonade
Adapted very loosely from The Cultivated LifeA Flock In The City and Natural Health and Prevention
2/3 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
1/4 cup whey (I skimmed the liquid from the top of a container of yogurt) 
1/4 cup sugar
Filtered water to fill a 1-quart canning jar.

Combine lemon juice, whey, and sugar in the clean canning jar. Stir gently, but don't worry if all the sugar doesn't dissolve immediately. Fill the remainder of the jar with filtered water, leaving two inches of headspace. Cap it tightly, and leave in a dark place for 4-7 days. Don't panic if you have weird, white drifting masses during the fermentation process - they're harmless. Just strain them if they squick you out. Yields one quart.

Because most of the sugar will be eaten up by the lactobacillus in the whey, it tastes quite a bit tarter after fermented - feisty and summery and delicious over ice. And, as an added bonus, the lemonade has the delightful quality of being somewhat self-perpetuating: in your next batch, you may substitute 1/2 cup of fermented lemonade for the 1/4 cup of whey.

And, for fun, here's the cost breakdown.

  • 1.125 cups of Fentimans Victorian Lemonade: $2.25
Total: $2.25 per bottle, or $2.00 per cup.

  • 1/4 cup lemon juice (the juice of 2 lemons at $0.40 each): $0.80
  • 1/4 cup whey: effectively free, if you buy or make yogurt: $0.00 for my purposes, though that may not be true for you
  • 1/2 cup sugar (~92 grams of sugar in a 2270 gram (5 pound) bag at approximately $4 dollars per bag): $0.16
  • Filtered water: effectively free for me, so: $0.00 for my purposes, though that may not be true for you.
  • 1-quart mason jar (12-pack is $11.99): $0.99, though you could easily use another container
Total: $1.96 for one quart of lemonade, or $0.49 per cup.

Less expensive, healthier, and completely delicious? I think I'll be making this lacto fermented lemonade again, soon. I think I'd also like to experiment with ginger-lemonade, cranberry-lemonade, raspberry lemonade, limeade...the possibilities are endless!

Monday, July 16, 2012

The verdict, and jasmine lime rickeys

After a week of sitting on a dark bookshelf, the jasmine-green tea-gin infusion looked even stranger - a muddy almost-brown, with bits of floating leaf matter. I am not kidding when I say that this looked less appetizing than some of the wetland water samples I've taken.

It had begun to smell pretty delicious, though - grassy and flowery. And, it tasted like a very strong green tea, with a little bit of a perfume-y edge. I decided to strain it. I used a funnel with a coffee filter placed inside - I only strained once, and I think I probably should have done a second round. All of the solid matter was strained out, but the remaining liquid was still a little cloudy. It looked like this:

I planned to make a pretty label for it, put it on a shelf, and admire it - drinking it slowly and conserving it. First, though, I brought it to a picnic and proceeded to make one of my favorite drinks: a gin rickey. The recipe is below.

Jasmine Green Tea Gin Rickey
-Half a lime
-1 1/5-2 oz Jasmine Green Tea Gin
-Club soda

Juice the lime, and put the whole lime half in the bottom of a glass. Add several ice cubes, then pour in gin (I used about 2 oz). Fill glass with soda water, and mix gently with a spoon. Drink up.

(Ignore my crazy alien hand, and the chipped nail polish - field work really does a number on my femininity, guys.)

The pretty label, the bottle on the shelf? Well - and this should attest to how well this infusion turned out - at the end of the night, there wasn't a drop left. 

The verdict? I need to make more. Soon. It was delicious - summery, floral, with just a little bite from the green tea, and mellowed by the honey. I think the jasmine gin rickey is my new favorite drink.

And, for fun, the cost breakdown.
1.58 cups of Koval Jasmine Liqueur (which I'm sure is wonderful, but would be difficult for me to afford): $24.99
Total: $24.99 per bottle, or $15.81 per cup

2 cups Fleischmann's gin ($14.99 for a 1.75 liter bottle, or $2.02 per cup)
1/4 cup Rishi Jasmine Green Tea ($38.00 per pound, or approximately $7.13 for 1/4 cup)
2 tablespoons honey ($8.00 for a 1.5 cup bottle, or approximately $0.33 per tablespoon).
2($2.02 cups of gin)+$7.13 for 1/4 cup Rishi Jasmine Green Tea+2($0.33 tablespoons of honey) = $11.83 per bottle, or $5.92 per cup.

And, more importantly, it was delicious. 

(In case you've started worrying that this blog will be purely about alcoholic infusions - fear not. This week, I'm hoping to make carbonated lemonade and gingerale. Once the weather gets colder, I'll be more excited about cooking real food as well). 

Saturday, July 7, 2012


If you know me in real life, you know how much I love gin and tonics. For awhile, I snobbily refused to drink them from Labor Day until Memorial Day - "g&ts are meant only for summer! If you can't wear white, you can't drink them!" I self-defeatingly maintained, until, in the depths of Massachusetts February, several fresh, sweet-smelling Florida limes in hand, I gave up. I now drink g&ts whenever I please, WASPy rules be damned. I think that gin smells like trees, and as a baby ecologist, that really thrills me.

I also love jasmine tea - more than just about any other beverage. I cold-brew it in the refrigerator in my Nalgene bottle overnight, almost every night. I drink it constantly.

I saw a jasmine-infused vodka the other day, and because it was around $50 a liter and because I'm a brokey-broke grad student, I decided to make my own. I realized recently how well lime juice combines with jasmine tea, so I decided to make a jasmine-infused gin to eventually go in some delicious G&Ts.

The ingredients:
-1/4 cup of jasmine tea (I used Rishi brand)
-2 cups of gin
-2 tablespoons of honey (optional - I like jasmine tea just a little sweetened, but you may not)

Here's what it looks like right now...

A bit like swamp water. I think I'll let it infuse for a week or so, but I'll start tasting it beginning tomorrow. I'll keep you updated on how it progresses!

Thanks for reading!