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!


  1. Store-bought lemonade is a concept I've never understood, so I've always made it from scratch. This version looks very interesting, though—I'm going to have to go buy a few more lemons and try this out! Thank you for sharing!

  2. Thanks, Jen! I agree completely about homemade lemonade - store bought just tastes flat and fake. The carbonation in this particular recipe might be a nice variation on your homemade version, though!

  3. What a fantastic use of whey! I cannot wait to try this! I am adding this post to our cheesepalooza face book page NOW
    Can't wait to read about your ricotta!

    1. Thanks so much for reading and reposting, Valerie! Expect a ricotta recipe in the next few days. :)

  4. What an interesting post! I must admit I am not much into lemonade, but your description makes me really curious. I just got a gift of Meyer lemons, which are sweeter than regular one, and just today I made a batch of yogurt, so I have all I need. I am wondering what would happen if you used whey from kefir, since kefir contains yeast.

    1. Hi Simona, and thanks for reading! I think you could easily adapt this recipe to another flavor - definitely fermented limeade or orangeade, and possibly something like gingerale (I'm experimenting with that at the moment).

      I have to admit that I've never made kefir, but some quick googling suggests that using the whey from milk kefir might produce similar results. I'm honestly not sure, but let me know if you decide to test it out!

  5. I've just spent 10 years in England (now in Canada) and I'm a huge fan of bog standard English lemonade. I'll definitely be trying this recipe, it's intriguing! Thanks a bunch.