Thursday, June 12, 2008

Veggie Might: La-la-la-la-Limeade

Penned by the effervescent Leigh, Veggie Might is a weekly Thursday column about the wide world of Vegetarianism.

My family is rich with “L” names, though I was the only one until my sister bore three boys and started a trend. One favorite song of my youth/college nostalgia regression was the Bert and Ernie-crooned “L Song” from Sesame Street. It frequently sticks in my head:

La-la-la-la lemon
La-la-la-la light bulb
La-la-la-la lamp post
La-la-la-la lump in my oatmeal

This unseasonably warm weekend had me singing another lilting “l” word: limeade. I usually save my limeade for special summer gatherings, but with the oppressive heat wafting across the eastern seaboard, I felt compelled to whip it up early and just for me. Plus, limes were an astounding 9 for $1 at my local fruit and veg market.

I love ‘ades, particularly lime, but I’m picky about them: too sweet or too fake and no thanks. You can keep your Country Time and Crystal Light, none of that artificial powdery stuff for me. Kool-aid is for dyeing yarn. If you don’t have the time or energy to squeeze your own citrus, at least spring for those “real lemon/lime” juices and go from there.

What makes my limeade really belt out the tunes is a secret ingredient I picked up from the gays. The first hot weekend of last spring, two friends and I went for a pre-show drink at one of our favorite places in Chelsea, East of Eighth. On the bar were three glass pitchers: one with cosmos, one with sangria, and one with mint lemonade. It was liquid magic, even without the rum the bartender suggested.

Since then, mint limeade has been my warm weather outdoor gathering staple—it’s like a mojito without the hangover. I’d never made homemade ‘ade before, so it took some trial and error. The most important lesson: if you’re making enough for more than, say four people, an electric citrus juicer is a worthy investment. They run from $12–$20 (or less if you hit a close-out store, like I did) and will save your forearms a world of hurt.

Last July, I made this recipe for my birthday party, squeezing 40 limes and 20 lemons by hand with a vintage glass juicer/reamer. Sweet Dodie Goodman, never again. When I repeated the gesture for a darling pair’s wedding shower in August, I invested in the electric version (sing along now). It has been worth every penny.

The great thing about this recipe is that it multiplies so easily. It operates on a basic 1:1:6 ratio—1 cup of lime juice: 1 cup of simple syrup: 6 cups of water for a total of 8 cups, and since we’re dealing with Customary Units, you know that cups also equal ounces, if that’s the way you like it (unh huh). Make a pitcher or make a vat; your guests will be singing your praises for picnics to come. And isn’t that the way it should be?

Limeade with Fresh Mint
yields ½ gallon, or 8 1-cup servings

1 cup of fresh lime juice (approx. 6 limes)
¾ cup sugar*
1 medium bunch fresh mint, washed and torn or chopped (reserve a few sprigs for garnish)
7 ¼ cups water

1) Start with the simple syrup. It’s the key to the whole shebang. And it has to cool, so it’s best to let it while you’re juicing limes. In a small saucepan, bring to a boil 1 ¼ cups of water. Stir in sugar until it dissolves; add chopped mint. Reduce heat and simmer for 10 minutes or so, stirring occasionally. (The extra ¼ cup of water will boil off while simmering.) This is not an exact science. When it smells good and minty, turn off the burner and let the syrup cool, at first on the stove top, then move to fridge.

2) Juice the limes and add to pitcher. Add 6 cups of water and chill in fridge while mint syrup continues to cool.

3) When the syrup is cool, strain the mint and add to the pitcher.

4) Stir and garnish with mint leaves.

5) Pour over ice and enjoy!

Approximate Calories, Fat, and Price per Serving
81.1 calories, .04g fat, $.30 per serving

6 limes: 61.5 calories, .2g fat, $.66
¾ cup sugar*: 580 calories, 0 fat, $.70
1 bunch mint: 7 calories, .1g fat, $1.00
TOTALS: 648.5 calories, .3g fat, $2.36
PER SERVING: 81.1 calories, .04g fat, $.30

*I use Florida Crystals Natural Cane Sugar. Your cost may be less with refined white sugar.

(Additional photo courtesy of Flickr member James~Quinn.)


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