My friend, Julie, was visiting this past weekend and brought some gigantic lemons with her, so we decided to experiment with some lemon recipes, including honey-sweetened lemonade, and some honey-lemon ice cubes that are great for iced tea or lemonade. (It's a funny thing. Julie likes to watch cooking shows, but she only does more “experimental” cooking when she visits me. Maybe it's because I have teenage boys to help eat the results in case it doesn't go well?)
A Note About Lemons…
Before I get into the recipe, I'd like to make a note about lemons. All lemons are not created equal. I try to avoid using lemon zest from lemons that are not organic, as any sprays used on the tree will tend to accumulate in the skin. Also, there can be a huge difference in the size of lemons. If a recipe says “the juice from one lemon”, this can be an issue. Depending on the size of the lemon, you could get from 1/4 to 1/2 cup, with an average largish lemon yielding around 1/3 cup. Lemons harvested at different times of the year and under different conditions will also yield more or less juice.
Case in point – from left to right: Julie's monster lemon, “average” lemon, and small organic lemon.
Now, on to the honey-sweetened lemonade…
Honey-Sweetened Lemonade Recipe
Adapted from Joy with Honey
- 1 cup lemon juice (freshly squeezed is great if you have it)
- 1/2 cup honey
- 4 cups water, separated
Warm one cup of water and mix with honey until dissolved. (This helps to avoid the honey settling in the bottom of the pitcher.) Blend with remaining water and lemon juice in a large pitcher. Serve hot or cold.
Honey-Lemon Ice Cube Recipe
Adapted from Joy with Honey
- 1/4 cup honey
- 1 Tablespoon lemon juice
- 1 cup hot water
Blend the honey with the hot water and lemon juice. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze at once. (If you let it sit, the honey may settle out.) Serve with lemonade, fruit punch or iced tea (my personal favorite). This recipe will fit into one standard ice cube tray with room to spare.
The original honey-sweetened lemonade recipe (and most we looked at on the internet) used about half as much water and twice as much honey, but that was way too sweet and strong for my palette, especially if you add the honey-lemon ice cubes. You can adjust proportions to your tastes. Do be aware that honey adds a distinctive flavor, and tends to be sweeter than sugar per unit volume, so if you switch to sugar for sweetening, you may need more. You may also wish to experiment with using homemade stevia extract for sweetening.
To get the most juice from your lemons, it helps to use lemons that are at room temperature or warmer, rather than those that are fresh out of the refrigerator. If you don't have a juicer (which I don't), you can use a spoon to help press out the juice. (As demonstrated by Julie in this photo.)
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Using honey in recipes always reminds me of my grandmother, who used home raised honey as their only sweetener during WWII. We buy our honey in bulk locally from apiaries we trust, as much of the honey on store shelves has been adulterated or stretched with other ingredients.
I hope you enjoy this sweet summer treat!
P.S. – One of our readers (Teresa) noted:
Adding lemon verbena or lemon balm also intensifies the flavor. I steep them but kinda tear them first to let the oils out, particularly the verbena as the leaves are a little stiff. I don't rip too much because when they are too small they are a pain to strain unless you use cheesecloth or a very tightly woven strainer. Lemon balm is good but lemon verbena is so very intense it is amazing! I've used both just to flavor water and leave the sweet out entirely. When I do this in a large jar I just leave them in.
So, if you have some lemony herbs on hand, throw them right into your lemonade. 🙂