Since today is the first official day of summer, and it is beautiful here in the Midwest (beautiful as in, we don’t have a heat index over 100!), I thought I would share one of my family’s favorite summer beverages.
I am not a big fan of lemonade, but I will drink gallons of this throughout the summer. In fact, it is so popular in my house, I have to dry extra lavender and mint, just to ensure I have enough to last the whole summer!!
Originally, pioneers used either lemon or ginger to make this refreshing drink. Pioneers were out doing all their farming by hand & horse, and there was no such thing as air-conditioning, so they needed something to drink as a pick me up throughout the long day of field work.
Plain water does not always go down well when you are very hot, so the addition of lemons or ginger, made it easier to drink what you needed to, to stay hydrated. Most farm wives knew that ginger was great for your stomach and circulation, and of course a little sugar would provide the extra energy you needed to keep working. Since lemons were a ‘specialty’ in most places, I imagine it was a real treat when you got lemonade instead of gingerade!
During the summer I always start with fresh herbs right out of my garden. Mint is best grown in either a pot, or a space you don’t care it takes over in. It will quickly fill your entire garden if you don’t stay on top of it! I usually freeze some of my mint and lavender as well, so that I can continue making this even after everything is done blooming towards the end of the season.
I don’t have an exact recipe since my family loves this lemonade anyway I make it. Your family may not enjoy the same quantity of lavender and mint, so I suggest trying it with the amounts I have listed here, and then adjusting each time you make it until you find the winning combination.
Using a gallon beverage container (I like clear so I can see everything), fill it about ¼ of the way full with almost hot water. The warmth of the water will cause all the ingredients to release their oils a bit faster, which results in a fresher taste.
Add 2 lemons, sliced. Now add a handful of fresh mint leaves, and about 5 lavender stems. You can use just the flowering heads if you like. Mix gently with a wooden spoon. Now add ¾ of a cup of sugar. I use white sugar for this so that it doesn’t affect the color. You could use honey, which would give a more golden color. Stir again, and fill the container with water. Cover, or replace the lid, and refrigerate for at least 2 hours prior to drinking for best flavor.
Stir and taste before serving so you can add additional sugar if needed.
The longer it sits and steeps in the refrigerator, the stronger the flavor. If I plan on serving it sooner, I will squeeze the juice of an additional lemon in, and crush the lavender and mint a bit. I have also made this lemonade following more of a sun-tea method. Place all ingredients, plus water in container, and then let sit direct sun for about two hours. Refrigerate before drinking.
My family loves it with LOTS of mint and lavender, so I usually use double the amounts I have listed above. I also serve it over Lavender Mint ice cubes, which are not only pretty, but help keep the flavor. Just place one medium-large mint leaf in each cube, add a lavender blossom, fill with water and freeze.
For a more grown-up version of this lemonade, you can add a shot of Limoncello to your glass. This is super tasty at the end of your summer cookouts! Defintiely use the herb ice cubes for this, as Limoncello should be served chilled and you don't want to water down the flavors too much.