French Lavender Lemonade.
Love thy neighbor--and if he happens to be tall, debonair and devastating, it will be that much easier. ~Mae West
We live in an older neighborhood with mature trees clustered about, and homes dating back to the 1890's. My house is on the main drag through our neighborhood with a picturesque little church across the road. It is a fairly busy street in our bustling pedestrian community. We get all the action right outside our windows. Runners, dog-walkers, strollers, bikers, the 4th of July parade, the Halloween extravaganza, the dog blessing ceremony (Asheville is a unique community)...it all happens directly in front of my house.
Therefore, I find my next-door-neighbor's children quite brilliant to make a tradition of selling lemonade on the street-corner throughout the summer. Karen (the mom) told me her boys have made as much as $80 selling their lemonade on a Saturday. I couldn't believe it at first. Such a huge profit for two little boys--from lemonade!?! Then, I tasted their brew and the answer was clear. Superior Lemonade. This is no powdered lemon-drink they are selling! The boys use freshly squeezed organic lemon juice and...LAVENDER! No wonder they can charge a $1 a cup of this blessed beverage! The neighbors come running with cash in hand, when they hear the boys call out, "Ice Cold Lemonade!" Karen claims the boys make the lemonade on their own, but I find that highly suspect. Sensational lemonade coming out of the kitchen of a woman who swears she doesn't cook? Very suspicious indeed...she's GOT to be hiding something behind the giant Hemlock hedge that separates our houses. Maybe, I'll never know her secrets, but she did share the lemonade recipe with me! That makes her a pretty great neighbor!
It came out of an old Hallmark cookbook simply titled "HERBS". After flipping through the pages, I noticed there were many classic recipes that showed promise, but the crown-of-glory was the beverage section. Herbed mimosas, teas, and cocktails, and this wondrous french lavender lemonade! The lavender leaves are steeped in a simple syrup to extract the essence. Because the leaves are removed before the lemon juice and water are added, the flavor comes off as very mysterious and highly complex. When you first start to sip it you wonder, "What is in this? Is it mint? No, no, not mint...more floral." You sip a little more, "Could be rosemary. No, not nearly as piny." A few more sips, "Dear God, It's lavender!" What angelic genius discovered that lavender elevates lemonade to new heights? I don't know, but I could kiss that person on the lips!
I'm giving you the recipe as a double batch, because I guarantee one small pitcher's worth will not be enough. Once you taste this lemonade, you'll understand!
French Lavender Lemonade
10 cups water, divided
3 cups sugar
½ cup lavender leaves, roughly chopped
2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice, from 9-11 lemons
Fresh lavender sprigs for garnishing
I cut the lavender right out of my flower bed Then pulled the leaves off the stems, in the same way you would pull the leaves downward off a sprig of rosemary, saving the flowers for the garnish.
In a medium sauce pan, combine 5 cups of water, with the sugar and lavender leaves. Bring to a boil. Once boiling, stir and cover. Then remove from heat and allow the lavender to steep until the mixture returns to room temperature.
Squeeze the lemons, and removing any runaway seeds. When the “lavender infusion” has cooled, strain out the lavender leaves. Pour the infusion, lemon juice, and another 5 cups of water into a large pitcher.
Add ice and garnish with delicate lavender sprigs!