Lemonade and thunderstorms

Where we love is home–home that our feet may leave, but not our hearts. –Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.

I quenched the homesickness I’ve been feeling recently with a visit home last week and a little lemonade. No matter where you move or travel, it is so refreshing to go home. There are memories, there, little pieces of yourself, tangled up in curtains and carpet and everyday things. And as I sat on the porch of my childhood home with warmth on my face and in my heart, I longed for lemonade and thunderstorms, two things I remember most from summers past.

I loved waiting out summer storms on our porch with my grandfather, curled up in a wicker chair watching the clouds in the sky churn and twist into a swirling sea of gray green splendor. The warm wind made the leaves dance themselves into a quiet frenzy moments before the sky ripped open with a loud crack and floods of rain washed away the sticky heat and made things new again. He would pour himself a fizzy Coke and I would eat popsicles and sip lime or lemonade my mom whipped up with crushed mint from our backyard. We would just sit. And watch. With no need to say a word. It was a lovely, lazy way to spend a summer evening at a time when I didn’t have a care in the world.

I think most people, myself included, could benefit from some of that childlike wonder and awe and a few stress free moments when we can pretend we have no cares in the world. This is no easy task, I realize, but let’s start with some lemonade. When in doubt, you can always start with something simple. Water, lemons and sugar seems like a good enough place to begin. When it comes to sugar, I have found that I crave less and less of the sweet stuff these days (disclaimer: chocolate is not included in this generalization; although I switched from milk to dark some time ago). I prefer unsweetened iced tea and black coffee. I water down Gatorade and juices and prefer seltzer water with lemon to soda. Most sugary childhood treats I once loved are lost on me now. This is impressive, I know, and makes me feel like I’m finally becoming a mature adult, or at least in terms of my palate.

So first thing’s first, I’ve cut the amount of sugar in my usual lemonade recipe by half and I’ve added some tart summer berries and a fistful of sweet basil to liven it up. Instead of making a simple syrup for a sure- fire homogeneous sweetener, I prefer to pulse the sugar and basil in a food processor until the basil becomes fragrant and flavorful and the sugar is ground to a fine powder that dissolves easily when whisked into cold water (the basil sugar is also quite tasty sprinkled over fresh strawberries). I reserve the blackberries to crush in individual servings with a dash of white sugar which preserves the homemade feel to the lemonade with free-floating fruit and basil and the faint sandiness of undissolved sugar. The resulting concoction is very refreshing with an herbal note and a natural fruity sweetness. It is also quite pretty to look at with a deep winey base of crushed berries giving way to a purple blush speckled with bits of green basil. And even though it’s a little more grown-up, it still feels like home and a simpler time that I like to revisit, if only for a moment.

Blackberry Basil Lemonade

1/2 gallon of spring or filtered water
1/2 c sugar, plus 8 teaspoons, divided
1 pint blackberries
12 basil leaves, thoroughly washed and dried and roughly chopped
juice from 7 lemons (about 1 cup juice) and 1 lime

Place sugar and basil leaves into a food process and pulse until basil is incorporated with sugar. Sugar will turn a bright grass green and basil pieces should be smaller than a pencil eraser.

Add lemon juice and basil sugar to water, and whisk to combine.

Add about 5 blackberries with 1 teaspoon sugar to a large glass. Using a fruit muddler (or back of a fork) smash berries and sugar to form a pulp. Fill glass with 8 oz of basil lemonade, mix well, and garnish with basil leaves, if desired.

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