This summer we started the tradition in my family of having homemade strawberry lemonade on Shabbat afternoons. We often have friends over and end up sitting outside on the patio watching the kids play in the backyard. Perhaps it is because I am eight months pregnant, but I have to say the idea of sitting outside in the heat without a cold refreshing beverage is not that appealing. This is my solution. Ostensibly the lemonade is for the kids, so that Shabbat will feel extra sweet for them, but I have to admit I mostly make it because I love it too.
Most strawberry lemonade recipes have you blend the strawberries and other ingredients in the blender. While I love that method for making slushy icy drinks it doesn’t appeal to me when I am making the drink ahead of time. The strawberry lemonade made in the blender has a thickness, almost like a smoothy, that is not that appealing to me when served straight out of the refrigerator rather than icy cold. On a whim I came up with an alternative method that is perfectly suited for Shabbat. I simply macerate the strawberries in sugar overnight. The resulting syrup becomes both the flavoring and sweetener for the lemonade. The pieces of strawberry float in the drink making it kind of like sangria with the floating fruit. The syrup also makes it an intensely pink drink that looks it was made with food coloring even thought it is all natural, so of course the kids love that. I have to say, this strawberry lemonade is quickly becoming my signature drink.
The thing about cooking for Shabbat is that everything needs to be made ahead of time since observant Jews do not cook once Shabbat has started. That means that what might seem like an annoyingly long step for making a drink (an overnight stint in the refrigerator) is perfectly in keeping with the rhythm of the rest of my Shabbat meal preparation. On Friday when I am making all the rest of the food for Shabbat I cut up the strawberries, cover them with sugar and stick them in the refrigerator. Even better, you actually get a better syrup when making it with frozen strawberries so there are no stems to cut off and you can just pulse them in the food processor to chop them. I usually squeeze the lemon juice and keep it in a separate jar in the fridge. The next day I combine the syrup, lemon juice, and water or seltzer to make the lemonade. The nice thing about doing it this way it you can adjust the proportions for different tastes. I like my lemonade a bit on the tart side, and the recipe below reflects that, but feel free to reduce the amount of lemon juice slightly for a sweeter drink. I’m sure it would be great as a more adult drink with a splash of vodka as well.
There are endless possible variations on this and I am planning on trying as many of them as I can before the summer is over. Perhaps this week I will throw a handful of blueberries in the finished lemonade for a red, white, and blue drink in honor of the Fourth of July!
1 pound frozen strawberries
Slightly generous 1/2 cup (4 oz) sugar
1/2 cup fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 cups water or sparkling water
Coarsely chop the strawberries and place them in a container with a lid. Pour the sugar over the strawberries, cover with the lid and shake well to thoroughly combine them. Refrigerate overnight, shaking occasionally.
Combine the strawberry mixture, lemon juice, water and ice in a pitcher and serve.