To L With You, and your Little Lemonade too!

Thursday means dinglehoppers, so L is for Lemonade. Let’s look longingly (and lovingly) at this lemony treat.

Lemon trees originated in the Middle East (or possibly Central Asia). The first references to cultivated lemon trees appear in a treatise on tenth century farming methods.

The work didn’t describe the lemon’s uses, but it stands to reason that mixing lemon juice with water didn’t take long to figure out. (Early native Americans poured water through ground acorns to remove toxic tannins before eating the acorn meal. Asians were steeping tea leaves before the birth of Christ. Squeezing lemons into water is hardly a difficult concept by comparison.)

Lemonade, in the broad sense of “a drink made from lemon juice, water and sweetener” was being produced and consumed in Egypt (Cairo, specifically) by the thirteenth century. A chronicle of the medieval Jewish community in Cairo states that bottles of diluted, sweetened lemon juice were a popular treat during that period.

In modern times, lemonade falls into three basic categories: “clear” (unsweetened flat or sparkling water mixed with lemon juice), “cloudy” (which starts from a base of uncarbonated water, sweetener and lemon juice and gets more creative from there), and “fizzy” (which may refer to carbonated water mixed with lemon juice and sugar or carbonated citrus sodas generally, depending on location).

It gets more elaborate from there. Lemonade is often mixed with strawberry, raspberry, peach and other fruits, with alcohol (especially in the U.K., though in the U.S. lemonade has largely been replaced with “standard” bar mixes – and we are poorer for the loss), or with colored syrups like grenadine to produce “pink lemonade” that retains its lemon flavor.

In Ireland lemonade comes in red and brown as well as the original “white.” All are lemon-flavored, though the undertones apparently differ.  (Any Irish readers who can shed more light on this? Hop in the comments and let me know!)

The word means different things in different countries – in France and elsewhere in Europe, “lemonade” usually has fizz. In the U.S., it’s usually flat. Some people prefer it sour and others expect it very sweet. (I tend to prefer it sour, and carbonated when I can get it.)

Hot water with lemon (and/or honey) is a popular home remedy for sore throats (and one I use a lot in winter). It’s not quite “lemonade” but it’s close.

And that’s today’s lesson on lemonade. Have something more? Hop into the comments and share.