In California, you can get lemons almost year round. The variety of lemon changes as does the sweetness of the lemon. This variation makes lemonade the perfect vehicle for teaching young cooks about using a recipe as a guide and letting ingredients speak for themselves.
When you're learning to cook, recipes that allow you taste as you add ingredients are key. This lemonade is a great way to introduce young cooks to experimentation and to state change. Young cooks start with raw lemon--feeling and tasting the juice as they squeeze the lemons. They then dilute with water and taste again. Finally they add simple syrup, and taste again. Depending on the season and type of lemons they're using, the measures will change.
This lemonade also gives young cooks the ability to see various ingredients in different states. They can see and taste honey raw and then diluted in a simple syrup. They're likewise able to see and taste maple sugar crystals and then dissolved into the simple syrup.
For slightly older cooks, a side by side tasting of lemonade made with Meyer lemons versus another type of lemon would be interesting. Cooks could see whether the measures of water and simple syrup change.
Ingredients for Farm Fresh Lemonade (makes 1 liter)
- Simple syrup (approximately 1 1/4 cups):
- 1 cup Water
- 1/4 cup Coombs Family Farms Organic Pure Maple Sugar(*affiliate link)
- 1/4 cup Honey
- 1 pound, Meyer lemons
- 2 to 3 cups Water
For a lemonade with a brighter yellow color, choose a light colored honey and substitute cane sugar for the maple sugar.
Instructions (approximately 45 minutes)
From start to finish this recipe takes about 45 minutes to make with a toddler. 15 minutes to squeeze the lemons. 5 minutes for an adult to make the simple syrup and about 20 minutes in the refrigerator to cool the syrup. And 5 minutes to combine the simple syrup, lemon juice, and water.
Lemonade is a great way for toddlers to practice hand-eye coordination. We have a PowerLix Hand Citrus Press Juicer(*affiliate link) that makes squeezing the lemons pretty safe. The one gotcha is accidentally pinching your finger either where the lemon is placed or between the handles.
Once I chopped the lemons in half, Gates made short work of squeezing the lemon juice (she wanted more lemons when she was done; she liked the task so much!). She juiced the lemons into a Pyrex 2 Cup Glass Measuring Cup(*affiliate link). I had Gates juice the lemons into the heavy glass measuring cup so that the juicer didn't topple the cup and so that it would be easy to see how much juice we had (we needed a cup). (We have plastic measuring cups that we typically use when cooking or baking, but resting the juicer on top or pressing the juicer against the cup would end up with the juice all over the floor.) Not shown are the two bowls to the right and left of the measuring cup. One bowl contained the fresh Meyer lemon halves and the other contained the squeezed halves.
When you've finished squeezing the lemons (or before), create your simple syrup.
- Place the maple sugar and water in a small saucepan over medium heat.
- Stir so that the maple sugar dissolves, then add the honey and bring to a simmer.
- When the the honey has dissolved into the water, remove from heat.
- Place in your refrigerator to chill.
After Gates was finished squeezing the lemons she wanted to immediately make the lemonade. I hadn't thought to make the simple syrup ahead of time and we're not quite comfortable with her helping at the stove when she's tired. So... she waited patiently for me to dissolve the honey and maple sugar into the water. And then she was even more patient as we put the simple syrup into a food-safe container and placed it in the refrigerator to chill.
NOTE: If you're making this recipe with younger kids and don't want to wait for your simple syrup to cool, make it the night before and let it chill in the refrigerator overnight.
Gates woke up bright and early wanting to finish her lemonade. After a break to make breakfast, which she helped with (recipe coming next week!), we cleared off the kitchen table and got ready to make lemonade.
To ensure a final juice that wasn't too sweet or too sour, we started with two cups of water and added to it one cup lemon juice. Later season lemons are sweeter than lemons harvested earlier. And Meyer lemons are sweeter than other varieties. For both of these reasons, you should always taste as you go, rather than blindly follow recipes.
Gates tasted everything along the way, from plain lemon juice ("it tastes good" followed by a scrunched up face and hands quickly reaching for water) to lemon juice and water (a slightly less scrunched up face) to lemon juice, water, and simple syrup.
If Gates had her way she would have drank the simple syrup straight. We thought the simple syrup by itself was pretty sweet. So rather than just add the entire 1 1/4 cups of simple syrup, we had Gates add six ounces, mix, and taste. It was less sour but still needed a little more sweetness and dilution. She added another two ounces of simple syrup and mixed. It was perfect! Not too sweet and not too sour.
Because the sweetness of lemons varies -- Meyer lemons are sweeter than other varieties -- you'll always want to start with water as your base, add lemon juice, and then slowly add your simple syrup. If your lemonade is too sour with all of the simple syrup you can slowly add more water to dilute the lemon.
Credits: All layouts designed by and images taken by Eden Hensley Silverstein for The Road to the Good Life.
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