There is a famous French festival every late winter that pays tribute to the glory of the yellow lemon, where the fruit is featured as a harbinger of summer months to come, the months when the sun's beacon of heat is closer to the Earth and scorchingly intense. The festival, where huge statuary and other exhibits are designed using citrus fruit, primarily lemons, is a ritual of long standing, akin to our flower-saturated bowl parade floats riding through our cities on New Year's Day to kickoff a full day of college football games.
We often think of lemonade as something to imbibe during the hottest months of July and August when we are sluggish and in need of refreshing cheer. I think it an appropriate beverage any time of year and would rather squeeze a fresh brew than snap the tab off a can of Coke any day. You could even add carbonated water to the juice if you really want that fizzy snap.
Our markets in the Northeast rarely carry Meyer lemons, those plumper, thinner-skinned relatives of the common bright yellow grenades we know and love for their zap, zest and zeal in every sort of recipe. When I unexpectedly discovered them a few weeks ago, I thought they were a specialty orange. Of course, the 4-pack went right into the cart next to the last of Florida's famous February strawberries, the ones that rival any local summer crops, and are grown naturally as in-season fruit.
When I got them home, I didn't quite know what to do with them, so opted for the most basic recipe to highlight its qualities. Lemonade was made to order. Meyer lemons seem to be suffering a bit of an identity crisis; they are genetically a cross between a Mandarin orange and a lemon. They look like a lemon in general shape and texture, but are distinctly a pale golden orange in color. Their flavor and juice content are also more inclined to the orange than the lemon, with a high, easy-to-extract yield of juice and low amount of seeds. While the unadorned sour flavor required the calming effect of sugar, once it was sweetened it became, by my taste buds, more of what I'd think the base of Orangina is, a faint tang akin to tangerine. Not unpleasant, but not what I expected, either. If you happen on some in your market travels, do consider it, for novelty alone it is worth it. But for me, it will always be the lemon, for there is nothing like the sun.
Juice of 4 Meyer lemons, strained of pulp and seeds
10 tablespoons of superfine sugar (bartender's sugar) or simple syrup*
Cold water or club soda
Fill 1 quart pitcher with ice cubes. Pour juice and cold water/club soda over ice cubes to fill pitcher. Add sugar/syrup, stirring to fully mix.
1 cup white granulated sugar
1 cup water
Combine sugar and water in a saucepan. Cook over low heat until sugar dissolves and you can see bottom of saucepan. Pour into jar or bottle to store. Will keep several weeks in refrigerator.