We missed the elderflower season by just a hair’s breadth this year due to damp sprigs and rather tardy action on our part. Thrilled at the thought of brewing our own poky elderflower champagne, we had the recipe, the bottles, the bucket, the yeast and the date set. And then the rain came. And then the rain came and dampened the last of that subtle, musty tang from the elderflowers and shook their heads around from off their sprigs. And sadly, the annoyance of having to wait another year for the flowers to bloom again was barely tempered by the decision to make lemonade instead. It is true: a glass of squeezed lemons pales next to the ghoulish pleasure of forcing open an over-ripe, over-effervescent bottle of home brew in the allotment, but it’s all we had. That and the fact that we were on our bikes from the market and better balanced by a bag of lemons than a couple of kilos of sugar, which is what we would have needed for the fizz.
All that said, the sight of the lemonade pleases me when I open my fridge and can be frozen into ice trays or mixed with vodka, rum or both.
Tip: To maximise juice, roll your lemons vigorously under the palm of your hand on a flat surface before juicing.
Makes about 1.5 litres
Pour the juice and as many ‘bits’ as you want of 20 lemons into a large stainless steel pot, along with the grating of one lemon’s peel. If the lemons are waxed, go easy and halve this, as too much will add a hard, chemical bitterness to the flavour. If they’re left unwaxed, go for it. Add 3 cups of castor sugar and 5 cups of water and bring to the boil for a few minutes, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Reduce the heat and stir in plenty of grated or finely cut fresh ginger – about a thumb sized nob will do. Alternatively, a couple of tablespoons of syrup from a jar of Christmas pickled ginger will do, though you may want to reduce the sugar ratio if you do this. Continue to simmer gently for another 10 minutes and remove from the heat to allow the flavours to steep for an hour. Taste to test, adding in any extra sugar or fresh lemon juice if needed. Stir again. Once cooled, pour the concentrate into sterlised, sealed glass bottles and refrigerate. Serve with tap or soda water, ice and a leaf of fresh mint.