Summer is in full swing these days and while some people are enjoying the beach or a far away vacation, you are most likely to find me in the kitchen surrounded by jam jars, vodka, trays of frozen berries, and bubbling pots of fragrant jam, preserving something for the winter months. That's what I've been up to lately, madly scrambling to get it all done before the peaches and tomatoes turn up. But in between homemade jam, liqueurs and frozen fruit I'll retire to my peaceful, lush patio for a glass of something refreshing. I always like to incorporate whatever fruits we are enjoying at the moment into a beverage, so with a fridge full of cherries I added them to a basic lemonade preparation. At first it turns a beautiful pink blush and then deepens into an "all about the cherry" concoction. If your idea of lemonade includes opening a can of concentrate or stirring sugar crystals coloured yellow, you'll be surprised at the big flavour this drink offers. And other than getting someone else to do the grunt work (DG) of squeezing the lemons and pitting the cherries, this drink takes minutes to prepare. And best of all are the edible cherry garnishes that make it snack too. Stay cool and happy summer!
2 cups fresh squeezed lemon juice
4 cups water, divided
1 1/3 cups sugar
2 cups cherries, pitted and halved
1 strip of lemon zest, removed with vegetable peeler from lemon
2 large sprigs of lemon verbena or lemon balm (optional)
Combine water and sugar in a small saucepan and heat until sugar is completely dissolved. Add cherries and lemon zest and stir. Stir and heat, gently, over medium heat for about 3 minutes to extract some of the cherry juice into the syrup without "cooking" the cherries. Pour into a glass measuring cup and cool to room temperature or refrigerate overnight where the cherry flavoured syrup will continue to develop. Stir together all ingredients in a large pitcher. Add remaining 2 cups cold water and a sprig or two of herbs, if using. Taste for sweetness, adding more sugar if necessary but remembering you will be adding ice to the mixture later which will tame the mixture's intensity. Fill serving cups with ice before pouring the lemonade. This keeps for days in the fridge, if it lasts that long.