Summer refresher: Lemonade syrup

The other night I went to see Take That at Wembley Stadium. As usual the boys put on the pop extravaganza to end all pop extravaganzas (OK, maybe that Michael Jackson show I had tickets to would have slightly surpassed it, but as my friend Sam said, ‘I’ve seen Britney, I’ve seen Beyonce – and Take That are always so much better!’)

While the show was great, the journey home was not. Due to a host of reasons too annoying to go into, it took me three hours by foot, tube, train, bus and then foot again. By 1 am I had been unceremoniously deposited in a dodgy-ish bit of southeast London by a broken-down train, not quite sure which night bus would get me home to my leafy little neighbourhood. On top of this, I was parched. All that kept me going was a daydream playing on repeat in my head of the world’s tallest, coolest drink when I got home.

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When I finally arrived there at 1:30 I made do with a glass of water. (Bliss!) But what I really wanted was something else; something refreshing and summery like this homemade lemonade.

While elderflower cordial is a quintessential summer drink here in England, lemonade is the classic on the other side of the pond, and this is the version drunk in my family’s house.

One word of warning: please use a very clean – and preferably sterilized – sealed jar for storing this syrup. My mother will kill me for telling this story but I do so in the interest of culinary safety! One dinner time a few years back, I took a big gulp of my lemonade at dinner, made with the syrup that had been sitting in a jug in the fridge for a week or so. Almost instantly a wave of nausea came over me. My mother took a sip of hers – nausea. My sister took a swig – and ran to the bathroom and vomited. So please, when making any cordials or syrups, the cleanliness rule is not to be skipped!

Health and safety aside, this syrup is absurdly quick and easy to make and it’s fantastic stuff to have on hand in the fridge. Keeping homemade lemonade in the fridge makes me feel vaguely Martha-like. I love feeling Martha-like!

Come to think of it, this is also the kind of thirst quencher I hope I’ll be enjoying on my summer holiday in Croatia. Edward and I are off for a week of sun and sand, rest and relaxation, and lots and lots of reading. I’ll be back here in a week’s time. In the meantime I hope you have a week of summery, sunny days – and Happy Fourth of July to my American friends!

Lemonade Syrup

Makes about 2 cups

2 cups sugar
1 cup water
zest of one lemon
juice of 7 lemons

In a small saucepan, combine the sugar, water and lemon zest and bring to a boil. Simmer for about five minutes, until all the sugar has dissolved.

Squeeze in the lemon juice. The mixture will seize up when you add the juice, but don’t worry; vigorously whisk the mixture and the sugar crystals will dissolve again. Once everything is dissolved, strain the mixture into a medium bowl through a fine mesh sieve. Once cool, pour the syrup into a very clean (preferably sterilized) jar and store in the fridge for up to two weeks.

To drink, dilute to taste with still or sparkling water.