Sunday, May 17, 2009

Recipe: Sparkling Meyer lemonade with honey

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One thing that continually amazes this transplanted New Yorker about southern California is that food grows on trees. I mean this very literally: Almost every backyard in Los Angeles has some kind of fruit tree, and often more than one. The idea that most people can go outside and pick something off a tree that can go on the dinner table - it's astounding.

We bought our house in Santa Monica 12 years ago. It was a stretch, and I was nervous and resistant, but my husband pushed me, and I will be grateful forever for his wisdom and impeccable timing of the real estate market. The house came with a big old avocado tree, a scraggly Eureka lemon tree, and a dwarf fig tree. Backyard fruit! I couldn't have been more thrilled.

But soon those weren't enough. I wanted more food dropping in my lap once a year. So I started planting, and kept planting, and now we have what seems like almost an orchard. In addition to the original three trees, we have two Meyer lemon trees, a Key lime tree, a kumquat that has yet to be coaxed into bearing fruit, a Santa Rosa plum, and a dwarf five-citrus marvel in a pot on the patio (branches of Eureka lemon, Meyer lemon, lime, orange and tangerine, all grafted onto one root stock).

Truth be told, none of the fruit trees gives too generously. Except the one Meyer lemon we planted right after we moved in and before our huge two-year construction project. Maybe it got toughened in its youth by the chaos of the construction around it - it was, in fact, the only plant near the house to survive the ordeal - but it gives generously every year, and I do nothing for the bounty. Maybe I remember to feed it once every few years. Maybe not. No matter. It just likes us.

I'm drowning in lemons this time of year (thus the lemon bars, lemon-poppy seed muffins, lemon-blueberry muffins, lemon scones, and preserved lemons that I've turned out recently), and it's important to pick the fruit so the tree has the energy to flower and set fruit for next year, so this afternoon we had lemonade. My kids tell me I got the proportions perfect. You be the judge.

Erika's perfect sparkling Meyer lemonade with honey
  • 1/4 cup honey
  • 1/4 cup warm water
  • juice of 4 big Meyer lemons
  • 1/2 liter sparkling water or club soda
In a tall pitcher, mix the honey and warm water, and stir until the honey is dissolved in the water. Add the lemon juice, stir, and fill the pitcher halfway up with ice cubes. Pour over the sparkling water, stir again, and serve. Feel free to adjust the honey to your taste - we like our lemonade on the tart side - and certainly, if you're using normal lemons instead of Meyer, you'll want to sweeten it more.

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