The weather is inviting. Farmers' markets are opening and fresh flowers are beginning to appear everywhere in abundance. Fund-raising events are taking place. Recently I volunteered to serve refreshments at an arts council event. The lemonade we served was a huge hit. Other beverages sold well, of course, but my station was the only one where people actually were standing in line to buy re-fills!
To make lemonade for the crowd that will be attending your event, you will need: simple syrup, water, crushed ice, fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and lemon slices.
The day before the event you will want to do the following:
- Make up a batch of simple syrup:
Combine one cup of white sugar and one cup of water in a heavy saucepan. Simmer the sugar and water over medium heat and stir until all the sugar dissolves. Continue to simmer for about 5 minutes until the syrup is clear. Then remove the pan from the heat. Cool to room temperature. Pour this cool simple syrup into a gallon jar; add enough cool water to fill up the jar. One gallon of watered-down syrup is about right for a large family picnic.
For a fundraising event, you will need to triple the amount of simple syrup shown above and add the cooled syrup to three gallons of water. Three gallons of watered-down syrup will serve a large crowd.
- Reserve the sugar/water mixture in your refrigerator.
- Next you will need to squeeze a lot of lemons. How many is up to you. But if you have a large event you will want one gallon of fresh-squeezed lemon juice for every three gallons of simple syrup/water mix. Reserve this lemon juice in a glass gallon jug or in several glass containers in your refrigerator.
- Slice lemons cross-wise for garnish, wrap these in plastic wrap and refrigerate.
On the day of the event, set up your serving station:
- Fill a clean ice chest to the brim with crushed ice. Place a sturdy scoop inside the ice chest so it will be handy.
- Position a stack of tall beverage cups at your table/station.
- Fill a glass pitcher with syrup mix and one with lemon juice. Place these, side-by side, and use a small sauce ladle for dispensing the lemon juice.
- Have lemon slices on a pretty plate---at the ready.
- Scoop ice chips into each beverage container as the order is placed.
- Fill each beverage container 3/4 full of the syrup mix.
- Add 2, 3 or 4 ladles of lemon juice depending on the customer's taste---Ask how they like it---mild, medium, or very tart?
- Add a lemon slice as garnish and aswizzle stick or straw to stir.
If you are serving at a fundraiser, smile sweetly and say, "Two dollars, please."
This recipe will return a tremendous profit, and gives enjoyment to all who buy!
Another popular item at our refreshment stand was delicious home-made Biscotti…
1 cup of sugar
1/4 cup high quality olive oil
2 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon baking powder
A pinch of salt
Grated zest of one lemon
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon almond extract
1/4 cup sliced almonds
1 egg yolk
Cream olive oil, sugar, eggs, lemon zest, vanilla and almond extract in a bowl. In a separate bowl, combine flour, baking powder, and salt. Add the dry mixture to the creamed mixture a little at a time until the consistency is of the dough is sticky. Set the dough aside while you toast the almonds in a 350 degree oven for about 5 minutes. Sprinkle a little flour on a board, rub your hands with flour, and flour the almonds while these are still warm. Place the dough on the board and knead the dough lightly, pressing the almonds into the dough. Do not overwork. Add just enough flour so the dough will be smooth but still remains slightly sticky.
Cut the dough in half. Use your floured hands or a rolling pin to press each half into 2 long, narrow loaves. (Each loaf will now look like a roll and be about 4 inches wide, 12 inches long and about half an inch deep.) Place both biscotti rolls onto a lightly-greased cookie sheet. Brush on a glaze made with the beaten yolk of one egg. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees F.
Remove biscotti rolls from the oven and place these on a secure surface. Slice the rolls diagonally into 1/2 inch wide sections, using a serrated knife. This step must be completed while the biscotti rolls are still hot.
While the slices are still warm, turn these onto baking sheets like pieces of toast and continue to bake these for an additional 3 minutes in a hot oven (425 degrees F.) to give the slices their signature "crunch". Remove from oven and cool for 30 minutes on a wire rack. This recipe makes about 40 biscotti. After these have cooled, dip some in melted chocolate to serve with coffee; serve plain with chocolate gelato or with vanilla ice cream; or serve on a pretty plate as a light dessert to be dipped into a small glass of vin santo, a sweet Tuscan wine.
We didn't choose to sell home made ice cream at our refreshment stand, but I suppose if you had a large ice cream maker, you could do that. I'm sure it would be popular. In case you'd like to try it, here's a nice recipe for another lemon treat:
2 cups of whipping cream
1 cup white sugar
Pinch of salt
The zest and the juice of one lemon
½ cup high quality olive oil
Bring the water in the lower half of a double boiler to a full rolling boil. Place the whipping cream into the top pan and heat the cream to the boiling point over the hot water bath. Add the sugar and an ever so tiny pinch of salt. Stir this mixture over the water bath until the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove top half of the double boiler from the heat. Pace this pan in a bath of cold water until the mix is thoroughly cooled. Cover and chill the mix thoroughly in the refrigerator for a couple of hours.
Place the chilled cream mixture into a chilled bowl and beat at high speed with an electric mixer, adding the lemon zest and the lemon juice very gradually. Slowly drizzle the olive oil into the mix, allowing it to be taken up ever so gradually as the machine runs at fairly high speed. (If you don't have an electric mixer, you can use a blender.)
Remove the beaters from the bowl and chill the mix thoroughly in the refrigerator once again, for at least 2 hours. Then place the chilled mix in an ice cream maker and follow the directions for your particular machine.
If you don't have an ice cream maker:
Pour the chilled mix into a shallow glass baking dish. Place the gelato mix into the freezer compartment of your refrigerator until the mix is firm but not solid. Remove from the freezer, turn the mix into a chilled bowl and whiz it with a hand mixer. Pop it back into the freezer and freeze it again right in the mixing bowl. Then, when you're ready to serve dessert, use an ice cream scoop to form balls of frozen gelato and serve these in glass parfait dishes with biscotti.
In these first days of spring, just about anything tastes better with a squeeze of fresh lemon across the top! Last night we grilled salmon, tossed a salad of fresh-picked greens, and served a side of steamed broccoli al dente served with lemon wedges. You guessed it! I squeezed lemon juice over every bit of it. So good!
Natalie Neal Whitefield is a free-lance journalist who lives and works in the rarified air of the Rocky Mountain West!
Still Life with Lemons was painted by Wanda Westberg, one of America's finest traditional plein-air landscape painters. This painting and others are currently offered for sale at William Lester Gallery: http://www.williamlestergallery.com/