Citrus Season

One of my most cherished Christmas gifts is a hand-crafted book of recipes that I received from my two daughters this past December. Our house is party central and over the years we’ve accumulated a memorable collection of recipes from various dinners and themed events we’ve concocted.

The hand-illustrated binder runs the gamut from latkes to champagne risotto (the latter from last year’s epic Father’s Day bash) but it also has many blank chapters just waiting for more fresh entries this year.

Deck season seems only two weeks (and perhaps an additional 20 degrees) away so my mind has wandered to a simple lemonade recipe that my kids added to the collection.

Now purists and haters might blanch at the notion but this lemonade recipe originates from the Food Network. But good taste is good taste and I think you have to give props to anyone that ponies up the cash for those pricey vanilla beans on modest wages.

While you are throwing the cash around do yourself a favor and buy the industrial strength two-in-one citrus juicer from Williams-Sonoma. Hand-squeezing two dozen lemons is a bitch and can bring on the carpal tunnel.

Honey-Vanilla Lemonade
2 cups sugar
1/2 cup honey
2 cups water, plus more as needed
1 vanilla bean
2 1/2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice (from about 24 lemons)
Lemon wheels or wedges, for garnish

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar, honey, and 2 cups water and place over medium-high heat. Cut the vanilla bean in 1/2 lengthwise, then, using the back of the knife, scrape the vanilla seeds from the pod and add to the saucepan, along with the pod. Bring the mixture to a boil and cook for 4 or 5 minutes until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture thickens. Remove from the heat and allow to cool.

Pour the lemon juice into a gallon jug or pitcher. Pour the sugar syrup through a strainer into the pitcher and discard the pod. Add water to equal 1 gallon and stir well.

Serve over ice with lemon wheels or wedges.

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