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Thursday, September 8, 2011

Raspberry Lemonade - A Summer and Early Fall Cooler




McDonald's and Starbucks have nothing on us!

Both of these chains have been promoting "frozen strawberry lemonade" this summer and, though they are pitched as being healthy options, both are heavy on the calories and light on any nutrition other than some Vitamin C. Add in the cost of both drinks, and you can guess that I haven't been imbibing either.

Meanwhile, however, my first raspberry crop provided me with enough fruits to do more experimenting, including the production of a quart of bright red raspberry syrup, ready to be tested.

Grandchildren to the rescue.

You should know that we have started a three-ring binder of recipes the kids have made while at my house. (These are "from start to finish" dishes, not just those where they might stir in the last few ingredients. As a result, the binder is filling slowly, but there are some pretty involved recipes nonetheless.)

On one of the hottest days of the summer, Xavier and Soren came in very thirsty after some outdoor play. I didn't have any ice (my constantly overflowing freezer rarely has room for ice cube trays) but the raspberry syrup was chilled, as was a bottle of reconstituted lemon juice (aka ReaLemon), and Minnesota water stays pretty cold right out of the tap, so it seemed like we could come up with a good cooling drink with what we had.

The resulting concoction is one we have made a couple of times since and has become a recipe the boys are proud to call their very own.

Is it "healthy?" That is a question all my grandchildren often ask about a new food, and it came up quickly as we stirred our first batch. My answer? Well, kind of. There is no shortage of sugar here, but then you are looking at 200 to 270 calories for the Starbucks and McDonald's strawberry lemonade versions. Using on-line nutrition calculators, our sweetest, most concentrated raspberry lemonade comes out to about 240 calories for a 24 oz serving...and we know we have only three basic ingredients in ours. Besides, do any of us really need a full 24 ounces? But if we buy it, we'll drink it all, right?

As given below, the drink is quite concentrated, but this is for a version to be poured over crushed or cubed ice. If you are making it as we did without the ice, you will want to add a cup or two more water. The best way to determine how much to add of course, is to bring out the taster spoons or small glasses and try it out.

Raspberry Lemonade

1/2 c reconstituted lemon juice (like ReaLemon, though fresh lemon juice would be great if you have it)
1/2 c sugar
4 to 5 c ice water
1/2 c raspberry syrup

Pour all ingredients into a large pitcher and stir well. Add ice cubes or pour over ice in individual glasses.

Raspberry Syrup

4 c raspberries
4 c water
2 c sugar, divided
2 T lemon juice

Combine raspberries, water, lemon juice and 1/4 c sugar in a large pan. Bring to a boil and simmer about 10 to 15 minutes until the berries are well softened. Turn mixture into a colander or strainer over a large bowl and allow to drain for a few minutes. Press lightly on the berries a few times, but the remaining pulp will still be very juicy.

Put the drained juice back into the pan and stir in the remaining sugar. Bring to a boil and cook for about 2 to 3 minutes, until the sugar is completely dissolved and the mixture has cooked down slightly. Store in the refrigerator for several weeks.

This can be used for a light syrup over ice cream as well as in lemonade. You might also pour some of the syrup over fresh berries to sweeten them slightly or poach fresh peach halves in just enough syrup to cover--this can be done in the microwave in only a couple of minutes for a great last minute dessert.


What about all that pulp that you have left? It is ready for using in breads, cakes, even pie filling or jam, wherever cooked raspberries might be used. Since it is not super-sweet, it makes a nice topping for ice cream. Use a cup of the pulp in place of a cup of bananas in your favorite banana bread or sweeten it a bit more and use as a filling for sweet rolls. Maybe that's a recipe to post in coming weeks as well.


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