Strawberries are one of the jewels of the food world.  They come in reds so bright they’re nearly glowing, the bigger they are the more they make you want them, and they’re often considered a romantic way to get your loved one to dash off the bedroom with you.  Personally, I’d take them over jewelry any day!  Unfortunately they don’t last as long as gemstones, but even if they’re too soft to eat fresh, they’re still perfect for strawberry lemonade.

On those rare occasions where we’re invited out to eat with someone and can’t convince them that the local Vietnamese, Greek, or Italian places are much better than the large chain restaurants that pop up everywhere, my husband Eric quickly turns to the back of the menu to peruse the drinks.  If he spots strawberry lemonade his eyes light up and his plan begins to form.

Eric is a fast drinker, another reason that we usually share any alcohol we might occasionally have.  So when a restaurant offers free refills of strawberry lemonade, he sees it as a challenge of the server’s generosity.  Within five minutes his glass is empty, and inevitably they come around and offer him a refill.  By the time the food arrives he’s again reduced his glass to a thin pool of melted ice in the bottom, and they offer another refill.  This is where the challenge begins.

For most servers, three glasses of strawberry lemonade is their limit.  If he also has a water glass, they’ll simply refill that and no longer ask about the lemonade.  But the great servers, the ones who aim to please the customer, the ones who go above and beyond the call of duty; they continue the refills until he can’t handle another drop.  So far his limit is six glasses, and although I cringe at how much sugar he’s imbibing, it doesn’t happen more than once or twice a year, so I just smile and watch him indulge.

He came home from work last week and again the weather was perfect.  I excitedly told him I’d whipped up a treat in the kitchen, a pretty common occurrence in our relationship.  I pulled out a pitcher of ice cold strawberry lemonade, the chunks of strawberry lazily swimming in the bottom, sprigs of invigorating mint bobbing on the surface.  “Oooooh!” he sighed in delight.

But there was something different about this strawberry lemonade, I don’t know if it was the calm of the sun beating down on us, the childlike freedom of playing on the swing set in our backyard, or the fact that he knew how much love was put into each glass of ruby hued lemon goodness.  This was a drink to be savored, a thirty minute glass of relaxation.  There was more in the pitcher, but he didn’t need it.  That one glass filled him with pure satisfaction.

Strawberry Lemonade Recipe

makes 2 quarts

Ingredients

5 cups water
1 cup lemon juice
15-18 medium to large strawberries
1/2 cup sugar
2 cups ice
optional: mint sprigs to garnish

Instructions

Mix water and lemon juice in a large pitcher and refrigerate.

Remove strawberry leaves and slice the berries thinly.  Place berries in a saucepan, add sugar, and turn heat to medium.  Stir the berries and sugar together and let simmer for about 5 minutes as the berries release their juices.  (You can add a couple TBS of water if you’re worried about the sugar burning at the beginning).

Mush your berries and add them and their syrup to the lemon juice and water.  Mix well, add the ice and mix again.  Optional: Garnish pitcher and glasses with sprigs of mint.

Approximate cost/serving: The price can vary depending whether you use fresh squeezed or bottled lemon juice.  I used fresh squeezed and my berries that were crazy cheap so it came out to $3 for the 2 quarts of lemonade.  That makes about 6 generous servings so 50 cents a serving.

Vegetarian/gluten free: Yes and Yes!


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