The Sunday Magazine: Strawberry Rhubarb Lemonade

When it comes to thirst quenching beverages lemonade is at the top of my list. Especially during the summer. Up until three years ago I had always just made a basic lemonade. What changed was a visit to my local lavender farm where I was encouraged to add lavender to my recipe. It immediately became a favorite. The pitcher on the top shelf of our refrigerator is as likely to be tinted purple than light yellow. That has been one of the joys of living in a farm community. I have learned a lot about new ways to use the things being harvested. A year ago I got the latest addition to the lemonade repertoire while at one of the farms.

I really enjoy the rhythm of the different harvesting seasons. Probably because they are among the first things ready to be enjoyed strawberry and rhubarb have become favorites. Last year when I was out picking strawberries I was chatting with my fellow amateur harvesters. One of them next to me said they couldn’t wait to get home and make fresh strawberry lemonade. I wasn’t excited about that. The strawberry makes it too sweet. I could never get the sugar balance right. Then another person mentioned they added rhubarb and strawberry to their lemonade. Now that sounded so interesting, I bought some extra rhubarb on my way home.

What the rhubarb does is the same thing it does in pies or preservatives made from these early harvest staples. It adds a lot of counterbalance to the sweetness of the strawberry. Instead of trying to muck with the sugar amounts I found it much easier to find the right ratio of rhubarb to strawberry.

Lemonade is an extra simple recipe, but I found getting this one right took just a little extra prep in boiling the new ingredients before adding them. Here is my recipe.

In a saucepan I add four cups of water. To that goes two cups of chopped rhubarb, and 1/2 cup of sugar. I bring that to a boil and hold it there for a short time somewhere between 6-8 minutes. I add one cup of diced strawberries and let it simmer for an additional 2-3 minutes. I remove it from the heat and let it cool. Then I strain it into a pitcher. I add one cup of freshly squeezed lemon juice and enough ice to fill the pitcher.

It is a versatile recipe and if you are going to try it you might want to experiment with the rhubarb to strawberry ratio to find the right balance for your palate. The recipe above makes a tarter version than the typical strawberry lemonade I’ve tried.

In these current times I am more thankful for the simple pleasures right close by. Strawberry rhubarb lemonade is one of them.

Mark Behnke

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