Earlier this month, I joined my first cousins on my father’s side for an informal family reunion of sorts for our generation – a cousins’ reunion if you will. Our weekend get-together took place at the home of one of my cousins who lives just outside of Atlanta.
In addition to enjoying our time together out and about, we spent a good deal of time in the kitchen and around the dinner table – rolling out pizza dough, peeling peaches, squeezing lemons, talking, laughing, drinking, and eating. As the saying goes, the kitchen is the heart of the home.
Many of us contributed culinary talents to our meals that weekend. Steve made delicious waffles and the dough for making personal pizzas. Of course, I had to get in there and whip up a peach cobbler; after all, we were in Georgia. And Lee wowed all of our taste buds with his ginger mint lemonade.
I can’t recall exactly how many lemons we squeezed to help Lee make his lemonade, but let’s just say I’m sure he was happy to have over four sets of hands available to help him do all that work. My rendition of his lemonade calls for 20 lemons. You can make the task of getting all of the juice out of those lemons a lot easier with the use of a citrus reamer or press. Also, be sure to firmly roll the lemons with the palm of your hand before cutting and squeezing them. This helps them release their juice.
The recipe also calls for fresh ginger and mint, which you use to make an infusion. When peeling the ginger, a great tip to remember is to simply use the tip of a spoon to easily scrape off the peel. To sweeten the lemonade, you can use simple syrup as the recipe states below, or you can add sugar directly since the warmth from the infused water will allow the sugar to dissolve easily.
The weekend I spent with my cousins this month was special and a great example of how food plays such a central role in our lives and adds joy to our time spent with loved ones. Lee’s ginger mint lemonade, along with all of the other drinks and dishes my cousins and I shared together, is a reminder to me of this joy.
Lee’s Ginger Mint Lemonade
20 medium sized lemons
1 large bunch of mint
1 two inch piece of ginger, peeled and sliced
12 cups of water
1 1/2 cups of simple syrup (2 cups sugar to 1 cup water)
More sugar to taste
If using simple syrup, make that first by bringing 1 cup of water to a simmer over medium high heat. Then add 2 cups of sugar and stir. Reduce the heat to medium low and stir until sugar is dissolved. Set aside to cool.
Bring 6 cups of water to a boil in a large sauce pot. Once boiling, turn off heat and add 1 cup of mint leaves, packed, and ginger slices. Remove pot from heat, cover, and let mint and ginger steep. After 10 minutes, strain infused water to remove mint and ginger, and set aside to cool. Discard the used mint and ginger.
Meanwhile, squeeze juice from lemons into a large pitcher. Add ginger mint infusion, six additional cups of water and simple syrup. Stir lemonade and taste for sweetness. If desired, add an additional 1/4 cup of sugar (or more). Add several fresh mint sprigs to the pitcher (about 5), cover and let cool for 30 minutes to an hour. Refrigerate over night for best flavor. Serve chilled in glasses with ice and fresh mint.
Note: You can use simple syrup or granulated sugar to sweeten the lemonade. Usually simple syrup is used to sweeten cold drinks, but if your ginger mint infusion is still warm when you add it to the lemon juice and remaining water, you can use sugar directly. Add a 1/2 cup of sugar at a time tasting until lemonade reaches desired sweetness.