As soon as it was officially spring, my 9-year-old daughter declared she wanted to open a lemonade stand in our neighborhood. I glanced outside, then covertly checked the weather app on my phone for the temperature.
"Err … um … do you think maybe customers might prefer hot chocolate?" I asked gently, knowing full well that lemonade stands don't tend to crop up in Alaska until about June.
"No, I want to sell lemonade," she replied.
"All right, if you insist." I conceded, grinning at her feisty persistence.
She and my fiancee grabbed a yellow legal pad and pencil and went to work, speaking of things like advertising and business plans and overhead costs. They were taking this entire lemonade stand thing very seriously indeed. I would chime in about recipes and lemonade flavors and the cost of lemons at the different stores around town. We did a mock-up lemonade stand in our living room, where my daughter worked on her sales pitch and we discussed whether to offer things like straws or napkins. Her big brother pitched in a piece of furniture from his room to serve as a makeshift stand. Poster board was purchased in bright, attention-grabbing neon colors and we sat at the dining room table drawing huge block letters reading "Freshly Squeezed Lemonade."
When Saturday arrived, the signs went up and the kitchen was buzzing as a 5-pound bag of lemons was squeezed into oblivion to make two flavors, classic lemonade and springy strawberry lemonade. The blender whirred as strawberries became puree that was poured into the pitchers, transforming the pale yellow into a ruby red. And although it was below freezing outside, we all bundled up and set up our stand at the end of the driveway with determination and optimism.
Some of the neighbors walked over from next door or across the street and chatted awhile. Some dropped by as they walked their dogs past our house. Others pulled up in their cars and ordered without getting out. Still others, not feeling in the mood for icy lemonade, left a donation for the effort. Regardless, the sight of a perky little lemonade stand managed by an even perkier 9-year-old girl brought a smile to many faces. And sips of freshly squeezed lemonade were like rays of sunshine on an otherwise chilly day.
When we packed up the lemonade stand, my daughter sat at the table, counting her profits, and divvied up her money to share with all members of the family for their help. I think she learned a lot about some of the things it takes to start a business, and even more about knowing your market and how the weather and the season can impact sales, particularly in Alaska.
As for this strawberry lemonade recipe, I've been making it for years, including for several of my children's lemonade stands. It's great to have on hand for spring and summer gatherings or special events. It can also be served sparkling with the addition of some club soda or seltzer. You can strain the lemonade before serving, if that's your preference, but the small bits of strawberry are my favorite part.
Yields about 8 cups (1 half gallon)
For the simple syrup:
2 cups water
1 cup sugar
For the strawberry puree:
1 pint fresh strawberries, hulled (or 2 cups frozen, thawed)
1 cup cold water
For the lemonade:
Zest of 1 lemon
1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice
2 cups cold water
Lemon slices and sliced strawberries, optional
In a saucepan over high heat, mix together the water and the sugar. Cook until the sugar dissolves and it becomes a clear syrup. Remove from heat and set aside to cool while you do the next steps.
Add the strawberries and the 1 cup cold water to a blender. Pulse until the mixture is pureed.
To a half-gallon pitcher, add the lemon zest, lemon juice, 2 cups cold water, ice, and lemon and strawberry slices, if using. Stir in the strawberry puree and the simple syrup until well combined. Taste for sweetness and add more cold water if needed. Refrigerate to chill through or serve over ice.
Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email email@example.com and your inquiry may appear in a future column.