11/04/2011 02:54 pm ET | Updated Aug 31, 2012

How To Make Lemonade

Chef Scott Swartz of The Culinary Institute of America explains just how easy it is to make homemade lemonade. The key is getting the right balance between the tart lemon juice and the sweetener. He recommends using a simple syrup, which is just a mixture of equal parts water and sugar. He boils the mixture until the liquid is clear and all the water is dissolved, then sets the syrup aside to cool. He then juices fresh lemons, rolling them firmly on the counter before cutting them in half and using a reamer to extract the juice. (He's also careful to remove any seeds from the juice.) He recommends using equal parts simple syrup and fresh lemon juice to get the perfect balance of flavor, but feel free to adjust to your taste. Once he pours it into a pitcher of ice, he adds fresh mint leaves for extra zing.

For 60 years, The Culinary Institute of America has been setting the standard for excellence in professional culinary education. In this video series, experienced chefs and educators show you how to tackle essential cooking techniques.

Video Transcript

Hi, I'm Chef Scott Swartz of the Culinary Institute of America, and I'm here to show you the kitchen basic: how to make fresh-squeezed lemonade.

As the hot days of summer hit and you want something cool and refreshing, some fresh-squeezed lemonade is the perfect way to refresh your palate - so we're going to prepare some today.

The best way to sweeten it is with something called a simple syrup, and a simple syrup is exactly that: it's simple. It's equal parts of sugar and of water, and all we have to do is add these two together and just cook them just until the sugar dissolves. The advantage of this is that you won't have undissolved sugar in your finished product. As you can see, it's come up to a boil, and it's clear - meaning my sugar is completely dissolved. Now I'm going to turn it off and let it cool before I make my lemonade.

While that cools, I'm going to need to squeeze my fresh lemons. I've already squeezed some here ahead of time, but let me show you a quick technique for squeezing lemons. When you're squeezing a citrus fruit, you want to roll it on the counter first - and this is going to break up the membranes and allow the juice to come out easier. Then we're going to squeeze them fresh. Nothing's going to beat fresh-squeezed lemons for making lemonade! I'm just going to squeeze a couple of lemons here; I've got most of my lemon juice done. We're going to use this technique with this reamer; there's also a hand reamer which will help get the juice out, but the key is really rolling it. That will allow more juice to come out even faster. So I'll take my fresh-squeezed lemon juice, and add this to the lemon juice that I already squeezed. We're going to be careful to keep the seeds out of this, so we won't have chewy lemonade, we'll have a nice, refreshing lemonade.

To add to this, we've got our simple syrup that's made and is now cooled. I generally recommend an equal part lemon juice to an equal part simple syrup, but it's really about taste at this point. It's not a specific recipe; if you like tarter lemonade or sweeter lemonade, you can control it this way. It's a terrific technique. I'm going to add approximately equal parts, and then I'll take my lemonade and pour it into my pitcher. So I'll cool it down over ice, and I'll chill it, and it's ready to go. Now that we've got our fresh-squeezed lemonade in the pitcher, if you want to personalize it, give it a little special flavor, you can add things to it. We're going to add a little mint to ours. I'll take a couple of fresh mint leaves and throw them right in, and swirl our pitcher a little bit to get them in.

Now, the most important thing is taste. What you really need to do at this point is just taste your lemonade. So we're going to take a little bit, and once you taste it - to me, that's got a balance of tart and sweet. Maybe you like it sweeter? Add a little more simple syrup. You like it a little tarter? Add a little more lemon juice. It's all about you, what you like. So that's how you make fresh-squeezed lemonade.

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