One of the strangest things I’ve done lately is fly home from Phoenix with over 50 pounds of citrus in my bag. And it isn’t the first time I’ve done it. And it probably won’t be the last. It seems that I’ve found the perfect time to visit family in Arizona while raiding their citrus trees for fresh lemon and grapefruit. In early April, folks in Arizona are approaching the end of their growing season so they are more than happy to give us all the citrus we want. Carrying that much citrus home on the plane feels a little euphoric as my mind swirls with ideas to preserve my precious cargo.

Last year was my first time making preserved lemons and I had to make them again this year, but in smaller batches for gifts. I also froze some juice, made jam, candied citrus peels, and ate quite a few raw (with salt, of course). With the fresh juice I made cocktail mixes to be used with or without alcohol.

One of my favorite mixes so far has to be the maple lemonade. Super simple to throw together, especially if you have a juicer (I have a manual one like this) and lasts for a few days in the fridge. I can just imagine myself sitting outdoors this summer sipping on maple lemonade with some bourbon (Makers Mark would be great in this).

Maple Lemonade
(makes 1 quart)

1 cup freshly squeezed lemon juice (I used 4 juicy lemons)
1/2 cup maple syrup, more if desired
2 1/2 cups water, more if desired
Crushed ice
Bourbon, to taste

In a quart sized mason jar, combine lemon juice and maple syrup. Add water and taste for flavor. If it’s too tart, add a bit of maple syrup and a splash of water until it’s to your liking. The sweetness level of lemons varies so adjust as needed.

Serve over crushed ice with an ounce (or more) of bourbon. Enjoy!

(credit: Crystal Grobe)