Another thing we’ve really missed going to this year is the various state and county fairs across our region. From the famous Iowa State Fair to our local Scott County Fair, every single one has been cancelled. Some of them tried to continue online, but we didn’t find the experience even close to attending in person. We’re hoping for some normalcy to return by next summer and we’ll be able to drown ourselves in lemonade and corn dogs.
Speaking of lemonade, that’s the one thing we always purchase whenever we’re at a fair. There’s something refreshing about having a tall glass over ice that is made from actual lemons and not a flavored powder. Of course they’re expensive too! You can expect to spend $7 at our local fair for a full glass and even more at the state level. And we’re OK with it. But with the absence of fairs this year, we were craving our lemonade fix. Thanks to a new video by Chef John of Food Wishes, we were able to make a batch that tasted BETTER than any we’ve ever had! His posted recipe was a little inexact, so we wanted to update it to make each batch come out perfect the first time.
State Fair Lemonade Recipe
Ingredients (makes 3 quarts)
5lb bag of lemons (approx 14ct)
2.5 cups white sugar
12 cups filtered water
The secret to state fair lemonade is to use all of the lemon. Start by peeling the lemon with a vegetable peeler. Try to get as little of the white part as possible. It’s the yellow part of the rind that holds the lemon oil you’re after. If your lemons feel a little waxy (a common thing from store-bought lemons), give them a good wash under hot water before peeling.
Here comes the interesting part. After peeling, place all of the shavings into a bowl and add all of the sugar. Mix it thoroughly with your hands until everything is well-coated. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and set aside (no need to refrigerate) for 9-12 hours! Yes, this is a long process, but well worth the effort and wait. Over the next few hours you will notice the dry sugar starts to pull out the oils from the lemon peels.
Once the rest time has passed (don’t cheat on the 9-12 hours!), bring a large pot of 12 cups of water to a rolling boil. Turn off the heat and add the peels and oil/sugar mixture to the water. Stir the lemon ‘soup’ gently for about 5 minutes to make sure all of the sugar is completely dissolved.
At this point, our instructions differ a bit from that of Chef John. He suggests you strain the liquid of the rinds and add it back to the pot. Then you would squeeze in the lemon juice from the lemons. We suggest one alteration. If you’re like us, when you go to squeeze the lemons, you will inevitably get lemon seeds coming loose and falling in. This means you’ll need to pick them out or strain again. Let’s save a step.
After stirring the oil/sugar mixture in, begin squeezing all of the lemon juice into the same pot. It’s fine if large pieces of pulp fall in also since we’ll be straining at the end. After all 14 lemons have been relieved of their juice, now strain the entire mixture into either another pot or a large pitcher (be careful, the liquid may still be a little warm). Cover and let set on the counter to cool to room temperature before putting in the fridge.
This batch of state fair lemonade will be very strong. Not quite a concentrate, but one designed to be served over a full glass of ice. If you’re the type that doesn’t like ice in their drinks, feel free to add more water to taste to the recipe and chill. If you think you’re going to be extra thirsty, don’t hesitate to double the batch if you have room. It will go quick!
What is your favorite state fair food?