Nothing is more refreshing on a hot summer day than a tall glass of ice cold fresh squeezed lemonade! I’ve tackled a few of the most common problems related to making lemonade in ABK’s “Homemade Lemonade for a Crowd” recipe. Learn how to substitute bottled lemon juice if you don’t want to squeeze lemons and the best way to store lemonade for 100!
If you’ve ever had a glass of homemade lemonade, you know there’s nothing quite like it on hot summer day. Powdered mixes or concentrates from the freezer section at the grocery are fine in a pinch, but if you’re looking for a special treat, this is your lucky day. I’ve taken the guesswork out of making the perfect batch of lemonade for 10 or 100.
A few key issues I’ve addressed when making or serving lemonade are:
1. Fresh squeezed vs lemon juice from a bottle
2. What’s the best way to sweeten lemonade?
3. How to avoid watered down lemonade when ice melts.
4. How to make lemonade in large batches.
5. How to store and transport large batches of lemonade.
Let’s get started…
Fresh is best, but bottled lemon juice works too!
When making lemonade the best choice is fresh squeezed lemon juice. Why fresh lemon juice? Fresh is always best. Try making a glass of lemonade with fresh squeezed juice and a second glass with lemon juice out of a bottle. You’ll be able to taste the difference. To get started, you’ll need something to squeeze the lemons. This is my favorite tool to squeeze lemons and limes. Cut the lemon in half and place the cut side down into the juicer, then squeeze away. It’s that simple. There are other methods, including electric juicers if you need to juice a large amount of fruit. If you don’t have the time or the muscle power to juice lemons, you can use lemon juice. Bottled Real lemon juice works well.
Sweetening the juice…there are several different methods for sweetening lemonade, including swirling sugar and water together in a container and then adding lemon juice and ice. One of the problems with this method is the sugar eventually settles to the bottom of the glass or pitcher, and you’re left with a layer of sugar. After many experiments, I’m a firm believer in making a simple syrup and adding lemon juice to the syrup. This method insures you are never left with undissolved sugar in your lemonade. The syrup takes just a few minutes to make, and in a pinch, you can just heat water and sugar together in the microwave and stir until dissolved. Don’t let the word “syrup” throw you off. It’s just basically heating water and sugar together and bringing to a boil. It is, after all, called simple syrup for a reason 🙂
I’m melting… Another problem encountered with lemonade on a hot summer day is the melted ice factor. Melted ice = watered down lemonade. When I make a batch of lemonade, I want it to be just the right blend of sweet and tart. I want the glass to be filled to the brim with ICE (because I’m totally obsessed with ice, and LOTS of it). I combat the watered down lemonade issue with a mixture that is heavy on the concentrate and allows for melted ice in the glass. If you mix up the lemonade to be just the right blend without allowing for ice meltage (I know, not a word), and the ice melts, your lemonade will be diluted and not as flavorful! The key to flavorful lemonade is the concentrate. Make sure you don’t add too much water!
Making large batches of lemonade is simple if you follow ABK’s Homemade Lemonade for a Crowd recipe. I’ve included instructions for making the lemonade with fresh squeezed juice and also bottled lemon juice. The instructions include quantities for 10-20 servings (depending on glass size) and concentrate for 100 servings. When making the lemonade for large groups (quantities over 100) I recommend using bottled lemon juice or a mixture of fresh squeezed and bottled mixed together. The time and cost involved in squeezing lemon juice for hundreds of servings may be prohibitive, and bottled lemon juice is a good alternative!
I promise this recipe made with bottled lemon juice is still going to be about 100 times better than any type of mix you can buy! As a side note, I have been in charge of Girls Camp, Trek, Youth Conference, Scouts, school functions, etc more times than I can count. When I’m making lemonade for a youth crowd, or a large group for an event that is not a special occasion (such as a wedding) I reach for the Country Time Lemonade Mix every time. For kid gatherings and campouts, there’s no shame in a mix!
Where am I going to store homemade lemonade for 500?? The last tip for making large batches of homemade lemonade is storage. When I made several large batches of lemonade for a wedding recently, I stored the concentrate in gallon size Freezer Ziplock bags. I placed the bag inside of a bowl, and poured the concentrate in four batches into the bags (photo above). Each bag contained approximately 8 cups of concentrate, and when mixed with water equals about 25 (4 oz) servings per bag (photo below). This method of storage works well if you don’t have a lot of refrigerator or freezer space! And it makes transporting the drink very simple. Just place in a cooler and you’re ready to go. You can also mix 2 of the large batches of concentrate into a 5 gallon container for transporting. You can probably fit 3 large batches of concentrate into a 5 gallon container, but I’ve only tried 2 and then bagged the rest. This method is simple for dispensing. Just pour out 8 cups at a time and add water and ice as directed.
Not enough time to make concentrate for 100 or 500? Think again. I made lemonade for 500 in about 2 1/2 hours start to (sticky) finish and even ran to the grocery store to buy more lemon juice when I ran out of fresh lemons. I know you’re going to love this. When you’re rocking back on your porch sipping a tall glass of fresh squeezed juice, you’ll agree with me it was worth it!
- for 10 servings:
- 4 cups water
- 2 cups sugar
- 2 cups cold water
- 1¾ cups fresh squeezed lemon juice or bottled lemon juice such as Real Lemon (green bottle)
- ice for pitcher and glasses
- for 100 servings:
- 8 cups water
- 10½ cups sugar
- 8 cups cold water
- 6¾ cups lemon juice fresh or bottled
- additional water, ice, gallon ziplock bags for storage
- additional lemons,washed and cut for decorative purposes in dispenser or pitcher
- for 10 servings:
- Pour 4 cups water and 2 cups sugar in a medium size pan. Bring to boil and whisk until sugar is dissolved. Boil for 2-3 minutes. Remove from heat.
- Pour into another pan, or let cool in pan.
- Add 2 cups cold water and 1¾ cups lemon juice with pulp. Stir well. Add additional water if desired.
- Refrigerate until ready to serve. When ready to serve, pour over glasses filled with ice, or fill the pitcher with about 8 cups of ice and place additional ice in glasses and fill.
- for 100 servings:
- Pour 8 cups water and 10½ cups sugar into a large pan or stockpot. Whisk to mix sugar.
- Bring mixture to a boil, and continue boiling for 2-3 minutes. Remove pan from heat. Let cool a bit.
- Add 8 cups cold water and 6¾ cups lemon juice.
- Stir until mixed well.
- When mixture is cooled, pour into 4 gallon Ziplock bags, about 8 cups per bag, remove excess air and seal. Store in refrigerator, cooler or freezer.
- When ready to use concentrate, let thaw and mix each bag with 4 cups cold water and ice. Each gallon bag will yield approximately 24-4 oz servings in 8 oz cups filled with ice, or about 11-12 8 oz servings in 16 oz cups filled with ice.
-The serving size will vary according to your cup size, and if the cups are filled with ice.
-The amount of lemon juice in the recipe may be altered, if you like a stronger lemon flavor add more juice. If the sweetness is too strong, add more water to the finished product. Remember, if you add too much water and add ice as well, the lemonade will become watered down when the ice melts.
-If you are filling the dispensers with lemons, make sure the seeds are removed so they don't clog the spout when dispensing the lemonade.
-You may add pureed fruit to the lemonade to make flavored lemonades such as strawberry, peach, raspberry, etc.
-This mixture will keep in the freezer for 2-3 months.
-You may thaw the concentrate in the microwave. Set in a microwave proof bowl before thawing to catch any juice that escapes from bag.
-Minutemaid Premium lemon juice sold in the freezer section may be used in place of fresh lemon juice.
-If you purchase ice cream in gallon tubs, one of the large concentrate batches fits in a tub and stacks easily for freezing.