Find out how to make your own bubbly, fermented lemonade using a simple fermentation process. This probiotic lemonade isn’t just delicious, it’s also a health tonic!
Yep, I was one of those kids who had a lemonade stand. My brother and I set up a few of them over the years, but failed to corner the lemonade market or reach millionaire status despite our best efforts.
Our lemonade was made to exacting standards: fresh-squeezed lemon juice with just the right ratios of water and sugar. (Our proprietary formula remains a closely held trade secret.) Our happy employees (us) and retail lemonade outlet (a table with a cardboard sign) made the sale of our lemonade even more compelling.
On a good day, we’d rake in windfall profits of $20. Later, we’d plunder our corporate accounts and use our lemonade earnings to buy the latest Hotwheel car or comic book. This lack of financial discipline likely explains why our lemonade company never went public on the stock exchange.
Fast forward to today: The Tyrant and I have a Zone 7b potted citrus garden to help feed our citrus addiction. Part of our collection includes three Meyer lemon trees…
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Step 1 to make the perfect lemonade: use Meyer lemons
In case you’ve never heard of them, Meyer lemons (Citrus × meyeri) are — in our opinion — the best lemon out there. The fruit can grow as big as an orange. When perfectly ripe, the skin is nearly orange in color as well. Both the skin and the pulp are delicious — in fact, we use the whole fruit, skin and all, when making salsas.
Sure, one could argue that Meyer lemons aren’t truly a lemon since they’re a hybrid between a citron and a mandarin/pomelo cross. Regardless, we highly recommend using Meyer lemons whenever a recipe calls for lemons, this one included!
Can you use something other than Meyer lemons to make this fermented lemonade recipe? Sure, and it will still be delicious, so carry on!
A new twist: fermented lemonade with honey
As a kid, I had no idea what fermentation was. Perhaps our lemonade stand would have achieved international success with a fermented lemonade offering on the menu.
However, as an adult, I (and The Tyrant) have become somewhat obsessed with fermentation. This is due to the remarkable flavors fermentation produces and the equally remarkable health benefits of consuming fermented foods/beverages.
This year, we had an abundance of citrus fruit (including Meyer lemons) to use up, plus a 5-gallon bucket of honey from our hive. This combination of ingredients afforded us an opportunity to try a new twist on the age-old lemonade recipe by making a sparkling fermented lemonade with honey.
“Sparkling” simply refers to the delightful, bubbliness of the finished product, made possible by C02 produced via friendly microbes (similar to the bubbles in beer or homemade fermented cordials).
In our first trial attempt at honey-fermented lemons, we included the skin and pith of the fruit and we didn’t add any water. The result: more of a health tonic than something you’d want to drink for pleasure due to the skin imparting a strong bitter flavor during the multi-week fermentation process. The Tyrant described it as “lemon cough syrup.”
However, this initial experiment gave us the insights necessary to go in a new direction resulting in this fermented lemonade with honey recipe.
Here are three recipe tips to help you make your own perfect fermented lemonade with honey:
1. Only use the lemon juice and pulp — not the skin and pith.
As per our lemon cough syrup experiment mentioned above, we only used the juice of our Meyer lemons to make this recipe. We left out the skin and pith to make sure we didn’t end up with a final product that was too bitter.
Since the golden-orange-colored Meyer lemon skins are so delicious and make a wonderful zest, we used a carrot grater to remove the skin first before juicing. We then dehydrated the skins and will use them in other recipes where needed.
The pith (the white inner skin) went into our compost.
2. Lemon juice: honey: water ratios
Our ratio of lemon juice: honey: water is about 2: 1: 1. For example, as the picture below shows, we used about 4 cups of fresh lemon juice, 2 cups of honey, and 2 cups of water in each jar when making our batches of fermented lemonade.
These ratios aren’t set in stone. You might prefer a more honey-forward or more lemon-forward beverage; if so, tweak your ratios accordingly. Or maybe you want a less concentrated drink, in which case you’d add more water at the start.
Consider our ratios a starting point for your first experimental fermented lemonade, then tweak accordingly as per your preferences.
3. Fermentation time
Ferment your lemonade at room temperature (around 70°F) in a spot that doesn’t get any sunlight.
No, you don’t need to add any commercial inoculants/yeasts to make this recipe. All the microbes you need are in/on the lemon skin, the honey, and/or floating around in the air. You’re just creating the ideal environment for the ones you want to harness and proliferate.
How long should you allow your fermented lemonade to ferment? Here again, that’s totally up to you, but keep the following in mind:
The fermentation process in your lemonade should start to noticeably kick off after about 3-4 days (you’ll see bubbles forming at the top and even more bubbles when you stir). After 1 week, the mixture is even more bubbly; it’s also delicious, but still relatively sweet.
You could put your fermented lemonade in the fridge after one week thus arresting fermentation and have a perfectly delicious final product. However, we prefer a dryer/less sweet fermented lemonade, so we let ours continue to ferment for anywhere between 14-21 days (the microbes eat the fructose in the honey, reducing overall sugar content and lessening the sweet flavor).
Two other important tips here:
- Stir the mixture vigorously with a clean spoon at least twice per day to aid fermentation by providing oxygen to the microbes;
- Take a small taste each time you stir to monitor how your fermentation is developing;
When your fermented lemonade tastes perfect to you (before it starts to develop any off flavors) put a metal lid on it and put it in the fridge. The cold basically puts the yeasts and lactic acid bacteria to sleep, slowing fermentation to a crawl.
You can store your fermented lemonade in the fridge for months, but we’d be amazed to meet anyone who doesn’t drink every drop of it long before then!
Recipe: Sparkling fermented lemonade with honey
Did we mention that this recipe is also an amazing foundation for adult beverages? We’ll share some of our favorite creations soon, but go ahead and get started with your own sparkling fermented lemonade via the recipe below:
Sparkling fermented lemonade with honey
A delicious and naturally bubbly probiotic drink made with fresh-squeezed lemons and honey.
- 2 parts fresh-squeezed lemon juice (Meyer lemons recommended)
- 1 part honey
- 1 part water
If you want to save your lemon skin, remove it with a carrot grater or zester, then set aside. Juice your lemons. Strain out seeds and large chunks of pulp.
Combine lemon juice, honey, and water in large GLASS jars (or non-reactive metal like stainless steel). Don't use plastic (even food-safe plastics in our opinion), or you risk the plastic leaching into your drink. Cover jar opening with a breathable fabric like linen or a paper towel and hold in place with a string or rubber band. Keep at room temperature and out of the sunlight throughout the fermentation process.
Stir mixture at least twice daily - we stir in the morning when we wake up and at night before going to bed. Taste a small amount to keep track of flavor and bubble development. After 3-4 days, you'll notice bubbles start to form. After a week, microbial activity will increase significantly and it should start to taste wonderful.
Arrest fermentation any time you want between Days 7-20 by putting it in the fridge with a permanent lid on. Store for several months in the fridge or until it's all gone! Drink as-is or use as a base for mixed drinks.
We hope you love this new fermented & honey-infused twist on the classic lemonade recipe! If you use this recipe to make millions at your own lemonade stand, please consider leaving us a tip.
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