This recipe was one I made when I was still in California. The apartment we rented had the most amazing bright sunlight – totally different from what I am used to in Vancouver (where I have floor-to-ceiling windows, indirect light, and typically cloudy weather – meaning I essentially live in a photography softbox).
It was fun to play around under new conditions, to see how the different light affected the colour and contrast. Like how when I moved the little desk a few feet closer to the window, the orangey hue became crazy saturated, the highlights were blown out and the shadows were dramatic. Also, I noticed right away that greyish walls reflected a muddy light (quite ugly, actually) onto anything placed beside them.
I spend so much time in my familiar photography setting that it was fun to experiment in a new space – without any props or equipment other than a camera. Not hoping for any particular results. The gods of food photography urge earnestly against using harsh, unfiltered light, but I felt like being rebellious. More on that to come. (I just wrote about 1000 words and realized that needed to be its own blog post.)
On this trip, I also had Instacart at my fingertips – which is this magical grocery shopping app that allows you to spend all your money from the comfort of your Uber, and have all the obscure ingredients you ever dreamed of delivered in the hour. I would seriously move to California just for this service (my friends know that I’m dead serious, and it scares them). It would be chaos. I’d be known as the crazy Instacart lady. (In fact, after I’d been there only a week, I got a “Thank you for being such a frequent customer” email.)
Anyway, I found one particular specialty food store on the app that had a fabulous bulk section. I ordered all kinds of goodies, including cocoa nibs, raw buckwheat groats, and edible dried rose petals. The problem was, they had a minimum for bulk – I think it was 1/4-pound. No problem for cocoa nibs! But I ended up with a pillowcase full of rose petals (actually, that would be quite a lovely pillow to sleep on).
And we have cousins in San Fran who possess a prolific lemon tree (of which I AM SO JEALOUS). They gave me permission to raid it, and raid it I did. I left their house with a giant shopping bag full, and Theo and I made lemonade.
I adore the sweet floral note of rose, and it marries beautifully with lemonade. I made lavender lemonade for Theo’s first birthday a couple of years ago – I honestly didn’t know how it would be received, but it disappeared in the blink of an eye and everyone was asking for more. So if you’re unsure about this, just trust me.
I thought I’d share the recipe close to mother’s day, because it just seemed like a good fit for a special lunch or tea to celebrate a lovely person you adore.
I like my lemonade quite tart, but my husband prefers it a bit sweeter. If you’re on his side of the fence, scale the Rose Syrup recipe up to 2 cups sugar, 2 cups water and 3/4 cups petals and add to taste. Leftover syrup can be used to flavour other cocktails, in tea, or even in plain yogurt (with strawberries – YUM!).
The rose petals I used were just petals and buds from the bulk tea section. Be sure that you get food-grade rose (not, like, potpourri or something) – they should either be sold as edible, culinary, food-grade or for tea. Like these ones. You can find them in most Mediterranean or Persian shops, and health food stores, too. Feel free to substitute lavender, if you prefer.
Tart lemonade with homemade rose syrup.
- 1 1/2 cups granulated sugar
- 1 1/2 cups filtered water
- 1/2 cup dried edible roses or herbal rose tea
- 2 cups freshly squeezed lemon juice
- 1 batch Rose Syrup
- gin optional (start with 1 oz per highball glass, fill with ice and lemonade, stir)
- Lemon wheels to garnish glasses.
- Ice as desired
- Additional dried edible roses to garnish
Heat sugar, water and rose petals in a saucepan over a medium flame, stirring frequently, until sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and cool to room temperature (about an hour) then strain out rose petals, pressing on them to extract as much flavour as possible.
In a large pitcher, combine lemon juice and rose syrup. Add lemon wheels and additional roses to the pitcher, along with ice, or use to garnish individual drinks.
For the boozy version, add a shot of gin to individual highball glasses and top up with lemonade.