Pineapple Lemonade

Pineapple Lemonade

Lemonade – A quintessential summer experience for America’s youth going back generations. Either consuming the beverage on a sweltering August day or selling it from a make-shift booth on a street corner for cents a cup – Both activities evoke sweet memories of summers’ past. Whether made from actual lemons, water, and sugar, or was purchased in powder form from the store, this beverage went down smooth!

You may not realize however that this sweet and tart drink (or at the very least, the yellow fruit that the drink derives its name from) has a long history throughout the globe.

Citrus has been in existence for millions of years but intentional introductions through human migrations took place between 3000-1500BCE and are attributed to the Austronesian expansion. Prior to human cultivation, citrus was limited to a small handful of distinct species although now nearly 70 separate cultivars exist, with Lemons themselves believed to be a hybridization between the citron and bitter orange fruits and originating in what is now Northwestern India. A status symbol amongst ancient Mediterranean peoples, citrus spread throughout the world through trade routes and by the 19th century, was commonplace in many countries.

One lemon can contain over 30mg of vitamin C (ascorbic acid), a vital nutrient. Humans are not able to synthesize ascorbic acid and must acquire it through the consumption of fruits and vegetables. Without it, medical symptoms including hair loss, gum disease, skin hemorrhages, and general weakness can occur. If left untreated, symptoms progress with the possibility of death becoming increasingly likely. These were the tell-tale signs of scurvy – A disease that only has less than 200,000 cases in the US per year now, but a disease that wreaked havoc on sailing missions for generations.

Prior to the discovery that adding lemons and other citrus fruits to a sailor’s diet could significantly decrease the rates of scurvy, over 2 million sailors perished from the disease between the 16th and 18th centuries.

With modern-day medicine and science, we now have a more-holistic understanding of the chemical compounds found within our foods, and how those foods can help us (or hinder us) in the goal of living healthier lifestyles. In addition to vitamin C, lemons are a wonderful source of flavonoids (antioxidants). Flavonoids are believed to have the ability to assist with weight loss, decrease the risk of stroke in women, improve blood pressure and iron absorption, and may even help in preventing cancer and asthma.

Now back to the sweet stuff! Seeing that lemons were dispersed worldwide, it is only natural that each region would have their own version of Lemonade. In the 13th and 14th centuries, Egyptians drank a beverage made with lemons, honey, and dates. 17th century Paris saw Limonadiers (lemonade vendors) carrying tanks of lemonade on their backs, pouring cups to the thirsty Parisian masses. Limonadiers were so common in mid-1600s Paris, that author Tom Nealon speculates in his book, Food Fights and Culture Wars, to the possibility that the exorbitant amount of lemon peels discarded throughout the city may have actually saved Paris from a round of plague that killed hundreds of thousands of people in other French cities during the same time span. The reasoning being that omnivorous rats, prevalent in the city given the lack of sanitation practices, were eating the lemon peels at a high rate. Lemon peels naturally contain linalool and limonene (chemicals used in today’s pet flea shampoos and pest repellants) thus the rat’s lemon peel meals were killing off the plague infested fleas and their larvae, and sparing Paris from that particular plague wave. Fast forward a century or so, and our British cousins developed a carbonated version of lemonade in 1833 (which is still enjoyed across the Atlantic to this day) and in the late 1800s, lemonade was promoted in the United States as an alcoholic alternative by the Women’s Christian Temperance Union. Lucy Hayes, or “Lemonade Lucy” as she was referred to, served White House guests the lemony beverage when her husband, President Rutherford B. Hayes (1877 – 1881) banned alcohol in their home.

So considering the immense global impact that lemons and lemonade has had, I felt it appropriate for our first edition of Cooking with the Curator to recreate Hannah Dodge’s recipe of Pineapple Lemonade.

As far as recipes go, Dodge’s recipe was equal parts straightforward AND vague. It technically only has three steps (five if you take each ingredient into consideration) but it allows for extra water and sugar to be added at the end “to taste” so this recipe is obviously flexible, and does not have one true end result.  As I was grating the wonderfully-ripe pineapple (and inevitably making a tropical-smelling and sticky mess in my kitchen) I questioned the thick pulpy consistency and the amount of juice that 1 cup generates (compared to the “juice of 2 lemons” that the recipe calls for). And if I had to describe the end result with one word, it would be “chunky” – not exactly a glowing endorsement for a lemonade-type beverage but I was not going to let the viscosity deter me from forcing my co-workers to be taste-testers.

Pineapple Lemonade

I presented the weekend’s Pineapple Lemonade to Slater Director Dayne Rugh in two rounds: the first, unaltered from its original form; the second was diluted – equal parts mixture to equal parts water, and the taste-test was met with positive comments!

The original mixture was very thick, but not necessarily an issue for pulp lovers like myself (if I am not chewing my orange juice, it’s not the juice for me!). We agree though, that this beverage could be a bit overwhelming for consumers who are expecting a thinner consistency. The original recipe was also very sweet and absolutely no additional sugar was needed (as was an option in the recipe). Once the mixture was diluted, it was described as being even more palatable (this version being the preferred concoction). The only critique received was that one could not smell or taste the lemon juice – The pineapple essence was just too overwhelming (but delicious).

If you are expecting lemonade with a hint of pineapple, this is not the drink for. However, experimentation and edits would be very easy to attempt. I would suggest either reducing the grated pineapple or increasing the amount of lemons used for starters. For those who prefer thinner beverages, we suggest maybe using a sieve to remove the grated pineapple pieces before they’re added to the boiled water and sugar or use a food processor to achieve a finer consistency once everything is combined.

In the opinions of Slater Staff, this particular Pineapple Lemonade is not true “lemonade”, but a fun and fresh beverage that would add a delicious element to any picnic or barbeque nonetheless. We hope you enjoy - CHEERS!

Pineapple Lemonade - Finished Product

Hannah Dodge’s Pineapple Lemonade Recipe:

Boil 1 cup each of sugar and water together until it thickens(?) - add 1 cup grated pineapple and juice of two lemons – add sugar and water to taste before serving