As I start to write this post, I feel being transported to my childhood when consumers were yet to be bombarded and lured by the soft drink companies. They were a long way from becoming a fad. People still indulged in a glass of Lemonade, Aam Panna, Jal Jeera, Bel Sherbet or Buttermilk to beat the heat. My mother was no different and believed in the goodness of these natural coolers to counter the blistering summer heat. Nimbu pani or lemonade was a favourite and regular in our house. Rasna, which was a craze then, was the only other drink that she would allow us to indulge in once in a while.
The bottle of lemon squash steadfastly accompanied me even after I left home to study for my MBA. It was one thing that was always at hand throughout the scorching summer in my hostel room. Mum would make it in large quantities and send it over through a friend or acquaintance travelling to the town of my univ. It was a healthy and a very convenient option…no squeezing of lemons and stirring of sugar in a pot. Just had to pour a little amount of squash in the glass, fill it with chilled water…satiated…totally. Ah! The good old days when mum was around for everything… The never ending stock of lemon squash ensured that I would survive the 48 degrees parching heat of north India, with a bit of ease well hydrated. This and our ‘hired on monthly basis’ noisy dessert cooler were the life line for me and my room-mate.
Come summer and the price of lemons soars to absurdly high amount. No amount of haggling or reasoning with the vendor works. He coolly rationalises by saying that summer is the time to make the kill!! Fair enough; he understands the economics- the demand supply stuff. I give the devil his due…as if I have a choice.
However, this year around I turned smart and made squash during the ‘off-season’. I bought the lemons in bulk and my regular vendor surely got suspicious of my motives. “Madam achaar banaoge kya?” (Madam, are you going to make pickle) He perhaps was not imagining that I could be making squash. I didn’t answer him, till I had paid him for lemons and just as I was leaving, I told him that it was for nimbu sherbet (lemon squash/lemonade). I can’t forget the stumped look on the poor guy’s face. I can only imagine his thoughts…“here goes my kill”.
1 kg 250 grams Lemons (to yield approx.1 litre juice)
½ tsp potassium meta bi-sulphite (preservative) A few drops of yellow colour
In a deep pan, boil the sugar and water together until sugar has dissolved. Give it one boil and switch off the heat. Cool and strain the syrup. Mix in the lemon juice, potassium meta bi-sulphite and lemon colour. Fill the squash in clean sterilised bottles leaving a little head space. Keep refrigerated. To serve: Add a little amount (2-3 tbsp) of squash in a glass. Fill with water and top with ice. Serve chilled!
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