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News / Life / Clark County Life

When life gives you limes, make Brazilian lemonade with few ingredients

By Monika Spykerman, Columbian staff writer
Published: July 10, 2024, 6:05am
5 Photos
Brazilian Lemonade is actually made from limes. It&rsquo;s sweetened with condensed milk and simple syrup.
Brazilian Lemonade is actually made from limes. It’s sweetened with condensed milk and simple syrup. (Monika Spykerman/The Columbian) Photo Gallery

Sometimes readers ask me how I can write so much and keep thinking of (allegedly) funny things to say, so I will tell you: It’s a struggle. I don’t mean that it’s a struggle in the same way as actual problems, like a hospitalization, forest fire or running out of mayonnaise when you really want a sandwich. I just mean that it’s hard to get myself to write anything because while I am writing, I urgently desire to be someplace else, not writing. After forcing out a sentence or two I feel an overwhelming restlessness. I am itching to get up and go into another room or get into the car and drive away. I think of anything I can possibly do to avoid writing the thing I need to write, so I procrastinate by writing other articles. (In fact, I am writing this article to avoid writing another article that is due in mere hours.) I basically trick myself into doing work to avoid doing other, more pressing work.

It would be so much less aggravating if I could sit down at my desk and simply write an article with one long, cohesive string of words from start to finish. The thing that ultimately motivates me to keep going is that I have so many thoughts in my head, it’s a relief to remove them and make room for other things. I must free up enough neural pathways to remember why I came upstairs to stand in this room. Seriously, why am I here?

But once a week, I get to stop writing so that I can make something delicious. Or somewhat delicious. Or really just awful. But the point is, I’m giving myself something to do with my hands instead of my brain. Although I do also use my hands to type, so I suppose cooking is maybe not that much of a contrast to writing. But when I’m cooking, I’m using my brain less. Sometimes a lot less.

Case in point: I thought I’d try a recipe that my daughter, who is home from college for the summer, has been begging me to make: Brazilian lemonade, made with sugar, water, sweetened condensed milk and limes.

Wait, what? You can’t make lemonade with limes. That would be limeade, obviously.

Not if you’re in Brazil. Brazilians are nuts about something that they call Swiss Lemonade, or Limonada suíça, on account of the milk. I am not sure why the addition of sweetened milk makes it Swiss. I mean, there are cows everywhere, right? But maybe Swiss cows are so remarkable that they naturally produce pre-sweetened milk? Nope. It turns out there’s a Swiss maid on the label of the sweetened condensed milk sold in Brazil. And that’s why it’s not called Luxembourg Limeade.

The drink has just four ingredients: whole washed limes, sugar, water and sweetened condensed milk. Essentially, the steps are this: Make a simple syrup by combining sugar and water. Blend whole limes. Run the limes through a strainer to get all the juice. Combine the lime juice with the simple syrup and then add the sweetened condensed milk. Stir until everything is well combined. Serve over ice. Say, “aaahhh” and “mmmm” because it’s so delicious.

But here’s what I did: I made the simple syrup and chilled it for a couple of hours. I washed the limes, cut them into wedges, and blended them in batches with the syrup. I poured it through a mesh strainer into a large glass pitcher. I squashed out every ounce of juice and added the simple syrup. I figured I was ready to add the condensed milk and then I turned around and realized that I’d only used half the limes I was supposed to. After that, things started to break down. I can’t tell you exactly how it happened, but I ended up with lime juice all over my hands and blouse, limeade all over the blender, and sticky pools of erstwhile Brazilian lemonade all over my counter. I kept finding extra limes. My pitcher overflowed. I tried to reduce the amount of liquid by drinking directly from the pitcher and poured a half-pint of limeade down my front. But on the upside, my kitchen smelled really nice.

If I make this recipe again — and I will, because it’s flipping marvelous — I’m going to blend the limes all at once instead of in batches. I won’t add quite so much water and I’ll reduce the sugar. I won’t drink directly from the pitcher. I’ll count my limes and keep them all in one place. And I’ll wear a rubber suit to keep the lime juice off me.

Maybe I should stick to writing.

Brazilian Lemonade

1½ cups sugar (or more to taste, up to 2 cups)

10 cups water

8 washed limes, cut into eighths

One 13.4-ounce can sweetened condensed milk

Mix cold water and sugar. Refrigerate until sugar is dissolved and liquid is clear (a simple syrup). Wash limes. Cut each lime into eight pieces. Blend to a chunky pulp. Squish the lime pulp through a mesh strainer into a pitcher. Really press down on those limes to get all the lime juice. Add chilled sugar water and stir until combined, then add a can of sweetened condensed milk. Serve immediately (or blend a second time for a frothy beverage). Put ice in glasses rather than in the pitcher to avoid diluting the drink. Serves about 10, although the recipe can be easily halved. The drink can be refrigerated for three to four days but liquid will separate; just give it a stir before serving.