A Brilliant, Fruity LEMONADE

Ever since I was a child and my mother occasionally made thick syrupy, concentrated lemonade –which I didn’t particularly love– I had never tried to make my own. When my dear friend Barbara Abdeni Massaad visited us in Kea and saw our lemon trees brimming with fruit, she pointed me to a very different lemonade recipe…



First and foremost this lemonade is not boiled, like my mother’s, and so retains its fresh fruity flavor. In her beautiful, extensively researched and documented book Mouneh: Preserving Foods for the Lebanese Pantry, Barbara writes that she got the recipe for the ‘out of this world’ lemonade from Dolly Shammah, a Syrian lady originally from Aleppo.

Mrs Shammah had kept alive the secret formula she inherited from her ancestors. The secret for this very special Sharab el Hamud (Lemon Syrup) is extracting the essential oil from the fragrant peel by squeezing the zest in sterilized muslin, leaving the liquid in ajar to separate, and only use the top layer, discarding the bitter sediment.


The recipe calls for equal parts of juice and sugar, as most old fashioned preserves and jams. As I was zesting the lemons with my friend Ela, ready to use at least 4 kilos (8 pounds) of fruit, I realized that I didn’t have enough sugar. We had just finished two batches of lemon marmalade because we were rushing to use up the last fruit from our trees as they have started to fall and rot.

We are not exactly close to a market, more like in the middle of nowhere, so in an impulse, as we had already zested and juiced the lemons, I decided to make the first batch with honey. We had just gotten a few jars of the famous Kea thyme honey, so I calculated about 25 ounces (750ml) honey for each liter (quart) of juice –our lemons are not too sour. One cannot easily stir and dilute the honey into the lemon juice, so I thought that the blender would be the best way to combine the two. I am very happy to report that it worked perfectly!


The resulting honey-lemonade, with the brilliant addition of the essential oil from the zest, was absolutely amazing! The hint of thyme from the honey complemented beautifully the somewhat darker than the usual lemon syrup, due to the honey; but adding two tablespoons in a glass and diluting it with water and ice, the lemonade has the usual light yellow, translucent color. I am sure the original sugar-lemon combination will be equally magnificent, and plan to try it next. We still have lots of lemons, and using this precious thyme honey as lemonade sweetener is probably an exageration…

Barbara’s Lemon Syrup


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