In June of 1920, Prudence Welles Mayfield picked up her nephew, John, to take him to Baltimore to live with her. The event proved to be a difficult time for her and her sister-in-law, Collie Mercer Welles.
Collie, the midwife who delivered John, raised him from the day he was born when his mother died due to complications from childbirth. She knew the opportunity to live and attend school in Baltimore would be one she could never provide for her youngest child, but the thought of letting him go broke her heart. For Prudence, anxiety came from her insecurities about parenting her nephew when she had absolutely no experience. A dose of guilt also plagued her because she alone knew her intentions weren’t as altruistic as they appeared on the surface.
The two women were never close and barely tolerated each other at best. The only thing they had in common was their deep, abiding love for John. They would never let him see them quarrel over his upbringing. And yet, a gentle tug of war went on just below the surface as they vied for John’s affections. Collie’s last ditch effort to lure her young son back to his family and life on the farm was the simple picnic she sent with Prudence and John for the trip to Baltimore. She hoped her good cooking, the favorite dishes John grew up eating, would produce a change of heart in the boy. Included with the meal was a Mason jar of lemonade, sweet and chilled, the perfect taste memory that would hopefully send John fleeing from his rich aunt and back into Collie’s waiting hug.
My own memories of lemonade began with that made by my Aunt Ann for family picnics. I remember she served it in a large brown crock; such an unusual container for a kid who grew up with Country Time Lemonade drink mix and Tupperware pitchers. I’ll never forget the first time I tasted Aunt Ann’s lemonade, lightly sweet and refreshing, as delicious as any food item on the picnic table at our family gathering.
The following recipe is the one that I had in mind when I wrote the above-mentioned scene. It’s every bit as wonderful as what my Aunt Ann made, and I hope you and your family will enjoy it.
6 – 8 large lemons, enough for 1 c of juice
1 c sugar, I use raw
1 c water
8 c water
Squeeze enough lemons for one cup of juice and set aside. Cut remaining lemons into slices to float on the lemonade. Mix the sugar and one cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is dissolved and the mixture is heated through. Do not boil or scorch. Allow the sugar syrup to cool completely. Raw sugar will produce a darker syrup and a deeper yellow lemonade, but it absolutely will not alter the flavor.
To prepare the lemonade, pour the lemon juice in a large glass bowl or crock, stir in the cooled sugar syrup and the 8 c of water. Float lemon slices on the surface. Stir thoroughly, cover with plastic wrap, and chill for at least an hour in the refrigerator.
For individual servings, fill glasses with ice and a slice of lemon. Ladle the lemonade over this and serve. For a pitcher or beverage dispenser, fill the container with ice layered with lemon slices, pour the lemonade over this, and serve. The ice will melt into the lemonade and dilute the tangy/sweet mixture to the perfect flavor.