The Tyranny of the Lemon
I like lemons. Tarte au citron and lemon meringue pie are two of my favourite desserts. A quick squeeze of lemon adds friendly punch to everything from salads to roasted chickens and pots of tea.
To me lemons are the epitome of our thoughtless dependence not just on imported ingredients, but imported cuisine. Every week of the year the happy yellow fruits are shipped by the ton into our city to spread the insidious influence of Mediterranean and Californian food.
What is frustrating about our lemon dependence is that our region and its local plants do “sour” very well. We are awash with tart, flavourful ingredients like apples, highbush cranberries, sour cherries, rhubarb, and all the cordials, wines, and vinegars that can be made therefrom. There is a time and place for lemons. In Edmonton, those times are few and far between.
Lemons hold a particularly firm grasp on our drinking habits. I’m thinking especially of classic cocktails, lemonade, and iced tea. A tart syrup made from any of the above-mentioned local ingredients would be most welcome in iced tea in lieu of lemon. Rhubarb, though, is my favourite. It is tart, flavourful, and adds a pleasant rosy blush to the drink.
Rhubarb Iced Tea
a big barbecue batch
- 5 L water
- 34 g black tea bags (about 10 bags)
- 1 kg fresh rhubarb, chopped (rhubarb varies widely in acidity, so this quantity will have to be adjusted according to your plant and palate)
- 400 g white sugar (this quantity will also have to be adjusted so that the sweetness properly balances the acidity of the rhubarb)
- Bring water to a boil. Add tea bags, reduce heat to maintain gentle simmer. Maintain simmer for 4 minutes. Remove tea bags.
- Add rhubarb and sugar. Stir to dissolve sugar, then cover the pot and let stand until cooled to room temperature, a couple hours.
- Strain out the rhubarb. Chill the iced tea overnight in the fridge before serving.