Aunt Thale’s Old Fashioned Lemonade

Aunt Thale and her younger sister Jean (note that Thale is standing on a block of wood so that she appears to be as tall as her sister).

I’m guessing this is Aunt Thale’s response to being asked to pose.



“Aunt Thale’s Lemonade” is famous in my family, and it’s the subject of my last blog for August. Heritage recipes like the one I will be giving you today offer a world of history within their algorithms of procedure.

Aunt Thale (1911-2011) was  one of my father’s younger sisters. She was basically irrepressible.  Nothing much held her down.  If she loved you, she would do anything for you.  If she didn’t, then be prepared for more than a little critique. She had her share of tragedy; her husband survived June 6, 1944 (D-Day) in World War II only to be killed in a training accident a couple of months later and she was left to raise her son as a single parent on the home farm.  Her lemonade has survived the annals of time. It  is very nice on a hot summer’s day and is made in large enough quantities that 45 minutes of labour produces enough syrup for gallons of lemonade.

Ingredients:  12 lemons, 2 to 5 oranges, 2 oz. citric acid powder, 1 oz. tartaric acid powder (both of these ingredients are available at U-make wine stores), 6 pounds of sugar (12 cups) and 5 pints of boiling water (10 cups).

Grate the peel off the lemons and oranges. I use a special nylon mesh glove to protect my fingers while grating because I am very accident-prone. Squeeze the juice out of the lemons and oranges. Strain out the seeds.

Mix all ingredients except water together in a large bowl or pot (ceramic or stainless steel).  Bring the water to boil and pour over the ingredients.  Stir until dissolved. Then ladle into jars or sealers, cover and store in the refrigerator. The resulting syrup can be mixed about 1 part syrup to 6 parts water (or to taste).

A lot of historical questions arise from this recipe – who knows what a pint is any more, even if people claim they don’t use metric? How many tablespoons is an ounce of tartaric acid?  How common would lemons have been in the 1930s, 40s and 50s when this recipe originated?  What would happen if you left out the citric and tartaric acids? (It wouldn’t be as tangy). An Australian recipe uses Epsom salts; what would that be like?

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