Liz GunnisonLiz Gunnison, Bon Appétit
In our new column "Fake It or Make It" we test a homemade dish against its prepackaged counterpart to find out what's really worth cooking from scratch.
In the small town where I grew up, lemonade stands outnumbered actual storefronts in the summer. I was a reliable pusher of the stuff, but never a consumer, finding it too astringent for taste buds that had been spoiled by Kool-Aid, Italian ice, and Good Humor bars.
I latched on to the drink later in life when I studied abroad in France and discovered limonade: a drier, carbonated version of lemonade that locals drank in cafes while taking drags off their Gitanes. By then, I not only liked lemonade, I liked it bitter.
This sweet vs. bitter flavor preference, which changed for me with age, turned out to be very much a factor for testers in this edition of fake it or make it.
Related: Supermarket Standoff: Lemonade
Sheila Lukins' Old Fashioned Lemonade vs. Newman's Own Old-Fashioned Roadside Virgin Lemonade
The term lemonade refers to both carbonated and still versions of the drink made from lemon juice, water, and sugar. Although lemonade may seem as American as apple pie and baseball, the first written reference to the drink dates back to 11th Century Egypt. Here we focus on the non-carbonated version, which is especially popular today across in the U.S., U.K., India, and Pakistan.
Homemade is more than double the cost of store-bought, but still cheap in the scheme of things. I paid $2.29 for a 7-cup carton of Newman's Own on Peapod.com, and spent about $6 on ingredients to make an equivalent volume of homemade.
The Newman's Own contains no preservatives and uses cane sugar rather than high fructose corn syrup as a sweetener, a major coup when it comes to packaged drinks. It is, however, higher in sugar: While a cup of homemade calls for about 4 teaspoons of sugar, the same amount of Newman's Own contains about 6 teaspoons.
It takes about 15 minutes to make 8 cups of lemonade, almost all of which is spent juicing the 12-14 lemons.
Containers of Newman's Own that I checked had sell-by dates about two months out. Once opened, both versions should keep for at least a week...that is, if no one manages to drink them by then.
Related: Fake It or Make It: Pesto
What The Testers Said
First let me introduce our panel.
1. THE HEALTH NUT
A delicate eater, the health nut is calorie conscious but also likes to eat well
2. THE FOODIE
Calorie agnostic, our foodie judge has a sophisticated palate and a love of cooking
3. THE DUDE
Ambivalent toward food trends and health concerns, this guy just wants to eat when he's hungry
4. THE KID
Between ages of 9 and 12 years old, not jaded, typically not into strong flavors
The testers sampled the lemonades blind. Everyone commented on the homemade version's tang and strong lemon flavor, while the store-bought was generally described as milder and sweeter.
The Health Nut: Homemade; "The store-bought is just too sweet for me."
The Foodie: Homemade; "The store-bought is more watery, so I'll go with the homemade for its tang."
The Kid: Store-bought; "It's not all sour like the other one. Blegh!"
The Dude: Store-bought; "It's more refreshing."
All but The Kid agreed that they would happily drink an ice-cold glass of either version on a hot day. The Kid, however, was dead set against homemade.
Even though it was a tie between the four judges, in light of Newman's Own's laudable ingredient list, I'll be saving my time and money and buying store-bought from now on.
Hey readers! Let us know if you agree with our verdict, and please suggest other products you'd like us to test in "Fake It or Make It."
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Liz GunnisonLiz Gunnison, Bon Appétit