Freshly squeezed juices, especially from the citrus fruits are quite common and most beloved in Tunisia. Summers are indispensable without huge containers of orange and lemon concentrates stocked in their homes.
The origin of lemonade can be traced back to medieval Egyptian times. The first reference to what we call today lemonade was chronicled around the twelfth century. The drink was known as qatarmizat, a simple solution of lemon juice sweetened with sugar. Even though the citrus fruit has its root in Asian countries, the first written evidence of this summer drink was found in the Egyptian records written by the Persian poet and traveller Nasir-i-Khusraw.
Limonada or lemonade varieties can be classified into two major types: cloudy and clear lemonades. The homemade versions made of simple sugar syrup and lemon juice is known as the cloudy lemonade or the traditional lemonade whereas the clear one is a carbonated drink that is commercially sold in the markets.
Lemonades around the world
This is one refreshing drink that is enjoyed by people of all ages across all countries. By far, the best and natural thirst quencher of all times due to the health benefits of lemons. Some of the commonly known are listed below.
It is speculated that lemonade originated in India but there is no evidence to corroborate this claim. In India and Pakistan, the homemade lemonade is known as nimbu paani, which includes ginger and salt in the preparation. The addition of salt distinguishes the Indian lemonade from the rest of the varieties. From the same region, we also have shikanji, which is spiced with cumin and sometimes even saffron.
In Venezuela, a variety of lemon juice made with sugarcane and lime is known as papelón con limón.
When lemons are replaced with limes, it becomes limeade and with oranges, it is called an orangeade.
The Tunisian citronnade
This is slightly different from that of the regular lemonades. Unlike the popular American lemonades, it is fruitier, less tangy and the preparation is labour intensive. So one has to have patience to relish the fruit of labor.
The particularity of the Tunisian lemonade is that it uses the whole fruit including the zest. While most of the lemonade recipes use only the juice of the lemon, this citronnade eliminates only the white pith and seeds. This provides more body and flavor to the drink.
The next surprise element is the addition of orange blossom water, which makes this lemonade unique. Water is distilled with the essence of orange flowers to form this fruity essence. In North African cuisine, orange blossom water is frequently added to thirst quenchers like lemonades, sherbets, fruit syrups and is generously sprinkled over fruit salads like Moroccan orange and cinnamon salad. The Arabs prized the orange fruit. They brought the trees from Asia (just like the lemons) and the plants easily adapted to the Mediterranean climate.
From pastries to cakes, cookies to savories, the combination of orange blossom water and lemon as a flavoring agent is present throughout in the Tunisian cuisine. Few examples include yoyo, samsa and harissa hloua.
In most cases, orange blossom water can be substituted with rose water and can be interchangeably used as they have the same taste profile.
Interesting facts about Tunisian lemonade
The Tunisian Jews break the fast of Yom Kippur by drinking lemonade.
In some places, mostly in cafes and restaurants, the lemonade is served with crunchy almonds on the side.
Points to be noted while making the Tunisian citronnade
Please deseed the lemon and remove the pith completely, as it is very bitter in taste. This will change the entire taste profile of the lemonade.
Use a good blender to grind the pulp completely. This ensures maximum extraction and reduces wastage when you sieve the pulp.
Adjust the water content and sugar syrup depending on the sourness of the citrus fruit.
- 3 lb organic lemons
- 1 ¼ cup sugar
- ¾ cup water (for cooking)
- 10 cups cold water (to dilute)
- 2 tablespoons orange blossom water (optional)
- Wash the lemons and trim both ends.
- With the help of a peeler, peel the lemons to get the zest (without the pith).
- Using a knife, gently remove the pith that covers the entire surface of the peeled fruit.
- Cut the lemons into thin slices and deseed them.
Place the lemon zest and sugar in a saucepan and pour ¾ cup (200 ml) of water over it. Mix well, bring to a boil over high heat.
- Lower the heat and simmer on very low heat for 30 minutes. At the end of these 30 minutes, there should be almost no water left.
- 10 minutes before the end of cooking, add the slices of lemons and mix well.
- Pour the mixture into a blender and add half of the cold water and orange blossom water.
- Mix at full speed for 3 minutes.
- Place the bowl of the blender for at least 6 hours in the refrigerator.
- Filter the lemonade through a very fine sieve or cheesecloth.
- Add the remaining cold water and mix well.
- Add water if the lemonade seems too sweet or too thick.
- Serve the lemonade very cold.
It is the white pith that can give a lot of bitterness to the lemonade. It is therefore necessary to get the pulp by completely getting rid of all the white skin (pith) and to get the zest in the same way. Patience and quality of the peeler are very important.