Meyer Lemon Paanaka | Saffron and Cardamom laced Meyer Lemonade

Meyer Lemon Paanaka | Saffron and Cardamom laced Meyer Lemonade

Saffron and Cardamom infused Indian Lemonade

[Paa nuh kuh] (Sanskrit, Kannada)

How can one mention summer without lemonade in the same sentence, right? Lemonade is such a part and parcel of the season, to beat the heat and refreshingly so. Lemonade being so ubiquitous, recipes are limited only by one’s imagination. This recipe is simple yet ranks very high on looks, flavor and taste. There, you have the three musketeers of the culinary world in one tall glass of sunshine yellow lemonade!

You must be wondering where on earth did I find Meyer Lemons now! I must be misplaced talking about the Dec-April season citrus fruit in the middle of nowhere in July. Well, I could find them here in TX even till end of May or early June. Only I couldn’t get this post out much earlier.

You know why? I was indulging in a good summer break, letting my hair down and putting my feet up in Long Beach, California followed by meeting close friends in sunny San Diego after years and then a day of wonderful photography workshop by Helene of Tartelette in Salt Lake City. I have a lot more to say about that, perhaps in my next post. Now that I’ve gotten it out-of-the-way, let me get back to telling you a little about Paanaka.

Paanaka is a sanskrit word for a ‘drink’ or ‘drinkable’ usually a juice or similar. Where I am originally from, lemonade season starts as early as March, especially to mark the birth of Lord Rama, the popular Hindu deity and epitome of virtue, piety and simplicity. For those reasons, a festival by name Ramanavami is celebrated by offering Paanaka coupled with Kosambari, a kind of soaked lentils salad. Tradition aside, Paanaka is never reserved only for festivals, it is highly sought after to cool parched throats on any scorching sunny afternoon!

This recipe comes from my grand dad’s house, the way it has always been made for as long as I can remember except for the pinch of salt, which I learnt from my mom. You might think what a pinch of salt can add? World peace, may be not; taste, of course yes. However weird or counter-intuitive it sounds, salt opens up the sweetness of lemonade in its inconsequential existence. In my grand dad’s house, Paanaka would be (and still is) made in a huge steel vessel with a copper bottom, one that could hold at least 10 litres. Don’t even bother imagining leftovers. With a large joint family to cater to, a glass here and a glass there always resulted in an empty vessel before our thirsty throats realized.

{Twin Meyer Lemons}

Meyer lemons have a delicate aroma and are less pungent than their regular commercial counterparts. Their color and flavor falls in between that of lemons and tangerines with a subtle floral note. You guessed it, they are hybrids, a cross between regular lemons and oranges or tangerines. Fruitier than they are acidic or zesty lemony, they come in spherical shapes with a thin, soft and smooth aromatic rind. Hadn’t I been blogging (rather tweeting), I doubt if I would have ever discovered these lovely rich orange-yellow beauties on my own.

Never mind if you can’t find them anywhere in the farmer’s market or your favorite whole foods store now. There is always the next season.

And, if you ever get to see them anywhere, don’t shy away from buying. They are an experience in themselves. Oh, if you said you have a Meyer lemon tree in your backyard, I’d call you lucky, can’t stop wishing I had one too!

A combination of different aromatic notes of the floral Meyer lemon, indescribable saffron and almost camphor cardamom make this lemonade exquisite. If you have never tasted lemonade through saffron and cardamom spectacles, this summer is the best time I’d say..

I know there must be a gazillion lemonade recipes, but which one is your favorite? And what is it that makes it special?

Panaka Recipe 

print recipe

Things you’ll need:

makes about 3 8 oz glasses

Ingredients

  • 2 Meyer lemons (or regular lemon)
  • 3-4 tbsp organic cane sugar (approx)
  • 4 cardamom pods, freshly crushed
  • 5-6 strands saffron
  • 2 cups (500 ml) cold water
Read the whole recipe on Just Home Made