This Lemonade Is Making Me Crazy, Part II

I said I was going to contact the author (see my blog from 10/5/11) about the lemonade issue that was making me crazy and I did. Below is my e-mail to her and her reply to me. She asked that I not use the name of her book or her name if I used this in a blog, so I didn’t. I also deleted the names of the characters in the book when they were referenced in either of our e-mails.

I love knowing I can contact an author, ask a question, and that she’ll take the time to reply. It means a lot to me as a reader. I thanked the author via e-mail, of course, but I want to thank her again here.

Dear Author:
I am reading your book and arrived at the section where they are in the Dakota Territory and one character is teaching another to shoot and she serves him lemonade. Later she gets sick from drinking lemonade someone else on the wagon train made. (Why?) She reaches her friend’s place in Utah and I believe they are drinking lemonade once again.

I am curious as to whether this is historically factual and if so, where/how did all these lemons arrive in the Dakota Territory and where did they come from? How were they kept from spoiling? Wouldn’t they be a luxury and quite costly? I am genuinely curious. I’ve tried to look up the possibilities online but come up empty.

I would love to know the answer. My husband’s degree is in U.S. History and he is stumped as well.

Thanks in advance,
Barb Meyers

The author’s reply via e-mail:

Hi Barbara,
Thanks for your email. I hope you are enjoying the book. About the lemonade, it probably wasn’t what we drink today. However, they did have lemons. Columbus brought them here and by this character’s time, it was quite an industry in California and Florida. Like the sailors who journeyed for months at sea, pioneers could take real lemons with them. They can last a few weeks, but she would mostly have had lemon juice, which women could make themselves. They could use the juice for cooking and cleaning, too. The character could have also used lemon extract, which was probably more alcohol than lemon. They were amazingly resourceful women. Here’s a recipe from 1866:

To Preserve Lemon Juice for a Voyage.
Select only the best, freshest lemons. Squeeze them well through a strainer. To every 1 qt. of juice add 1 oz. cream of tartar. Let it stand 3 days, (stirring it frequently) and then filter it through thin muslin pinned tightly on the bottom of a sieve. Put it into bottles, filling up the neck of each bottle with a little of the best olive oil. Cork tightly, then seal. When you open a bottle avoid shaking it, and carefully pour off the olive oil that is on top of the lemon juice.

Don’t know how this tasted, but if you try it, please let me know.
This book began as a chapter for a history book, so my research was primary, and I did my best to be accurate. I travelled the route the character took and researched at libraries, government offices and historical sites from NYC to Utah. I studied maps, tax records; I read diaries, letters, newspapers, cookbooks and guidebooks (I found an original one of NYC from 1868). Of course, history is subjective, depending on who is reporting what and when, but hopefully, the character would recognize the world I placed her in. 🙂

Thanks again for reading the book.
The Author

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P.S. But you see the part in the recipe where it says to avoid shaking the bottle? Travelling overland in a covered wagon seems like there’d be a whole lot of shaking going on. They’re fording rivers, the wagon almost tips over. I’ve decided this “lemonade” they were drinking must have been truly disgusting. Thank God for Minute Maid.

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