I Made ‘Little Women’ Lemonade to Satisfy My Thirst for Travel


A glass of "Amy’s Lemonade."

The Summertime Beverage Reminded Me of My Massachusetts Visit

By Anna Krejci

It has been two years since I traveled to Massachusetts to see Louisa May Alcott’s historic home in Concord, and I am nostalgic for that trip. Alcott wrote the charming novel, “Little Women,” in which the four March sisters were raised by their mother at home; their father served for the Union in the U.S. Civil War. In the novel, Amy March serves lemonade to the rest of her sisters at the beginning of summer. Being taken by this nice tradition, I wanted to make homemade lemonade this June. In doing so, I also wanted to reminisce about my trip. During my visit to Alcott’s home, known as Orchard House, I found a cookbook in the gift shop that contains an 1851 recipe for lemonade. The cookbook contains American recipes from the 1850s to 1880 that have been adapted for modern day cooking and are like the foods Alcott mentions in her novel. It is called “The Little Women Cookbook: Tempting Recipes from the March Sisters and Their Friends and Family” by Wini Moranville. The cookbook is fascinating, and I love the excerpts from the novel that accompany the recipes.

My Summer Begins with Lemonade

This June I made the recipe for "Amy’s Lemonade." In her cookbook, Moranville titles this recipe, and she provides a quote from "Little Women" that reveals how the March sisters welcomed summer vacation, which was mainly by relaxing. What made this recipe unique for me was that it uses cloves and the zest of lemon and orange. Of course, it requires freshly squeezed lemon juice. It is rewarding to squeeze lemons, and I think it is a joy to have the time to do so! The recipe guided me through making my own syrup with water and sugar and steeping the lemon and orange zest in the mixture along with the cloves. The syrup is added to water and freshly squeezed lemon juice.  The recipe took me an hour to complete. It reminded me of when I make mulled apple cider in the fall because for that, I use orange and cloves as well; it is good to know that cloves have a use in both the summer and fall seasons.  I never thought of cloves as being like bookends to summer, but I suppose they could be.  I can begin summer with cloves flavoring my lemonade and end summer in September with cloves spicing my apple cider.  Fortunately, I have a lot of summer ahead of me that I do not want to bid goodbye too quickly.  I see myself bringing homemade lemonade on a picnic before fall comes.

I thought about Alcott’s novel while I made the lemonade. I could use multiple parts of the lemon in the recipe – juice and zest – the zest comes from grating lemon peels.  Knowing the story of “Little Women,” it seemed characteristic of the March household to be thrifty. There is a part of the novel that I love when Jo March realizes she has spilled lemonade on her white gloves. She and her sister, Meg March, were preparing to go to a New Year’s Eve dance and so Meg offers to lend one clean, white glove of hers to Jo and Meg keeps the other clean glove for herself.  The girls attend the dance making a show wearing one clean glove each and concealing Jo’s soiled gloves in their other fists. It seemed like the theme of the novel was about helping others, making sacrifices at home and sharing scarce resources in support of the Union during the Civil War.

New England Influences in Ohio

At home in Ohio, I made lemonade, but my mind was off in the realm of Alcott’s New England. This was basically what I had been hoping for by spending away my time in the kitchen. Interestingly, at home in Ohio I am always connected to a part of New England. The land in Northeast Ohio was once owned by the colony of Connecticut and known as the Connecticut Western Reserve. In the 1790s, people began to build communities and populate the area. Because of this, you can see New England influences in some Ohio cities, like Congregational churches and town squares with open green spaces in the center. It would interest me, for example, to pack the lemonade I made and enjoy an excursion to Hudson, Ohio, a city 40 minutes southeast of Cleveland, whose architecture is representative of a New England town. Incidentally, Hudson is celebrating its 225th anniversary this year.

I love the idea of experiencing faraway times and places through food. Working in the kitchen this June was as exciting as taking an historical tour. The lemonade was a treat.  I recommend both Moranville’s book and exploring the places in Ohio that have deep roots. History is so fascinating.

Works Cited

“Hudson’s 225th Anniversary.” Hudson, Ohio. Retrieved 10 June, 2024, https://www.hudson.oh.us/1402/Hudsons-225th-Anniversary

Moranville, Wini. The Little Women Cookbook: Tempting Recipes from the March Sisters and Their Friends and Family. Quarto Publishing Group USA Inc., 2019, Beverly, MA.

Note: I wrote a previous blog post about my visit to Orchard House where I also mention Moranville’s cookbook. If interested, you can click on the link below to find it. It was posted in August 2023.