You can make am acceptable pitcher of lemonade with nothing but fresh-squeezed lemon juice, sugar and water, but for fuller lemon flavor, you can simmer or steep the lemon rinds with the sugar and water. Simmering or steeping extracts the aromatic lemon oils from the yellow zest and adds extra appeal to your homemade beverage.
Wash lemons thoroughly. It's best to use organic lemons, if possible, to avoid any chemical residue on the peels.
Roll the lemons on a cutting board to soften them and break the juices away from the pulp. This process allows you to extract more juice from the lemons.
Remove the yellow rind from the lemons without cutting into the bitter white pith between the rind and interior fruit. A lemon zester, fine grater, paring knife or channel knife works well for this process.
Mix the lemon rinds with sugar in a saucepan and allow to rest for about half an hour while the oils in the rinds absorbs into the sugar. The amount of sugar really depends on your personal taste preference, but as a general rule, use about 1/2 to 1 cup of sugar for for a half-gallon pitcher of lemonade.
Add about 2 cups of water to the saucepan. Stir the sugar and lemon rind mixture with the water.
Bring the lemon rind, water and sugar mixture to just under a boil and simmer gently for about five minutes to cook the oil out of the rinds and dissolve the sugar. The result is a yellow-tinted, lemon-flavored simple syrup. Let the syrup cool.
Cut the lemons in half and squeeze the fresh juice into a bowl. Strain through a wire mesh into a pitcher to remove any seeds and pulp.
Place a wire strainer over the pitcher to catch the rinds. Pour the syrup mixture through the strainer and into the pitcher. Stir to combine the juice and syrup.
Add cold water to the sweetened lemon juice, using about 1 cup of cold water for each lemon in the lemonade, or enough to fill the pitcher. Stir well and adjust the amount of sugar, lemon and water to taste, if needed. Serve over ice.
Lemon rind, and especially pith, eventually become bitter -- even with copious amounts of sugar. If you want lemon slices as garnish, add them when serving a glass of lemonade, but do not leave them in the pitcher.