Summer ended abruptly this year. One minute, I was sweating profusely, hiding from the sun indoors, and the next thing I knew, I was bundling myself in blankets, hiding from the rain indoors. I wasn’t done with summer, but summer was done with me. As a result, I’ve found myself clinging to sunny-weather things, like sorbet, iced coffee, and these minty, tangy lemon sticks.
The lemon stick, also known as the “Baltimore lemon stick” doesn’t really have much to do with summer—it marks the start of “growing season” in mid-spring—but it tastes like pure sunshine. They’re traditionally sold at Baltimore Flower Market in Mount Vernon, which is hosted by the Women’s Civic League, though the fine people of Baltimore make and enjoy them all spring and summer at parties and gatherings. The treat falls somewhere in between candy and drink, and has a bracing, sweet and sour flavor that tastes like a concentrated minty lemonade.
Making them is theoretically easy: Cut a lemon in half and shove a peppermint stick into it. It’s simple, but not that simple. A candy cane won’t work; it’s not porous enough. You want a soft peppermint stick. According to some opinionated Amazon customers, the best peppermint sticks for this application are King Leo Soft Peppermint Sticks and Bob’s Sweet Stripes.
Even with the “right” peppermint candies, there is a slight learning curve when it comes to getting the lemon juice to flow through the stick. Luckily, those opinionated Amazon customers pulled through once again:
These make perfect “straws” for the old-fashioned treat of sucking the juice out of oranges and lemons. Just roll the fruit on your countertop to soften it, poke a hole halfway through the fruit with an ice pick, bite a tiny bit off each end of the peppermint stick, and poke it in the hole you made in the fruit. Then gently squeeze the fruit while you suck on the peppermint stick. Within seconds, the peppermint “straw” will become porous; and the flavor combination, delicious!—Romance Fan
The effect is delightful. The sugary peppermint sweetens the tart lemon juice perfectly. It is startlingly balanced—sweet without being cloying, and sour without being mouth-puckering. It’s pleasant, it’s sunny, and it’s tempering these early onset seasonal blahs. (Which is pretty impressive for a piece of fruit and stick of candy.)