Before getting started on this post, I have an announcement that I am thrilled about.
I have been asked to contribute to a new online magazine called Honest Cooking. I gladly accepted and am very excited about this opportunity to be a part of this community headed by Kalle Bergman. The site launched today. I think the look and content is fabulous. Go check it out and decide for yourself!
Now onto more fun stuff:
Part 1: Infusing the vodka with lemon zest.
I love making liqueurs. Lemon seems like the perfect way to bring in the beginning of spring. Anything citrus works for me this time of year. I have jumped into the cyber world of Limoncello recipes. There are serious opinions about how to make this liqueur. My first shocker that it was highly recommended to use Everclear which is very unavailable, as in illegal to sell, in Pennsylvania. In PA, our alcohol use must be governed because we the people cannot make responsible choices.
The second shock was that people use this stuff as a cleaner. Wow, all this time I thought it was for spiking punch, so the spiker could watch the spikees hurl their grits at the end of the night and laugh their loser butts off. Funny stuff. Yeah, right! Oh well, that was the good old days when we were immature and immortal.
Note 1: If anyone knows of a good recipe book for liqueurs I would love to hear about it because I am having a hard time finding one.
Note 2: If anyone is interested in making Limoncello along with me, I would love that and to hear your comments along the way. And if you have made it before I would love to hear what you have got to say about your experience and results. Thanks.
Back to the topic at hand: Homemade Limoncello. As I was researching all the different recipes and opinions on making this liqueur, I knew that I did not want a cloyingly sweet drink. The only time I have had Limoncello was at an Italian fair. It was too sweet to experience the vibrant fresh taste of lemon and in fact, it was hard to drink. The question arises why I actually want to make this after not enjoying my first taste of Limoncello? Because I have heard nothing but good things about homemade Limoncello and I can control the sugar and other ingredients. And of course, I think this is fun.
Vodka and the labels peel off so they can double
as my Limoncello bottles. Love that!
It is recommended by many to use Everclear because it does not impart any flavor to the liqueur. The second choice was 100 proof vodka. I chose 100% vodka, Smirnoff because that was the best I could do at the state store. When I asked about Everclear they started talking about moonshine and knew then I was on my own. I mentioned to them I was from the south and had a clue about moonshine (and yes I know what it tastes like. I do not want my Limoncello to taste like gasoline). Then I was on the hunt for organic lemons. I ran into problems here too because the east coast is quite a distance from where lemons are grown. The organic lemons looked really bad and were quite expensive. This is a "first time try" recipe so I don't want to do a serious road trip or break the bank for the ingredients. So I found a couple of bags of lovely lemons that looked worthy of zesting.
My microplane, zester tool and a gallon jar.
Lemon zest in a bowl.I zested over a bowl to try and catch as much of the volatile oils from the zest as possible. (You know those tiny sprays that you can see when you are zesting and smell fabulous. If you haven't noticed this before hold it up to a window or light and you will see and then smell it. Lovely.) I placed the zest into an immaculately clean jar, poured both bottles of vodka in and it is now stored down in my basement in a cool dark place. (Save the vodka bottles for later storage of the Limoncello.)
Lemon zest is in infusing jar.
Adding the vodka.
To stir or not to stir is the next question. I am going to swirl the contents a couple of times but I can't see a good reason to do it everyday. 30 days is my target time for infusing the vodka. Recipes say from 10 to 40 days. Many are seriously adamant about 40 days, not a day longer or shorter. Some recipes say add sugar syrup and drink and then some say 40 more days in the storage tank! Who is right or wrong? Maybe no one but I intend to find out for myself because I am totally intrigued with fresh fruit liqueurs.
Ready for a dark, cool place, in the basement.
So this is part 1 of my first homemade Limoncello making experience. Part 2 will be adding the sugar syrup (and tasting it) and returning it to the cellar. If it tastes good at this point, I will put some in the freezer because I am impatient and will return the rest to the maturation process. Part 3 will be the final result. I would love it anyone would go along with this process and comment. It would be interesting to compare results.
It is hard to give credit to who's recipe this is because there are many similiar recipes out there in cyber recipe land. I did not make this up (just a little tweeking, maybe) and was adapted from the many recipes I found on the net.
Here is the recipe I am using:
adapted from the endless resource we call the internet
2 litres (750 ml) of 100 proof vodka or Everclear
15 to 17 lemons, preferably organic with thick skin (juice is not important for this recipe)
3 to 4 parts sugar to 4 to 5 parts water, respectively (use filtered tap water)
1 gallon sized gallon jar
Wash and scrub lemons gently with hot water, especially if not organic. Zest all of them and place in a gallon sized, clean glass jar. Pour vodka over the top of the zest and cover. Save the bottles for storage later. Place in cool, dark place for 10 to 40 days.
Make the sugar syrup buy putting sugar and water together and allow to boil for about 5 minutes creating a sugar syrup. I think I am going to remove the zest at this point, but I am not sure.
Storage of the Limoncello for the last stage of maturation for 10 to 40 days.
OK folks. I'm stoked.
Today is a good day!
Tune in later for part 2!