Tuesday, July 31, 2012
Limoncello and a Strawberry Lemon Drop to pass the time
Limoncello is one of my favorite liqueurs. But it's a little pricey depending on the brand you buy. And let me tell you....brand makes a huge difference. I've tried a few. One of them was just awful. If I had tried it the first time I ever had limoncello, I would never try it again. Ya, it was that bad.
Anyway...I'm not here to recommend what brand you drink or like...I'm here to show you how to make it yourself. It's not difficult. The most challenging part is getting the skin off the lemon without getting any of the pith (the white stuff) and of course waiting for the end results. Yes...it is time intensive. It's not cheap either. But it is less expensive than buying it from the store. I figure approximately 2/3 the cost (kinda like a "buy 2 get 1 free" sorta thing). Although I did get my lemons for free, which helped.
I've heard a lot of talk over the years about various methods and scientific measuring based on the alcohol used vs the simple syrup added. Rather than letting it intimidate me...I just went ahead and did it. One of my best foodie friends, DeeDee showed me a website that has great information, which is where I went to for all the how-to's and what-for's: Limoncello Quest They have enough information to keep me out of trouble but not too much as to make me shy away from the experience. I have to admit here....they recommended straining the alcohol before beginning the process. I didn't do it.
Here's a little basic info on the two main ingredients:
Smooth skinned lemons are recommended. Thick skins help. Organic is best (less time spent scrubbing the pesticides and wax off and most likely having some still end up in your alcohol). For me, I chose to zest the lemons rather than peeling them. I'm not good enough at peeling without ending up with a lot of pith on there. Besides, peeling is very time consuming. Whats the issue with pith? Bitter. You do not want to end up with bitter results and pith will do that.
There are two proofs out there: 151 (75.5% ethanol) and 190 (95% ethanol). California only sells the 151 proof so I went with that. Just an FYI...Vodka is 80 proof (40% ethanol). There are those out there that think they'll just use Vodka. I wouldn't. If you can get Everclear...do it. For
more info look it up on Wikipedia: Everclear
To start off, you will need:
1 gallon jar with a tight fitting lid
2 - 750ml bottles of Everclear (pure grain alcohol)
Thoroughly scrub your lemons in warm water with a vegetable scrubber. Carefully zest them, making sure you do not zest down to the pith.
Combine the lemon zest and the alcohol in your 1 gallon jar.
Put the jar away in a cool dark place for 45 days. You don't need to do anything. Leave it alone. Forget about it. It might be helpful to put a sticker on the jar with the date you started to help you keep track of time.
Now you have a whole bunch of lemons that are going to dry out in no time. All that lemon juice. Time to start squeezing and freezing
You won't need it for the Limoncello, but you don't want to waste it either. Make lemonade. Or even better, make a drink
Strawberry Lemon Drop
2 parts vodka
1 part lemon juice
1 part simple syrup
a few strawberries
Combine all ingredients, shake with ice and strain into a chilled glass. Garnish the edges of your glass with a little sugar and a strawberry. DELICIOUS!!!
Back to the Limoncello....fast forward 45 days (and lots of Strawberry Lemon Drops later) you will need:
3 1/2 cups white sugar (do not use brown)
5 cups of water
Combine sugar and water in a pot and bring to boil. Allow to boil, stirring once or twice for 5 minutes or until the sugar has dissolved. Allow to cool completely then add to your lemon zest and Everclear mixture. Stir
Aaaaand put it away. Again. For 45 more days.
Shhhhh....don't whine and complain. It's worth it. Use the time to find a few cool bottles to put your freshly made liqueur into.
Once the final (yes, I said final) 45 days are up....it's time to get busy. Using a strainer, strain out the zest.
Then line the strainer with a coffee filter and strain again (you can strain it a few more times if you'd like...I was too lazy that day and only did it once through the coffee filter.)
Pour into bottles and store in the freezer. Not because it has to be in the freezer...but because Limoncello tastes best extremely chilled.
I had bought my favorite store brand to compare
On the left is mine...the right is from the store. The big test.....the taste. There is a HUGE flavor difference. The store bought product tastes more like lemon heads (that lemon drop candy), its a lot sweeter and it appears to have some yellow dye in there. Although it is good. With the homemade version...you can taste the fresh lemons. The sweetness doesn't hit you over the head. It's smooth and refreshing. If you had to compare it in a nutshell...its like comparing homemade lemonade to powdered lemonade mix.
Yes it worth it!! Especially if you have an abundance of free lemons to play with.
Want another cocktail recipe? Check this one out:
1 cup frozen or fresh strawberries
3 TB simple syrup
3 TB lemon juice
1 cup limoncello
1 cup club soda
Combine all ingredients in a blender and puree. Pour into chilled glasses. Garnish with lemon slices and strawberries.