Sunday, November 23, 2008

Lemony Snippet {homemade limoncello}

I was alone this morning...Mike is out practicing archery and I have the whole house to myself.
I was going to spend the day in my pajamas catching up on lost episodes of the Barefoot Contessa, whom I love. I mean it. Not the romantic kind of love, but the kind where you say to yourself...I don't care if she makes liver and onions, I would eat them because she has such good taste that I must be wrong about how utterly disgusting it seems.

But alas, I didn't wear pajamas last night (poor planning), and walking around the house in a long t-shirt seems somehow wrong and slightly unsanitary. Especially since most of our windows are picture, and face the common courtyard of our condo complex. I want to be a good neighbor.

So instead, I decided to tool around the kitchen (fully clothed mind you). I figured it was time for the next step of my beverage project. Now before you go rounding up a sponsor for me...this beverage project does not mean, sampling every one of the 30 or so bottles I keep in the cabinet. Which, by the way, are used mostly in my cooking and baking.
Except the Kahlua.

While Mike and I were honeymooning in Zihuatanejo, we dined almost every night at the same small restaurant on the beach. It is called Elvira. As in many of the beach restaurants, there was a small patio off what looked to be the proprietor's house, where the bar was staged as well as the essentials for a restaurant of its size. Where the magic was, was in the alfresco dining. Tables were pulled out each evening onto the beach. Always close enough to the sea that water would roll in and capture our attention, but not close enough to soak our shoes. Candles and fairy lights lit the tables, and the moon lit the rest. So romantic, so beautiful and so perfect.

Our waiter, nehum, made suggestions every night as to what we should eat. We followed his suggestion and ate the most wonderful and simply prepared fish. It's amazing what a bit of olive oil and lemon can do. Ahhh...the memory of it makes my mouth water.

Nehum became our pusher.

Each evening, as Mike and I would sit, bellies full, listening to the ocean and the sounds of mariachis strolling down the beach, Nehum would bring us an after dinner drink. Always the same, always delicious, always satisfying...Kahlua and cream. There is nothing like it. So now, when Mike and I want to transport ourselves back to our evenings on the beach in Zihua, we sip, okay drink, okay, okay, down K and C's. That bottle isn't for cooking, it is purely an elixir for our souls.

But that's not my beverage project, that's just a side-bar. Actually my beverage project has been going on for quite some time now. I am making homemade Limoncello. It's an Italian aperitivo, that is most popular on the Island of Capri...but can be found all over Itlay, and now the US as well. It is a delicious lemon liqueur, and has so many uses beyond drinking. Although making this takes passive time, it's really easy...and makes wonderful Christmas gifts. You still have time, if you start now.

You need lots of lemons, but just the peels. Don't want to be wasteful? Here's some ideas for the rest of the lemon. Cut in half, pour some salt on it and tame your elbows (Barbra Streisand does it and so should we). Juice the lemons and make the sugar syrup in advance (but keep it in the freezer, so it doesn't get weird). Make lemon curd...better yet, make lemon chicken...ooh what about lemon bars? Those ae my fave.

Back to the recipe. Wash and dry about 10-15 lemons. the lemons should be unwaxed. Remove the peels. Now, this is very do not want the pith. That is the white stuff that hugs the peel like a preschooler hugs his mom on the first day of school. Remove it only want the yellow part. The pith is bitter and is not good for your end result. Place all the peels in a large glass or ceramic jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour 1 bottle of vodka over it. You do not need expensive vodka for this, you want the alcohol content, but the theory is that you will be changing the flavor of it, so don't break the bank on this one.
Put the top on the jar, date it, and put it away in a cool dark place for a minimum of 2 weeks but as long as 3 or 4 months. Mine has been steeping since September 2nd. When you see that all of the lemon peels have lost their color and/or it's been 2 weeks you can move onto the next step. In a heavy saucepan place 3 cups of water, 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice, 3 cups sugar and 3 Tbs honey. Boil over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Don't let it go too long and get thick and gooey. Let cool.

Pour the syrup into your glass jar with the lemon peels and vodka. Cover and let steep for another week (or longer if you have the time). When you are ready to bottle your limoncello, strand the liquid using cheese cloth or fine sieve. Squeeze all that you can from the peels and then throw away. Bottle the liquid in clean jars and seal tightly.

Like revenge, this is best served it in the freezer.


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