Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Holiday Gifts from the Kitchen - Limoncello Liqueur

Limoncello is a sweet Italian liqueur. It is easy to make and tasty to drink. The traditional way to enjoy this treat is ice cold, straight up in a shot glass. Or try it in a martini. My favourite Limoncello martini recipes follow below.

Limoncello Liqueur:

8 organic lemons
1 750ml bottle vodka
2 1/2 cups water
2 cups sugar

1. Wash lemons with a vegetable brush in hot water. Rinse well. Using a vegetable peeler or zester, peel off the rind, avoiding the white pith. The pith is bitter tasting and will affect the outcome of your Limoncello. You can also grate the zest using a Microplane, just be careful to only grate the yellow skin and not the white pith. If you end up with pith on the back of your rind, gently scrape it off using a paring knife.

2. Place the rind in a large airtight jar. Pour in vodka and seal the jar. Leave vodka in a cool dark place for at least five days and up to thirty days. The longer you leave the mix to steep, the better. The more time it has, more lemon flavour will be infused and the vodka will become brighter yellow.

3. After steeping your vodka for the desired length of time, prepare a simple syrup by mixing 2 1/2 cups of water with 2 cups of sugar. Bring to a boil and simmer gently for 10-15 minutes until sugar is all dissolved and mixture has thickened. Let cool to room temperature.

4. Mix the cooled simple syrup with the vodka/lemon mixture. Re-seal and allow to rest in a cool, dark place for another five to thirty days. If you are in a rush, you can skip the second rest period, go right to the straining in step five and instead allow the mixture to rest after it has been strained.

5. After the second rest period, strain the mixture through a coffee filter or cheesecloth lined funnel into bottle of your choice. Discard the lemon rind.

6. Store finished Limoncello in a cool, dark place for up to one year. "Connoisseurs" advocate storing your Limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve. I DO NOT advocate storing yours in the freezer because, as I learned, it actually freezes! A cold fridge is sufficient enough.

When giving as a gift, I include a scroll of Limoncello drink recipes. Here are some of my favourites:

Limoncello Limon Blush Cocktail:
1 oz Limoncello
3 oz lemonade
½ oz cranberry juice
½ oz soda water
1 lemon wedge for garnish

Add first three ingredients to a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a tall glass filled with ice or a chilled martini glass. Top with soda and garnish with a lemon wedge.

Killer Limoncello Martini:
1.5 oz vodka
1 oz Limoncello
½ oz lemon juice
Lemon wedge or lemon peel spiral

Combine liquid in a cocktail shaker with ice. Shake vigorously and strain into a martini glass. Garnish with lemon peel or wedge.

Limoncello Fizz:
1 oz Limoncello
3 oz soda water
1 oz Ginger Ale
Squirt of lemon juice
Lemon wedge for garnish

Mix all ingredients in a tall glass filled with ice. Stir well and serve with a lemon wedge.

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