Friday, February 20, 2009

A commitment to limoncello

lemons + everclear
I say commitment because making it requires one. A 90-day commitment to patience. And it all started with two bottles of Everclear in the back of my car on Valentines Day. Aaawwwww, isn't it romantic?

Actually, it started with reading Diane's post here, where she invites her readers to join her in making limoncello. Timed with an upcoming trip to Southern California during high citrus season, I knew I could get my hands on some organic, reasonably priced Meyer lemons. So between babies and family and outings to the Wild Animal Park and In-N-Out, I stopped by a produce stand and picked up 20 or so Meyer lemons.

And I'm proud to say TSA did not confiscate my Meyer lemons. Once in Portland, I read up on limoncello making, and discovered two things:
1. It's traditionally made with grain alcohol. However, this high proof booze is not available in most states. Lucky for me, it is in Oregon. Thank you Oregon! Even though we have to buy our booze at state-run liquor stores, thank you for providing me with 190-proof liquor. Phew! That stuff stinks like rubbing alcohol. But I have faith. The higher the alcohol content the better the flavor extraction from the lemon peel.
2. When zesting the lemons, don't get any of the white part of the peel. You only want the peel. Zest carefully!
careful zesting

And in the end, you'll have zested lemons that look like this:*
zested lemons

In my huge infusion jar, I've combined the zest with the booze, pop in a sprig of rosemary, and now I wait 40 days. I trust Diane will blog about what to do then. (I think it's about adding a simple syrup and straining the peel.)
the first step of making limoncello

Patience is a virtue, right? Right. Patience will also help mellow that grain alcohol. Hopefully.
limoncello making
*I juiced the lemons and froze the juice in ice cube trays: I now have a bag of lemon juice cubes in my freezer handy for cooking or adding to smoothies.


Jen said...

We have a batch incubating right now too! Our second batch of deliciousness, the first one we made for Xmas and nearly couldn't part with them!

Anonymous said...

Yum. I never knew you could make limoncello!

PAgent said...

Speaking as a chemist, I would have to say that Everclear lies on the wrong side of the line between "Beverage" and "solvent".

TP said...

Nice. I found (and have made on a couple occasions) a similar recipe in the December 06 Sunset ... though that one calls out vodka instead of everclear. Good tho - and much better than store bought swill.

Oh ... and for those that don't have the patience (and are in Portland), Bar Due makes some great limoncello and orancello (sp?).

Anonymous said...

Ok. That's it. We haven't yet met in person, and it's now more imperative than ever. What date is the limoncello ready again?!?

Zoe said...

Fortunately, for me, I live in a state where I can buy what ever the hell kind of alcohol I want. I believe I just might be making a batch of this myself.

Napa Farmhouse 1885 said...

thanks for the link to my happy you are joining the limoncello making club..and your photos are fantastic.
i will send you some of mine as soon as it is ready..can't wait to hear how different my vodka based one is to your "190 proof" version. yikes!

Anonymous said...

Remind me to give you my recipe for meyer lemon marmalade - I discovered it when looking for a companion recipe to my limoncello-making. Next time you can have two special products to show for your schlepping of lemons on a plane. :)

Anonymous said...

It's true about Everclear, straight from the bottle it really doesn't seem fit for human consumption. That's why I always filter it with a Brita filter at least 5 times before using it.

Anonymous said...

What a fun project! My friend made limoncello and limecello last year and it was delicious. Good luck.

Anonymous said...

Did you check the lemons in your suitcase, or carry them on? Are meyer lemons still in season down south? Going to LA this week and I'd love to sneak some back!

Unknown said...

Hey, can we get the real story here? Is there really anything you can do with a Meyers lemon you can't do by mixing orange and lemon juice together?

LeLo said...

Renee-I packed them in my luggage and they got through just fine. I bet you can still get them: just make sure you get them from a stand or from a place where they are not waxed, because it's the peel that you use in lemoncello. And you don't want waxcello.

Mitch-Many people say that, yes. But if there's an abundance of Meyers lemons to be had where you are, then more power to ya.

Richard Miller said...

I think what I love the most about limoncello is what an obvious "country grandma" thing it is ... the conversion of leftovers or scraps into deliciousness is the hallmark of peasants the world over.

I feel like my own tillin'-the-soil ancestors are proud every time I make a batch!

Unknown said...

How much lemon juice are you getting from the 20 lemons? We want to try this, but the meyer lemons on our tree are so big that we're afraid our proportions will be off.

LeLo said...

Hi Nick;
I'm not sure how much juice we got from the 20 lemons, but the good thing is that it's not like canning where your measurements need to be precise. Do it in proportion to your lemon sizes: you may want to do a 1:1 test juice from your tree, comparing a regular sized lemon, and measure the difference. A lot of times those big lemons may have really thick peels and pulp, but not as much juice. I hope this helps, and if you have a tree of lemons, you should definitely make this. It's fun!