Tuesday, March 22, 2005

For David

When my Blogfather stopped in to see us during a recent blizzard, we offered him some warm tea, or perhaps a port. We offered the port unknowingly of course - since our port was not kosher.
Being Italian - it was important for us to serve something to 'take the chill off', especially since he would be driving home in all that snow, with those treacherous white out conditions, and slipperiness and all... must have a little 'something'.
My Italian wife suggested some Limoncello, which we make ourselves (as Italians we are required to either make wine or limoncello – we are also required to have at least one lawn statue). We reviewed the ingredient list and found nothing un-kosher about it.

The recipe below is for David, from my wife. But please, give it a go if you are so inclined.
We keep a bottle in the freezer at all times, so stop in anytime for a taste.

Limoncello (pronounced lee-mohn-CHEL-loh) Recipe

15 large, thick, skinned lemons
Two 750 ml bottles of 100-proof vodka
4 cups sugar
5 cups water

1 large glass jar (at least 4 quarts) with lid
Vegetable peeler
Glass pitcher
Cheese cloth

Phase 1: The Zest
Wash lemons well with hot water to remove any residue of pesticides, wax or stickers. Pat lemons dry.

Fill the jar with one bottle of 100-proof vodka. Be sure to use 100-proof, which has less flavor than a lower proof vodka (Limoncello should taste like fresh lemons, not poor-quality vodka.). Also, higher proof vodkas won’t turn to ice in the freezer.

Start peeling the zest from all the lemons with a vegetable peeler. If you get some of the bitter white pith with the zest, carefully scrape the pith away with the tip of a knife. As you peel and de-pith the zest, add it to the jar.

After combining the vodka and lemon zest, cover the jar and store it at room temperature in a dark place (We store ours on a shelf in our cellar.). Let it sit for 40-45 days. As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly takes on the flavor and rich yellow hue of the lemon zest.

Phase 2: The Syrup
After 40-45 days, retrieve the jar from its hiding place. You are now ready to add the remaining ingredients.

Combine 4 cups of sugar with 5 cups of water in a sauce pan. Bring to a boil and cook for about 5 minutes until slightly thickened. Let the syrup cool.

Add the second bottle of 100-proof vodka to the jar of limoncello. Add the cooled syrup.

Cover the jar and return it to the cellar to sit for another 40-45 days.

Phase 3: The Finale
After the second 40-45 days, retrieve the jar from its hiding place. You are now ready to strain and bottle your limoncello. Cut a layered section of the cheese cloth big enough to generously fit over the mouth of a funnel. Place the funnel on a glass pitcher or other glass container that’s big enough to hold the entire batch of limoncello. Pour the liquid from the jar through the cheesecloth-funnel into the pitcher. The cheese cloth will trap all the tiny chunks of zest.

Now remove the zest from the jar and discard it. Repeat the straining technique with the cheese cloth-funnel, this time from the pitcher back to the jar. Replace the soaked cheese cloth with a new fresh layered section of cheese cloth. Strain one more time from the jar to the pitcher.

Pour the limoncello into decorative serving bottles (Pier One has a fabulous collection of tinted green bottles!) with cork tops. Immediately put one bottle in your freezer. Serve the limoncello in cordial glasses (or drizzle over ice cream or fresh berries) as soon as it’s frosty.

Store the remaining bottles in your cellar until you’re ready to serve or give away to your friends.

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