Friday, September 3, 2010

Foodie Friday - Limoncello

Ok, it's not quite food, but limoncello has been featuring heavily in some of my recent culinary experiments, so I thought I'd post it here
Several months ago, I had the overwhelming desire to drink limoncello. This was largely assisted by Paul @ Opium Cocktail Bar, with his cocktail of the month at the time, a yummy, lemony concoction whose name escapes me at present. At the time, I was also readying a book about various types of liqueurs, and thought I'd try my hand at this deliciously refreshing drink. It's really quite a versatile ingredient. This recipe is a little thicker than the stuff you would buy, but I find it is perfect for using in cooking, such as the lemon cupcake recipe I'll put up next week, or to pour over some creamy vanilla ice cream, or to have on the rocks while lounging around on the floor playing with your new Filofax. Oh, maybe that last one's just me…


Makes 500ml

The Line Up
4 whole lemons, chopped, + coarse grated rind of two extra
330g (1 1/3 cups) castor sugar
150ml (Approx ½ cup + 1 tablespoon) 95% Rectified Spirit (available at your local bottle shop, usually with the vodka)
Water to 500ml

The Game Plan
Place the lemons and sugar into a large pot, and bruise over low heat until quite syrupy. Do not allow to boil, but continually stir for 10-20 minutes. Remove from the heat, add alcohol, stirring constantly, then add water to make 500ml. This is where I usually make a mess in my kitchen, because I tend to tip the mixture into a measuring jug through a strainer before adding the water, to make sure the end mixture will be the traditional 30% alcohol/volume. Completely up to you though! If you do this, add the fruit back to the mixture, and allow to infuse for 48 hours. I usually place the covered mixture in the fridge at this point due to lack of space in my kitchen, and then taste it after 24 and 48 hours. If it's not infused to my liking, I either leave it to infuse for longer, or tweak it with the addition of a bit more sugar syrup or lemon juice. When infused to your liking, strain through a clean fine sieve, and funnel into empty, pre-sterilised bottles. Label these with the date and contents, then store in the fridge, where it will keep for about 2 months, if it lasts that long! Serve well chilled, and mix before pouring.

The Interchange
Substitute the lemons for other citrus fruit, mangos (with the skins removed), pitted stone fruit, cored apples or pears for a different flavour. Fruit that is well ripened, or even over-ripe, works best.
It's easy to change the alcohol content with this recipe. Omit it completely for a delicious syrup that's safe for the kids. I normally wouldn't increase the content, 30% EtOH/Vol is fairly standard for a liqueur. The one time I did try to boost it to 40% (similar alcohol content to your average vodka), I was hit with a cloud of ethanol fumes every time I opened the bottle or took a sip, and ended up diluting it back to make it tolerable.


Note: This is not the traditional way of making limoncello, and lacks some of the depth and complexity that comes with the longer infusion of the 'proper' method. It's all about personal taste, and I have found that I prefer to use the whole lemons, rather than just the rind, as they give a bit more balance to the serious amount of sugar used. If you do use just the rind, and use a cold-infusion (i.e. you don't heat the fruit), make sure you don't include any of the white pith, as this will make your limoncello bitter.

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