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Fun with booze! January 29, 2010

Posted by Peeps in random stuff, Wine & Spirits.

Alcohol is a very useful thing.  Among other things, it’s very useful for extracting flavors from things.  Which is why it’s so often called for in cooking.  However, we are not going to be cooking with it just now.

Back during the summer, Toys mentioned that she’d found a recipe for something called limoncello.  It looked interesting, but we just never got around to it.

Right around Thanksgiving time, Good Eats did a show featuring some of the amazing things you can do with alcohol.  Including making limoncello.  Cool.  But we still didn’t actually get to it.  Then we went to the Wine and Chocolate Festival.  There was a booth sampling limoncello there and we got a taste.  Wow.  Amazing.  This has suddenly become a priority.  And then Providence took a hand.

One of our local supermarkets had bags of lemons in a buy one, get one free promotion.  That reminded us of this particular project we wanted to try.  So, I went to the store for lemons and we sat down and did our homework.

Most of the recipes my wife found for limoncello call for a bottle of vodka and a bottle of Everclear.  What’s that?  You’ve never heard of it?  That’s probably a good thing.  Everclear is pure grain alcohol.  It’s 190 proof, or 95 percent alcohol by volume.  Why would you want to get anywhere near this stuff?  It’s very popular on college campuses.  One bottle can get an entire dorm acting silly.  You should always use extreme care playing with this stuff.  Trust me, I know.

Unfortunately, because we live in the sovereign state of New York, it’s illegal to sell Everclear here.  Sigh.  Okay, let’s keep trying.

Alton Brown’s recipe just called for one 750ml bottle of 100 proof vodka.  Sweet!  We can do this.  So, it’s off to the liquor store.  And as it turns out, there was a special rebate offer going on from the Stoli people.  So, that’s what we went with.  Don’t you love saving money?
Now, we could only get the vodka in one liter bottles. No big deal. We’ll just use it all and have a little more of the final product. Oh well.
The first thing you do is remove the zest from two pounds of lemons. That’s about eight lemons. We used nine, since we had a little more liquid.
Most of the recipes we found just have you use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest. Mr. Brown says you need a microplane grater. Okay, his version only takes a week of sitting as opposed to a couple months. Okay, less time is better. By the way, we did first scrub the lemons with a vegetable brush to get all the dirt possible off.
Once you have the zest off all your lemons, you put it all into a large glass container and add the entire bottle of vodka. Unfortunately, we didn’t have anything big enough with a wide mouth. So we improvised. We put everything into an empty 1.75 liter Jack Daniel’s bottle. I would strongly urge you to go out and buy a container. Seriously. Trying to jam a bunch of lemon zest into a narrow space without getting it everywhere was less than fun. Toys mentioned that this was why the word “bottleneck” is never used as a good description.

Once everything is in your container, close the lid and walk away.  This needs to be left alone for a week.  Yes, a week.  Just give your container a quick shake once a day. That’s it.  Really.

Once a week has passed, you’re ready to finish your limoncello.  Strain the now bright yellow vodka into another container.  The original bottle would be good.  A couple layers of cheesecloth inside a gold mesh coffee filter in a funnel does a spectacular job.

Meanwhile, in a small saucepan combine 2/3 cup of water with 2/3 cup sugar and heat until the liquid is no longer cloudy at all.  Let the resulting simple syrup cool.  Than all you do is combine the infused vodka and the simple syrup into a container that goes straight into the freezer.

According to all the recipes my wife found, limoncello just sits and gets better the longer it’s in the freezer.  Alton Brown says that it’s drinkable after a minimum of four hours in the freezer.  Well, I can tell you that after fours hours, it’s mighty wonderful.

A serious hit of lemon flavor that goes down very smoothly.  With just enough of a kick to warn you not to guzzle the stuff.  Limoncello is supposed to be a perfect after dinner drink on a warm evening.  But I can tell you for a fact that it’s not bad before dinner in the middle of winter.  So good, in fact, that we started a lime version a few days ago.
Oh, and before I forget.  All that naked fruit you have left over from this?  Sorbet.  Really good sorbet.  Just consider it, will you? And think about this. A good many sorbet recipes call for a little bit of vodka to keep them from turning into a block of ice. I wonder how using a little homemade limoncello will work instead.
We are going to be keeping a few jars of this around the house, I’m thinking. Particularly if we let anyone else try it.



1. Mazco34 - January 29, 2010

Let me know how the lime-cello turned out. I love lime more than lemon, so that really intrigues me.
I alos love making sorbet. I once made a killer plum sorbet. Let me know how that turned out also.

I, for one, can attest to the fact that the lime sorbet is fabulous. 😀

2. Peeps - February 1, 2010

The lime version is mighty good. We like the lemon better, but the lime does not suck at all.

3. The_Swedish_Chef - February 27, 2010

LOVE your blog and LOVE your humour! Krislady, thank you for linking to this site!!! I’ve always wanted to make limoncello but was put off by all the waiting time. Since I’m a huge Alton fan, if his recipe was good enough for the two of you, it’s good enough for me. I’ve bookmarked this to follow other food adventures. 🙂

Peeps - March 1, 2010

On behalf of my wife, welcome! And thank you. Alton Brown seldom disappoints, and in this case he’s right on the money. If you try this, you should be very happy. Particularly when the weather gets warmer. If it ever does.

4. The_Swedish_Chef - March 3, 2010

I’m making this tomorrow and can’t wait! Read on Alton’s site to NOT use Smirnoff; glad for that warning. I see that you use Stoli; do you think Grey Goose would also work well?

Sure, SC! Even more than cooking, I think, just don’t use anything you wouldn’t drink, that’s all. Me, I’m not so much a vodka girl, and I did make the mistake, many years ago, of using Smirnoff in a vodka sauce – I’ll tell you, it put me right off vodka sauce for a very long time!

Grey Goose, though, is a very nice, very smooth vodka and should work nicely – we used the Stoli mainly because (besides the rebate, of course!) it was available in the higher proof – which will give you a stronger lemon-y-ness when you’re done. 😉

5. The_Swedish_Chef - March 3, 2010

Thanks! I didn’t end up going to the store; a friend called from hospital, told me she had just had an emergency appendectomy! Just got back from visiting her and am baking some goodies for her family and her when she comes back tomorrow. I’ll look for the higher proof vodka tomorrow when I drop the bakery off.

What I read about Smirnoff was that it gave off a real Pinesol taste and aroma. The folks who used it could never get rid of the smell and lost their entire batch of limoncello.

Aw. . . that’s a shame about your friend. I trust she’ll be OK, though.

And yeah, I can see that about the Smirnoff – it left a really nasty off-flavor in my vodka sauce, too. Make sure, too, to scrub the lemons well – sometimes they wax them, and that can’t taste good either! 😯

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