One of the joys of living in Arizona is that you’ll find citrus trees growing just about everywhere. In the backyard, we have an orange tree, a grapefruit tree and a lemon tree…the most productive lemon tree I’ve ever seen.
We just finished the harvest. I figure we’re on our last week of fresh orange juice every day and we’re down to the last 1/2 pound or so of candied orange peel. But the lemon crop was so large that using all of it has been something of a challenge. At a business meeting earlier this week, I arrived with a shopping bag full of lemons and announced to the room that no one would be allowed to leave without taking at least two. At the supermarket, I struck up a conversation about lemons with one of the staff, only to learn she lived in apartment with no trees. Ten minutes later, I returned to the store to present her with a wine case of lemons. You get the idea.
I also put up two batches of preserved lemons which should be ready in another couple of weeks. And my first batch of Limoncella, Sicily’s “signature liqueur”, will be ready in another ten days. Here’s the recipe I used to make this simple, simply delicious beverage.
12 lemons, thick skinned
1 lime, thick skinned
2, 750ml bottles of 100% proof vodka or grain alcohol
2 C water
2 C sugar
Thoroughly wash and towel dry the fruit. Remove the outer peel with a sharp peeler, leaving behind as much pith as possible. Place the peel in a large jar with a screw-top lid or sealed with clamps (ala mason jar), and cover with one bottle of the vodka. Leave the mixture to mellow in a dark place for 2 weeks.
After the mixture “sets”, combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan. Bring it to a boil over medium heat, stirring frequently, until the sugar has completely dissolved. Pour into a bowl resting on a bed of ice/ice water to cool rapidly, completely. This is an important step. If the sugar syrup is still warm, the Limoncella will be cloudy, instead of its traditional limpid.
Using a fine sieve, strain all of the peel from the vodka. Combine it with the rest of the vodka and sugar syrup. Put the liqueur in bottles, seal tightly and let the components marry in a dark place for another ten days before using. Traditionally, Limoncella is stored in the freezer, and served straight.
Keep away from open flame.
Recipe courtesy of http://www.recipezaar.com
Pic of lemons courtesy of sicilyguide.com
Pic of Limoncella courtesy of leslieinvan.blogspot.com
Kent McDonald is a Certified Personal Chef, living and working in Phoenix, AZ. (c) All Rights Reserves, 2009