The beauty of writing a blog about scotch (and other whisky reviews) and scones (and other yummy baked goods) is that the two subjects generally don’t intersect, so I can write about double the topics. Occasionally I’ll write a “crossover” post where I’ve baked with alcohol (e.g. Kahlua cake or bourbon brownies) or have gotten to pair food with a tasting lineup (like in Fancy Finishes and a Chance to Pair and Springbank with Snacks). And while I’ve made food using alcohol as a flavoring, I haven’t made and written about making a flavored liqueur…that is, until now. This week I had the pleasure of catering my older daughter’s bridal shower, and with an Italian themed menu it seemed appropriate to serve homemade limoncello.
While the “brown” spirits don’t really lend themselves to doctoring up (why alter perfection?), vodka practically screams for flavoring. Infusing vodka simply is a matter of letting that flavoring item steep in the vodka for about 2 weeks, then drain and, voilà, you have flavored vodka. In the B.S.S. times (i.e. Before Scotch and Scones), I’d made pineapple vodka (a version of the Stoli Doli from Capitol Grille steakhouse), grapefruit vodka (that was surprisingly wonderful), and even cucumber vodka (not my favorite, but my older daughter liked it). I had tasted limoncello in Italian restaurants and had assumed that it was some fancy imported liqueur. While researching the aforementioned bridal shower menu, imagine my surprise when I learned that limoncello is just lemon-infused vodka sweetened with simple syrup. “Hooray!” I thought, ”I CAN MAKE IT!”
Turning to my favorite source for recipes (Pinterest), I quickly settled on Jo-Lynne Shane’s version of homemade limoncello and set about making it. As recipes go, it’s short and quite easy…the hardest part was zesting the lemons. Well, that, and waiting the 2 weeks before I could try it! As always, my notes are in italics.
From Jo-Lynne Shane
Prep time: 10 mins
Cook time: 10 mins
Total time: 20 mins
- 1 750 ml bottle vodka or grain alcohol
- 6 lemons (mine were small…that’s fine)
- 1 cup water
- 1 cup sugar
- Wash the lemons and remove the zest with peeler, avoiding the white part. (I juiced the zested lemons and saved it for other uses).
- Place the zest and vodka in a glass jar. Close the jar and let it sit for 1-2 weeks; shake daily. When the peels lose color, it’s ready. Longer is better. (a quart canning jar is perfect for this)
- Strain the liquid; squeeze lemon peels to get all the liquid out.
- Make simple syrup by combining 1 cup water and 1 cup sugar in a saucepan over medium heat. Heat until the sugar dissolves; cool to room temperature.
- Add the syrup to the limoncello base. A little warm syrup makes a nice cloudy limoncello.
- Using a funnel, pour the liqueur into sealable clean bottles. Store in the freezer in warmer zone, like on the door. It can slush up a bit; that’s okay. Longer aging means more intense flavors. (I don’t have that kind of room in my freezer, but the refrigerator works, too)
Jo-Lynne says you can drink it straight or in cocktails; i.e. with tonic. We sipped ours after our meal and it was lovely…light, sweet, and refreshing. And, the lovely yellow color was a bright compliment to a wonderful event. My older daughter likened it to the sweet flavor of lemonheads candy (after the sour taste fades)…how’s that for tasting notes!
Learning how easy it was to make homemade limoncello and other liqueurs has opened a whole other area of interest for me, and it speaks to my desire to make sure my family’s food and drink is without preservatives or additives. Maybe homemade Irish Cream whiskey is next? Who knows? Stay tuned!
Slainté! L’chaim! Cheers!