Thursday, June 6, 2013

boozy concoctions part I: meyer lemon limoncello

Cooking + alcohol is a match made in heaven. A glass of wine or a bubbly cocktail is always welcome in my kitchen, both in the hands of the chef and the happy people waiting to eat the food. But I don't stop there. What about cooking with alcohol? Not just for deglazing and simmering, but making your own fancy, flavoured infusions?

The recipe for fruit-infused liquor is simple: put fruit in a clean jar, cover with sugar and booze, leave for a month or two. Sugar isn't necessary, but since I'm usually using these infusions in mixed drinks, it saves you from having to add simple syrup at a later point.

Last year, I made plain old rhubarb gin - it turned the gin a purple-pink colour, and gave it this amazing rhubarb flavour. This year I'm branching out. 

There's a scene in Under the Tuscan Sun where Diane Lane is given a glass of homemade limoncello by her dreamy Italian love interest. Sitting on a beach. Under the Tuscan sun. All I want is to taste that limoncello. (Boyfriend, if you're reading this, take me to Tuscany some day.) 

Here's the closest I'm gonna get to that. If you don't have meyers, definitely make this with plain old lemons - more tart, just as good! I would encourage you to use organic lemons, because you don't want all those pesticides mixing in with your hard earned homemade booze. Adapted from this recipe.

meyer lemon limoncello

16 organic meyer lemons
1 750ml bottle vodka
4 cups water
2 cups sugar
1 cup honey

Quarter meyer lemons, and stuff them into two very clean quart jars. Pour over the vodka, seal tightly and set aside for a month or two. 

After that looooong wait, strain out the gorgeous, lemon coloured vodka and set aside. Put the lemons, water, sugar and honey in a large pot, and bring to a gentle simmer. Don't boil - you'll cook off all that leftover alcohol in the lemons! Stir often, mashing the lemons with the back of your spoon, or a potato masher.

After about 10 minutes, the sugar will have disolved, and you'll have this awesome lemon mash. Strain with a fine-mesh strainer, discarding the solids. Stir together the vodka and the sugar/lemon/honey liquid, and pour into clean jars. Store in the fridge, not in the liquor cabinet, because of the high quantities of lemon juice. It'll keep for a couple of months, but good luck with that. 

How will I be drinking this? I might use an ounce or two to fortify some lemonade. Or I might drink it mixed with club soda and garnished with a lemon twist. Best of all, I might shake it over ice with some strawberry-rhubarb gin and strain into a chilled martini glass for the perfect late-spring martini. Strawberry-rhubarb gin, you ask? That's in tomorrow's post. 

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