Wednesday, July 13, 2011

Patience rewarded

Sometimes patience is required in more abundance than I typically possess.  Waiting is not my forte, especially not when waiting for something delicious.  However, stashing things in the back of the linen closet, out of sight and out of mind, does help the process along significantly.  Along with curing meats, infusing liquor is one of a class of projects that demands willpower.  In this particular case, I speak of my limoncello project.

Back in March, when Meyer lemons were approaching the end of their season, I could not resist buying a few (read, a dozen).  While I could not help myself to some immediately, I did save the majority for making limoncello.  The first challenge was deciding how to make the limoncello, as there are many methods described.  One major division is the decision to use peel only or use the whole fruit.  As my understanding of limoncello is that it should be neither bitter nor sour, I opted to use just the peels.  The next question is whether to infuse with zest or with strips of peel.  In this, practicality had a lot to do with my decision.  As my zester is not particularly good, whereas my knife is quite sharp, I opted for the latter.  Additionally, pictures I have seen seem to indicate that zest yields an opaque product whereas strips produces a transparent liqueur, and I slightly favor the clearer result.

Thus, several months ago, I began the arduous task of peeling the lemons and then filleting the peels to remove as much of the pith as possible. After several hours hunched over the cutting board, I had the peels of 8 Meyer lemons in the jar, and I proceeded to cover them with 100 proof vodka that I had lugged over from New Hampshire.  For the first few days, I would swirl the jar daily, but then I stashed it in the back of my linen closet to make it easier to age without tempting my impatience.  After a couple months, I then made approximately 400mL of 1:1 simple syrup and added it to the jar, giving it another swirl and hiding it away again.

Limoncello after 3.5 months of infusion

Sadly, I forgot to take a time initial picture, but the above is a picture of the jar right before I bottled, about 3.5 months after the infusion began.  Part of the reason why I infused for so long was because I simply forgot it for awhile; putting it in the back of the linen closet really did work.  One thing that is not immediately apparent from the picture is that the color of the peels had really leached, leaving the peels a very light, whitish yellow and the liqueur a goldenrod, if not amber color.  After straining out the peels by pouring it through a handkerchief and strainer, I bottled the concoction and placed it in the freezer.

Limoncello, bottled and chilled

For a first attempt, its actually pretty tasty.  There is a lot of lemon fragrance, not just lemon oil, but also some floral aspects to it as well.  Additionally, since it is made with Meyer lemons, it does not seem as bright as regular limoncello, but with more honeyed sweetness instead.  A certain herbal quality is also present, thyme perhaps.  One detractor though is the presence of an alcohol burn that is rather unpleasant and probably caused by the high proof vodka I started with, although I didn't try the vodka on its own before using it.  Alas, I am not sure whether a bit of dilution would help or whether the vodka taste is irremovable.  Perhaps next time I make a batch, I will try with a cleaner tasting vodka.  Burn aside, the taste is quite pleasant and leaves a sunniness on the tongue for some time after swallowing.  Perfect for a nip after a long summer day.

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