Well, Kitty Cats, it's just about gift-giving time. I don't know about you, but this has been an interesting year for those of us in the finer dining sector. Whether you are feeling the full blow of our less-than-stellar economy or you're just pinching pennies, you might want to think about giving a few homemade gifts.
Husband has been making limoncello for a few years now, and it's really delicious. I was the lucky recipient of a homemade bottle from a friend a few years ago, and it didn't last long in our household (we keep it in the freezer, to nip at after dinner).
For the uninitiated, limoncello is an Italian liqueur made from grain spirits and lemons, with a little sugar thrown in at the end for good measure. I think it tastes precisely like Lemon Heads and it's just wonderful. The kind you buy in the store is okay, but usually too sweet for my tastes. It's lemon, so I appreciate a nice little pucker.
Limoncello makes a great gift because it is inexpensive to make, keeps forever, and can be made weaker or stronger depending on the sort of person you are gifting. It is also a great syrup for pouring over lemon cakes, so it's okay even for a teetotaler. Although in truth, I probably would avoid giving alcohol to teetotalers.
Limoncello takes a few days to make - only because it requires a little resting - but don't worry, you have plenty of time to do it and you can't mess it up. I promise.
Homemade Limoncello - makes about 2 litres of finished yumminess
1 bottle (750ml) Galens 151 Vodka - this is readily available, but you might have to ask for it. I wouldn't recommend doing shots of Galens, being that it's nearly twice the power of regular vodka (75% alcohol vs. about 40% for say Hangar One). Galens costs about $12 here in Ohio and its high alcohol content will ensure a very rapid absorption of the lemony goodness
1 bottle plum wine (750ml) (available in Asian markets; it usually has a green ume plum at the bottom) or light syrup (instead of simple syrup, which is equal parts water and sugar, light syrup is half sugar to water, so here you will want 1 cup of sugar to 2 cups of water)
1 one-inch pieces of cinnamon stick
1 arm of a star anise
1 green cardamom pod
8 oz water, along with juice (see below)
sugar to taste
Peel the lemons and oranges with a very sharp peeler - you only want the colored part of the fruit, not the white pith, which is bitter. Just peel the fruit very lightly. Juice the fruits and set the juice aside.
Place the peels and spices into a large container with a leak-proof lid and pour the vodka over (so that it completely covers the peels). Allow to steep for 2-4 days.
After the peels have steeped, it's time to dilute! Strain the peels and spices from the vodka. Add water to the reserved juices to 8 ounces and add this to the vodka - the mixture will cloud immediately, and that's okay.
Add the plum wine or light syrup to the vodka. Taste this mixture. Too alcoholy? Add more water, about one cup at a time, until it has a lighter alcohol taste. Not sweet enough? Dissolve 1/2 cup in 1/4 cup warm water until it dissolves and add this mixture to the limoncello. Keep tasting and adding until you have the sweetness and alcohol level you like.
Pat yourself on the back, because this was easy and delicious.
Pour the limeoncello into nice bottles and add pretty labels.