Sunday, June 01, 2008

All on a (pre)summer's day

My down the street neighbor, Lee, whose Republican leanings I've come to accept (as he has cheerfully accepted my Liberal Democratic status), occasionally joins me for an Adult Beverage at the end of a long day. One evening while doing the same at our common next-door neighbor's house, he arrived bearing a bottle of ice-cold Limoncello, which I had never tasted before.

Damn! Was that ever good!

Later, as I grew close to polishing off my own bottle, I did a little Wikipedia research and discovered how (seemingly) easy it is to make. As one who made balloon wine in my closet while in high school (thank you, Whole Earth Catalog), I had to try making a batch myself.

Now, there are a number of recipes out on the web, but the Wikibooks Cookbook is representative: put the zest (outer peel) of 15 lemons and a fifth of vodka in a gallon glass jar, let it stew for a while, add sugar syrup and more vodka, stew a little longer, then strain and bottle.

It sounded easy.

First obstacle: finding a gallon glass jar. After much fruitless searching, this was finally resolved by purchasing a gallon jug of kosher dill pickles and dumping the pickles. A symptom of our confused consumer society is that it is cheaper to buy a gallon jar of pickles than a gallon pickle jar. The pickles were, by the way, nasty. Thank you, InSinkErator.

Second obstacle: affordable lemons. It became obvious that now is not the best time to be purchasing lemons, thanks to last year's sub-freezing temperatures in California. They were expensive and dinky. This gave me a greater appreciation of the vicissitudes of the agri-business.

Third obstacle: zesting lemons. This is a fairly labor-intensive, messy task, especially when you're talking about 15 lemons. I'll leave it at that. My 17 year old, intrigued by the whole process, did pitch in and zest a sizable percentage of the stock. An unexpected side benefit -- when we finished he juiced a bunch of the lemons: Homemade Lemonade!

So now, we have zest soaking in vodka. It is already, after only a day, bright yellow. Since a fifth of commercial Limoncello can be had for around $20, I'm not too sure how the economics of all this add up, but if the end product is the least bit potable, it will be fun. If I lived in a place where I had lemon trees growing in the yard it would be totally worth it.

Side note: Limoncello is best served from a bottle kept in your freezer. The alcohol content keeps it from freezing, and the sensation of cold along with the lemon flavor and the sting of the vodka makes for a great mouth rush.

Look for an update in August, when this concoction is finished!


Ben said...

You may be interested in my blog, I cover this stuff in depth and would love to hear how your experience compares. Check it out at

Dr Ralph said...

You ROCK, sir!

I've added a post about your site, and will be studying your results closely. No doubt I've already managed to screw some subtle things up.

Especially was interested in your remarks about filtering and your recommended zesting tool. Having teenager do the zesting may not have been the best decision made on my part!

Unknown said...

You made balloon wine in High School? So did I ! Except I did not make it at home, I made it in my locker at school and the whole hallway smelled like baking bread for a couple of weeks. I decanted it into a thermos and we'd enjoy it outside at lunch. That was 1972.