Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Limoncello and the TOP 5 Ways to Use Limoncello

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 Once again... HAPPY NEW YEAR!!!

This year is going to be my year of cooking Italian.  Some day when I grow up I want to be that Italian grandmother, gravy (pasta sauce) is her perfume and pasta flour is her foundation make-up.  But more important, I want to be that Italian Grandmother who just knows the best ways to use fresh tomatoes, peppers, onions and sausage.  Italian recipes are usually few ingredients, but the techniques used bring out the deep flavors of each ingredient.  No masking sauces, no surprises... Other than the tastes.

If you follow me throughout the year, you'll see what I mean.

In the mean time, let's home brew a classic from the Southern Italian coast, mostly the Gulf of Naples.

The recipe is not terribly difficult, just requires patience.  Cooking time for a jar is 30 days.  Yeap, you read that right, DAYS.  But your patience will be rewarded.

OK, a couple (well, 3) of words of advice...

You will see several recipes for Limoncello on the Internet.  A few will give you a rest time of as little as 7 days.  Do not be fooled.  7 day home brewed Limoncello tastes little better than lemon cough syrup.  It is harsh and leaves a nasty aftertaste.  If you are patient and wait the full 30 days you will be rewarded with a deep lemon taste, an almost creamier texture and a warm sweet aftertaste.  Not even a hint of bitter lemon.

 You will also see recipes that call for 3/4 Cups, 1 Cup, 1-1/2 Cups or even 2 Cups of simple syrup added to the Lemon Vodka.  I have made Limoncello with all three amounts.  For me (and my volunteer band of taste testers), it was unanimous that the 1-1/2 cups of simple syrup measurement works best.  Don;t worry, there is still plenty of vodka and sugars in the finished product that it can store safely in the freezer without breaking the bottle.

The oils and lemon flavor is in the outer, colored zest only.  DO NOT ZEST WITH A HEAVY HAND.  The white part is very bitter.  More white part in your Limoncello and the more bitter the taste.  It's the yellow part of the zest and only the lemon part of the zest that gives you the full taste.  So, zest lightly.

Alright... enough advice, let's party Naples style...

Home Brewed LimonCello

  • 10 Average Sized Lemons, Zested
  • 750 ML Vodka, 100 proof
  • 1-1/2 Cups Sugar
  • 1-1/2 Cups Water
Cooking Directions
  1. Wash your lemons well, removing any possible pesticides or chemicles added in shipping
  2. Carefully remove the zest from the lemons using a microplane grater, being careful not to remove any of the white pith. Reserve the lemons to make lemonade
  3. Put the lemon zest into a lidded glass container that is at least 2-quarts in size. Pour the vodka over the zest, and let sit in a cool dark place for 30 days.
  4. Once a week or so, give the jar a swirl to mix up the zest a bit.
  5. After 30 days, strain the liquid through a fine mesh strainer lined with several layers of cheesecloth and return the vodka to the container.
  6. Combine the water and sugar in a small saucepan set over high heat and cook, stirring continually, until the sugar is completely dissolved, approximately 3 minutes.
  7. Once completely cool, add the sugar syrup to the vodka, and stir to combine.
  8. Cover and put the container in the freezer for at least 24 hours. Limoncello can be stored in the freezer for up to a year.
  9. Serve from the freezer and ENJOY!!!! Cin Cin
But Wait... There's more... What to do with a bottle once you have some...

First, this is a wonderful drink straight up.  In Italy, Limoncello is served as an after dinner digestivo, promoting digestion.  A shot or even a half a shot will leave a clean lemon after taste that lingers as the night flows.  Just a perfect way to end a meal.

Of course, a relaxing aperitif or pre-dinner sip will set the tone for a meal to come.

Me, I like mine on the rocks, sipped.  Traditionally Limoncello is served in chilled small ceramic glasses.

BUT... other than drinking, there are no ends of the possibilities for what to do with Limoncello.  Think Vanilla in your cooking and anytime you see adding vanilla, ponder adding Limoncello instead to add a sweet hint of lemon to your baking.

Second, I also make a very simple Limoncello cream that I use as a topping.  Just mix equal parts Heavy Cream and Limoncello and whisk until it starts to thicken.

This thickened Sauce is FANTASTIC over a scoop of plain old vanilla ice cream.  Make a lemoncello milkshake or even dress up a brownie by resting it in a bed of Limoncello cream.

And if you want to stay Italian, Combine a Panna Cotta (kind of a milk pudding), again resting in a bed of, with Limoncello Cream and you have a wonderful dessert.

But let's think a bit outside the box and have a couple of classics dressed up the Limoncello way...

Third... One of my favorite go-to dessert recipes (ready in an hour and AMAZINGLY delicious gets a Limoncello face lift for a more adult treat.  One of the few recipes I use a processed food box ingredient, but so simple and did 2 mention DELICIOUS!  You may never make lemon bars the other way again.

Cream Cheese Bars

  • 1 Store Bought Lemon Cake Box Mix
  • 2 Large Eggs, used separately
  • 1/2 Cup Olive Oil
  • 1 Brick (8 Oz) Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 1/3 Cup Sugar
  • 2 Tsp Limoncello
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees
  2. Mix dry cake mix, 1 egg, and oil until crumbly; reserve one cup.
  3. Press remaining mixture lightly into an ungreased 7x11 inch pan.
  4. Bake for 12 minutes at 350°F.
  5. Beat cream cheese, 1 egg, sugar and Limoncello until smooth.
  6. Spread over baked layer and then sprinkle reserved crumb mixture over the top.
  7. Bake for an additional 15 minutes.
  8. Cool completely before cutting into bars.
  9. Refrigerate for 1 hour
  10. Optional to drizzle Limoncello Cream on each
  11. Serve Chilled and ENJOY!

Four... Limoncello Cheese Cake.  My cheesecake recipe is made just a tad creamier and lighter with 8 ounces of Mascarpone cheese replacing a brick of cream cheese.  Makes a big difference, but also by adding a little Limoncello to the mix you add that delicious sweet lemon taste to a classic!  For the crust, iun place of graham crackers I use the cheapest package of lemon cookies (looks like an Oreo).  But lemon and again, go cheap and generic, lemon sandwich cookie for the crust.

Limoncello Cheese Cake

  • For the Crust
  • 36 lemon Sandwich Cookies
  • 1/4 Cup Sugar
  • 1/4 Cup Butter, melted
  • For the Cheesecake
  • 24 OZ (3 bricks) Cream Cheese, room temperature
  • 8 OZ Mascarpone Cheese, room temperature
  • 1-1/4 Cups Sugar
  • 4 Large Eggs
  • Juice and Zest of 1 Lemon
  • 3 TBS Limoncello
  • Optional Topping Drizzle of Lemoncello cream
Cooking Directions
  1. Preheat the oven to 350 Degrees
  2. Lightly grease a 9-inch Springform pan.
  3. In the bowl of a food processor, pulse lemon sandwich cookies to crumbs
  4. Measure out 2 Cups and place in a medium mixing bowl
  5. Add sugar and melted butter to crumbs in the bowl; mix well.
  6. Press crumb mixture evenly over the bottom and 1 inch up the sides of the prepared pan.
  7. Bake in preheated oven for 5 minutes
  8. Meanwhile... In a large mixing bowl, beat the cream cheese and mascarpone cheese until fluffy.
  9. Add sugar and beat well.
  10. Add eggs, one at a time, beating well after each.
  11. Add remaining filling ingredients and beat until smooth.
  12. Carefully pour into the pan, taking care not to disturb the crust.
  13. Bake for 60 minutes until the center has just set, but still jiggles.
  14. DO NOT OPEN THE OVEN DOOR, but do turn the heat off. LEAVE IN THE OVEN FOR 5 HOURS. This allows the cake to cool without cracking and falling.
  15. Cool in the refrigerator over night
  16. Serve chilled with a drizzle of Limoncello Cream (optional and ENJOY!!!
And finally...

My very top way to use Limoncello... Give it away!

Jackie and I hosted a few dinner parties this last Christmas season.  Our very favorite taste testers were invited and shown the glory of Limoncello.  We toasted our health and friendship.  We enjoyed deserts made with the lemony liqueur of the Roman gods, we laughed and enjoyed the evening.

At the end of the night, I gave away a bottle of the yellow gold to my friends.  It may sit in their freezer for a year, they may jump on the sipping mellow yellow shot idea every night for a week or they may even try a cheesecake.  But, everyone smiled, everyone acted happy and everyone promised to use it.

And I got to honor my hobby and my friendships...


So,  I am pleased to list this as one of my Growing list of  "52 Authentic Italian Recipes"!!!

Well over 52 recipes actually as I just can't stop. The world's most popular cuisine, authentic, natural, organic, Farm to Table... the Italians started, perfected or embraced it before it became a fad. This page is a guide to Italian Cooking... For the home cook!  So, Cin Cin (toast) and Buon Appetito (Enjoy your Meal) to you all and let's Cook authentic Italian!


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1 comment:

  1. Love this Dave!! I bought Limoncello, or rather what they called Limoncello, in the liquor store....awful!!! I pinned this so I will definitely be giving this a try.