Two years ago I decided to make limoncello (an Italian lemon liqueur) as Christmas gifts for everyone, scratch that, for a few lucky people.
It was a great hit and the people who got their hands on a bottle of this liquid gold were very pleased and most of them graciously handed an empty bottle back to me asking that it be refilled if I happen to make some more. Well, last year I decided to make it again. This time I opted to make arancello (orange liqueur) instead of limoncello. Personally I preferred the arancello over it’s counterpart, mainly because it had more flavor. Maybe I just got better at making it…. Here’s how I did it.
I got my recipe from a produce purveyor of mine when I lived in Orange County, CA (Thanks Theodoro!!!!) He was from Sorrento, Italy, which is one of the largest produces of limoncello in the world. Anyway, I got the recipe from him and he got it from his mother who would make it every year when the lemons were ripe. He said that she would use an alcohol made from sugarcane, very similar to rum, but with a much higher alcohol content. The closest thing that I could find was Everclear grain alcohol. This is some strong stuff! 95% -190 proof.
Luckily for me, when I lived in Southern California, lemon trees were everywhere! So I asked some of my fellow co-workers, who I knew had trees in their yards, to bring me some our their fruit. I knew that they were all organic and not sprayed with pesticides. So I started out by scrubbing all of the fruit with a vegetable brush, just to get all of the dirt off.
After that I started the painstaking process of peeling all of the fruit with a vegetable peeler. Since the peeler took off some of the pith as well as the rind, I had to go through every peel with a flexible boning knife and remove as much of the bitter white pith as I could. If I hadn’t gone through that monotonous task, the pith would have imparted a very bitter taste to the finished product.
To be honest with you, I never really followed Theodoro’s recipe to the T. I basically just used it as a guideline. So I can’t give you an exact recipe per se. But what I did do was this. I poured all of the grain alcohol in a non-reactive container and kept putting in lemon/orange rinds until they took up about half of the alcohol. So a 2:1 ratio- liquor to rinds.
Once I threw in the rinds, I covered the container very tightly with a double layer of plastic wrap and the plastic lid, so the alcohol wouldn’t evaporate. I let is sit in a cool dark place, like a basement or closet for about 2 weeks to a month. Obviously the longer it sits, the stronger the flavor. During those weeks, I would check it everyday and give it a good shake, just to mix things up a bit. It was interesting to see the change in the color of the liquid.
After about three weeks, I strained the alcohol into a clean container, through a fine mesh sieve lined with cheese cloth, just to remove any debris or sediment that may have formed.
The next step is making the simple syrup. There are different ratios/recipes for the syrup. The one that I use is two parts water to one part sugar (2:1). Most recipes call for equal parts of sugar and water, but I like to add more water because it stretches the alcohol and leaves you with a larger batch, it also cools down the burn from the grain alcohol.
When I mix, I usually use two parts of simple syrup and one part alcohol. As you mix in the syrup, you’ll see that it becomes cloudy.
I usually adjust the level of sweetness to taste. But after a few tastes of this, you are definitely feeling it. Put your finished product in clean, resealable bottles and chill them before you enjoy them!!
Maybe this year I’ll try a limecello!!