Chef Notes: Lemoncello for the big kids

Chef Notes: Lemoncello for the big kids

Now that both American and Canadian Thanksgiving is out of the way, it’s time to start thinking about Christmas. It seems like you hardly have time to get the dishes dried and put away before the Christmas rush knocks you over. One of my biggest challenges is coming up with thoughtful gifts for co-workers, the kid’s teachers, distant relatives, and people who make your life easier like your housekeeper, concierge, nail technician……the list seems endless.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

A few years back, I worked with a wonderful Italian man who shared his great grandmother’s lemoncello recipe with me. I went on quite a binge. Not of drinking it, although I did plenty of that too, but making every conceivable type of ‘cello I could fathom. I started keeping an eye out for decorative bottles and cute little cordial glasses and almost everyone we knew got a bottle of ‘cello with a beautiful ribbon tied around the neck and a couple of the little cordial glasses tied up to it. Needless to say, it was very well received.

The process is quite simple and it’s something that you can get the kids to help with (not with the drinking of the ‘cello of course but with the zesting). Here’s the basic recipe:

1.5 liter bottle of grain alcohol (if this is not available in your area you can substitute moonshine, which is now available commercially, or unflavored vodka)

Zest from either:

8 lemons
8 limes
8 tangerines
8 clementines
6 oranges
4 grapefruit
1 liter water
2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

Be careful when zesting that you don’t get down into the white of the citrus. It is bitter. Zest with either a citrus zester or use a rasper. If you use a rasper you will need to strain using a couple of layers of cheesecloth.

Add zest to grain alcohol and let sit for a minimum of 48 hours but the longer the better. I usually shoot for at least one week. Strain well. Then bring water and sugar to a boil, simmer for about 5 minutes. Cool to room temperature. Strain the alcohol and mix with the simple syrup. Poor into decorative bottles and freeze. Serve very cold.

A variation of this is a creamed ‘cello. In that case, in the simple syrup you would replace the sugar with two cans of sweetened, condensed milk and add a teaspoon of vanilla extract.

There are a ton of great cocktail recipes out there that make use of ‘cello’s but they’re also terrific to just sip after dinner. Try a splash in your favorite sparkling wine/champagne. They’re so easy to make and guaranteed to fill you, your friends, and family with holiday cheer. Happy ‘cello-ing.

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