While My 'Cello Gently Steeps
Instant gratification alert: The lazy cook's guide to some really amazing limecello, in one day. You heard me right. This one you can taste the day you make it.
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I am a generally impatient person, and it is still very hard to for me to wait to taste my creations. It is very hard for my family to wait to taste my creations. Maybe you can relate.
And here I am, constantly telling you to wait until this fermentation or that infusion matures in your fridge, because it will taste so much better. Right this very minute, in fact, there is a bottle of homemade French country cherry leaf liqueur (vin de cerisier) in a cabinet in my basement that is supposed to age for at least a year — although it is spectacular now — and it is all I can do not to sip at it constantly. (Don’t worry. We will make this together in the future.)
So I can understand the need, once in a while, to make something delicious that does not require so much waiting. And I’ve got the perfect thing for us.
Limecello. The Platonic ideal of lime flavor.
‘Cellos are potent liqueurs that can be made with any fruit or even nuts (hazelnut is a popular one), and I learned how to make them when I was in Tuscany. I realize how Martha Stewart that sounds, but bear with me.
We were taking a boat tour of Capri and, at the peak of the heat of the day, the captain proudly poured each of us a small, ice-cold cup of his grandmother’s Limoncello. I don’t know whether his nonna actually made it or if it was a story meant to enhance the already spectacular ambience, but it was refreshing and smooth and the very essence of the flavorful, gnarly Capri lemons I had heard so much about.
I am the host of a sort of gremlin that is compelled to try to recreate things that I love, and this was no different. As soon as I got home, I made limoncello (with American lemons) and fragoncello, a strawberry ‘cello that, after freezing, tasted like homemade strawberry jam. I invited friends over for a tasting of both, and the room fell quiet as the flavors spread through their mouths. The silence was how I knew it was good ‘cello. That, and the fact that they had to sit down to avoid passing out on my dining room floor.
But it took time for the fruit to completely infuse in the alcohol. I wanted more instant gratification, especially since summer is coming, and ‘cello spritzers absolutely bang in the summer.
So I changed two little things about how I made the infusion and, my friends, it is life changing.
I use a microplane zester instead of a vegetable peeler to zest the fruit (only the zest — not the bitter white pith below it — and some juice is used). The grater grates the zest into smaller pieces and breaks up the cellular structure more than a peeler, so it infuses almost immediately.
And the second thing I changed was using the microwave to melt the sugar for the simple syrup. Please don’t yell at me about the dangers/classlessness of microwaves. You are perfectly free to melt yours on the stove, but it’s quicker in the microwave.
The result is that I was able to bottle and taste this concoction in about 3-4 hours.
And it is mind-blowing.
I’m going to save this for summer — if my husband and I don’t sip it to death first — and add coconut water to it, maybe some seltzer to make it bubbly, and I am going to impress my friends by calling the cocktail Put the Lime in the Coconut.
It would also be tasty in a Bloody Mary, or wherever pure lime flavor is needed.
A straight shot, though, sipped thoughtfully, is sublime.
Anyway, here’s how to make it:
1 bottle grain alcohol or other pure, clear alcohol (I use Everclear, but if that is not available where you live, a bottle of vodka works just fine)
10 limes, washed and preferably organic (you’re just using the outside, which comes into contact with pesticides, so organic is recommended)
1 cup white sugar
1 cup water
Clean cheesecloth for straining
Fine mesh sieve, like this one
Microplane zester with small holes (larger holes are fine, but it may take the zest longer to infuse)
Large glass jar with lid to hold the entire bottle of alcohol and zest
Using the grater, zest all 10 limes, avoiding adding any of the bitter white pith below the skin. Set the nekkid limes aside.
Place the zest into the glass jar.
Pour the entire bottle of alcohol into the jar over the zest.
Close the jar and swirl it a bit, to mix. You will notice the color changing fairly rapidly. Not even kidding:
Let the jar sit, closed, for about an hour. You don’t want to let it sit as long as other infusions. An hour is more than enough.
Using the cheesecloth and a small-holed sieve, filter the infusion into another vessel to take the alcohol off the zest. A clean bowl will do.
Juice five of the leftover limes.
Add the juice to the filtered infusion. Yes, it now looks like something from outer space. Don’t worry. Have I ever steered you wrong? (Don’t answer that)
Make the simple syrup: Combine the sugar and the water, and whisk until some of the sugar is incorporated. Put the bowl with the syrup into the microwave and nuke it for 60 seconds. Pull it out and whisk it again. If all of the sugar has not dissolved (it will look clear again when it has dissolved), put it back in the microwave and nuke it again for another 30 seconds. Whisk until the syrup is clear and repeat the process until it is slightly thicker than before.
While the syrup cools, filter your infusion again. It will most likely have some fruit pulp in it.
Add the simple syrup to the infusion and swirl the jar again to combine.
Bottle that baby up and enjoy!
Yes, it looks somewhat nuclear, but I swear on my kitchen’s life that it is not from the microwaving.
What it is is delicious. Pour a small shot of it and just wet your lips the slightest bit. The alcohol will warm you as it buzzes down your throat, and you will be left with the feeling that the entire world and everything around you must be made of lime. That lime flavor and feeling will follow you for awhile, and you may be tempted to take another sip. Go ahead, as long as you are not driving anywhere.
Keep the bottle in your booze cabinet or in the refrigerator, it matters not.
In the mean time, let’s raise a toast to better days ahead.
Until next time,