Homemade goodies seem to capture the spirit of the holidays in a way no store-bought treasure can. Create homemade liqueurs and then sit back and enjoy the pleasure that those soul-warming libations bring as gifts.
Homemade liqueurs don’t take a lot of prep time. However, they do require advance planning and patience during the aging period.
All fruits carry bacteria that can potentially spoil the liqueur. This potential hazard only exists when you opt to leave the fruit in the liqueur rather than straining it out.
To prevent spoilage with “fruit-in” liqueurs, make sure the spirit you select is at least 40 percent alcohol — a concentration strong enough to kill the bacteria. After a month or so, the liqueurs can be strained and poured into bottles, decanters or snazzy jars.
My favorite is limoncello, an Italian-inspired liqueur made from fresh lemons, liquor and simple sugar syrup. It has become very popular over the past several years and can be used in baked goods and as a cocktail ingredient.
But it is most often served ice cold right from the freezer, poured into small glasses.
Limoncello (3 1/2 pints)
4 cups grain alcohol or high-proof vodka (40 percent alcohol)
3 cups simple syrup, see cook’s notes
Cook’s notes: For simple syrup – combine 2 ½ cups water and 3 cups granulated sugar in medium saucepan. Stirring occasionally, bring mixture to boil over medium-high heat. Lower heat; simmer about 3 minutes. Cool.
- Wash, dry and peel lemons, using a swivel-bladed vegetable peeler to cut wide strips without much pith. Put peels in a glass container with a tight-fitting lid. (Juice leftover lemons to use in drinks or in cooking – you can freeze it.)
- Add grain alcohol or high-proof vodka and seal. Place in cool, dry spot away from sunlight. Let sit for 2 weeks.
- Add simple syrup; stir and reseal. Return to its spot. Let sit 2 more weeks.
- Strain liqueur through a double layer of cheesecloth into a pitcher or other easy-pouring vessel. Strain again through two new layers of cheesecloth into one large bottle or a number of small bottles or jars.*************************