The X(mas) Files- Limoncello

No need for a spoiler alert on this one as we all know I’ll be taking the old man a bottle of this zesty knock out juice for Christmas. To be quite honest I might fear for my own safety if I didn’t.
But while we’re here, let’s talk about dads. What the damn hell do you buy your Dad for Christmas? I mean, he’s got most of the stuff he needs and even more that he doesn’t, right? He has more than enough smelly things, and plenty of jumpers and ties and scarves he doesn’t wear. He has enough wine. There will be plenty of sweets over the festive period, he doesn’t really want those. He has a bazillion DVDs he doesn’t watch in the cupboard and twice as many CDs. And if he doesn’t have it on CD, chances are that he has a stealth copy on his iTunes waiting to usurp your gift buying efforts in all of it’s smug digital glory. Bugger.
I always struggle, but I don’t feel bad about it because he does’t know either as every year we ask him what he would like and he mumbles a bit, says he doesn’t know and directs you to question his good lady wife on the subject instead. It’s not that he’s difficult, no-one is really if you know them, you just have to think. What do they like? What do they really, consistently enjoy? It might be painfully simple but the older I get, the better results I find this gift buying philosophy yields. My brother and his annual Christmas toblerone mountain will tell you that maybe I do this little theory to death, but he can shut up because he still likes toblerone, right????? Anyway I digress. My Dad, among other things, likes a limoncello. A sweet sticky sour shot of impossibly lemony booze, served always ice cold and usually in the after dinner hours. Loves it. Some time ago, when I first started making the edible Christmas gifts it occurred to me that in the bundles of biscuits and jams and boiled sweets, there probably wasn’t that much in there he actually went for, and next time, I was going to make him some lemony home brew. What could go wrong? Very little, my culinary kittens, very little. The below recipe, though technically a vodka infusion rather than a proper home brew, is both simple and effective. It’s been a hit at our last few family Christmas feasts- infact I’m not sure it’s ever lasted more than two hours after Christmas dinner.

OK so not every family knocks back a litre of fruity shots after dinner but if you’re from a more wimpy restrained eating party this will still work, a sneaky tipple, a naughty drizzle over your ice cream, a fab addition to your champagne cocktail. And if that’s still no good, you can give it away. With the simple purchase of some pretty presentation bottles you have a bright, fun and original gift, made from your own fair hand. People love that! And if they don’t they’d never have the heart to tell you………

I thoroughly encourage you to make some, but if you want it for Christmas get to it immediately as it needs a good month to infuse. Saluté!

Boom Boom Limoncello

Makes about 1 Litre

One bottle of vodka
150ml water
Six unwaxed lemons
200g sugar
1L bottle or preserving jar
Presentation bottles
Metal funnel with strainer attachment

To get things rolling, you need some vodka. Some halfway decent vodka. Please. You don’t have to go crazy, something in the middle like Smirnoff Red or Russian Standard (which is on the cheap in Sainsbury’s this week) will be fine- just don’t go with a no name brand, £7.50 a gallon bog cleaner standard voddie. You get what you pay for, so go at least halfway upmarket.
My other demand with this recipe is cleanliness. Everything needs to be spotlessly clean. And I do mean spotless, no smudges, no smears, no lingering ghost of fairy liquid, clean! The slightest spot has the potential to taint your sugar syrup or your juice so don’t risk it. Wash it all properly, then rinse it even more properly. Ok. We can now begin.

Start off by making a stock syrup by combining the water and sugar and boiling for a couple of minutes until the sugar has dissolved and the liquid starts to visibly thicken to syrupy bubbles. Set aside to cool.
In another, scrupulously clean bowl, zest and juice your lemons. Don’t worry too much about pips and feel free to gauge out some flesh and drop that in there as it will all be filtered later on but avoid getting any of the pith in there. You will need to use unwaxed lemons unless you are aiming for an aperitif that tastes like a citronella candle.
Pour the lemony bits into the syrup and stir to combine, then transfer this mixture to your brewing vessel- try a kilner type jar or John Lewis preserving bottle or even a demi john if you’re making serious quantities, just make sure it is super clean (sterilise on a hot wash in the dishwasher before use) and has an air tight seal. Now simply top up with the vodka and seal.
Store somewhere cool and dark (or at least well out of direct sunlight) and for the first ten days give it a gentle shake every day. A gentle shake, you’re not auditioning for the Cocktail sequel. From day eleven, you can leave it to improve undisturbed  and it will only improve. I’d recommend leaving it for about five weeks, certainly no less than three.

When your time is up, you need to strain this and decant into your gifting/serving bottles. A metal funnel with a little straining insert is the easiest tool for this, otherwise you could use a very fine mesh sieve or even some cheesecloth. Again, everything needs to be clean please!
And with that, we’re done. Give it away with a smile and a little bit of ribbon round the top. Or keep it for yourself, stored in the freezer and ready to serve in a thick, gloopy and surprisingly refreshing shot. A merry Christmas indeed!

The middle stage product, ready to go into storage to improve.

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4 thoughts on “The X(mas) Files- Limoncello

  1. I have stopped buying gifts altogether because I ran into the same problem! Now, I make everyone candy cane vodka (candy canes + vodka in a mason jar) and take them out to dinner. So much easier than stressing over gifts!

    I really like the jar you used, where did you find it?

    • I’ve heard of this candy cane business, I might try some if I get time this year.
      The bottle is from John Lewis you can get it online from their website. It’s the only place I could find a 1L one, you can get smaller ones from Lakeland and amazon.

      • Thanks. I’ll have to order some this year. I’m sure my family will be happy to have a pretty bottle instead of another mason jar.

        The candy cane vodka is super easy. I buy the mini candy canes and add 10 to 4 ounce jars of vodka. They dissolve in about two days. I’ve heard that you can do this with other sugary candies – lemon heads, jolly ranchers and skittles – but have yet to try it. Happy Holidays!

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