Liquid Sunshine

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Before it moved to the new house, I picked all 18 (that’s right, 18!) of the Meyer lemons off of my patio tree and tucked them gently into a bowl in the fridge, with dreams of making something tasty. Meyer lemons are not known for their extended shelf life, and are fairly delicate little fruits, so they were handled with care and reserved for something wonderful.

I’m the sentimental sort with things that I grow – the first of anything inevitably goes bad on the counter or in the fridge while I look for the prefect recipe to showcase this amazing thing that I nurtured into edible loveliness. I really have to quit doing this, what with all of my crowing about growing my own food and not being wasteful. I’m aware of this shortcoming and it’s something I’ll work on this year, starting with the lemons.

I could make lemon bars, lemon loaf, lemon marmalade, lemon curd. And I still might, I juiced every drop out of most of the lemons (there are three still lolling in the vegetable crisper for cocktails to be determined). I wanted something a little more permanent, or at least something that was going to last a little longer than a pan of confections. I also like using all of something when I can, sort of the whole ‘nose to tail’ approach to my food.

Yesterday I whipped out the vegetable peeler and got to work on the lemons, gently peeling the sunny golden peel away from the creamy white pith. My version of nose to tail eating of these precious lemons is going to be limoncello, then candied lemon rinds from the spent peels that made the limoncello, and squeezed the juice from all the lemons and froze it in half cup measures for later batches of baked goods or lemonade. Not bad for a half hour’s work.

The limoncello is already turning the most beautiful shade of marigold, looking like bottled sunshine sitting on the kitchen counter. And this summer, when the mercury hits a hundred degrees (and it will), a bit of this drizzled into a glass of soda water with some ice will make balcony time that much sweeter.

Speaking of sweet, this recipe comes out REALLY sweet. The last time I made it I cut the sugar/water down to 1 1/2 cups of each, and I preferred the less sweet version that was the outcome. Oh, and do what the Italians do: when all is said and done, stick the bottle in the freezer. Ice cold limoncello is the only way to fly!

Limoncello
Recipe from Giada DeLaurentiis

10 lemons (get Meyers if you can)
1 750 ml bottle of vodka (nothing expensive here, folks)
3 1/2 cups of water
2 1/2 cups of sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month. (Pssst… it’ll keep longer than a month if you can manage not to drink it. Yes that’s a dare!)

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