Tuesday, March 24, 2009

Clemencello Report

I know I'm way overdue on following up my experiment with homemade liqueur. What can I say? Spring is here and the days are just getting away from me with all sorts of out door chores and the planting schedule. I have good intentions, but only so many hours in the day.

Anyway, on to the clemencello results. I started this experiment back in early January. It turned out pretty well.

As you can see from this picture, by the time all the peels were in the alcohol, there was significant color leaching going on with the earliest added peels. The ones on the bottom look like lemon peels compared to those on top. Over time, the alcohol leached much of the color from the peels, so they all looked that pale.

On the 11th of February I removed the peels and added about one cup of sugar syrup to the 12 ounces of flavored liqueur. I had not followed any specific syrup recipe when I prepared it, but I came up with a syrup rather on the thick side. I wanted to make sure I did not dilute the alcohol enough to let it freeze if it were chilled in the freezer. By using a concentrated syrup, I avoided adding too much water in the process of sweetening it, and the sugar itself would help lower the freezing point of the mixture. So I had to judge by taste how much syrup to mix into the liqueur. When the bitterness from the peels was no longer dominant, I deemed it sufficient. I didn't add enough syrup so that the bitterness completely disappeared. I expected that the flavors would adjust over time. Of course when you make your own liqueur, you can sweeten it however much you prefer.

I let the mixture sit for a week so that the ingredients could get well acquainted, shaking it up every other day or so. Then I tasted it again, and thought it still needed a little more sweetness. So I added some more of the concentrated sugar syrup. After that I strained the liquid first through a fine metal strainer and then a second time through a coffee filter. This removed a little sediment that had come from the peels.

I didn't have a pretty bottle to store the clemencello in, but I did give some of it away as a present. The gift recipient appreciated it even in the re-used bottle. We also saved a small amount for our own consumption. We've been enjoying it in small sips after dinner now and then. It's nice either at room temperature or chilled. I think in summertime I would mostly drink it well chilled.

There really wasn't much to making this liqueur. Aside from knowing how to remove the pith from citrus peels (illustrated in my earlier post), not much is needed in the way of either effort or expertise. Time does most of the work, and then it's a matter of following one's own taste as far as sweetness goes. I would certainly try this again with any citrus peels that weren't earmarked for baked goods.

Have any of you made your own liqueurs? Share your stories in the comments, please.


Anonymous said...

I've only recently toyed with the idea of making homemade liqueur. I started saving bottles over the winter and hopefully will take the leap here as summer rolls in. Likely I will try first with berries. I once had a taste of blackberry liqueur a friends mother made and was immediately sold. We have no shortage of blackberries around here. The citrus peel is an excellent idea though - I will keep it in mind for next winter (citrus season).

Barb said...

I've never made my own but hope to in the future. I went back & read your original post so I would know how to get started. I've got some nice organic oranges in the fridge right now...

Anonymous said...

i picked up 20 pounds of strawberries yesterday and have recipes for schnapps and a strawberry liqueur on hand. now all i need is for the kids not to devour the berries between now and the time i get the vodka.

Lily Girl said...

I made pepper flavor vodka. I use it mostly in savory pie crusts, but I bet it would be great splashed into a dirty martini (if you like them). I plan to try more fruit flavored ones as different fruit come into season.

Anonymous said...

This sounds good; I'll have to give it a try next winter. Years ago I was given a bottle of lemon infused olive oil - lovely for salad dressings, but, I found later, ridiculously expensive. When I get unsprayed lemons from friends in California I use the zest as you have done, but soaked in olive oil instead of vodka. Works very well, and is delicious. BTW, a grapefruit spoon is also a good way to remove the pith. Thanks for all the good ideas.
- Una

Anonymous said...

I have a whole bag of peels from our CSA organic oranges waiting for me in the freezer. I was planning to make orange marmelade and experiment with choc. covered candied peel (what problems did you have with yours?) but oranchello sounds great too. I will try a small jar along with some limonchello from my meyer lemons. I have already experimented with lemon pepper vodka and habanero vodka for martinis. And this winter we made pomegranite liqueur (divine) and pomegranite syrup (so much better than commercial grenadine). LisaH

Kate said...

Maya, you live perhaps in the Pacific Northwest? I would love to have blackberries growing wild all around my area. Blackberry jam is a favorite of mine, and the liqueur sounds wonderful too.

Barb & Steve, organic peels are best of course. I wish you success with your inaugural attempt.

Blonde, those strawberries wouldn't be safe in my house either. I doubt I'll ever have so many berries that I turn to homemade liqueur as a way to use them up. For me the method was just a way to use up something I wouldn't have any other use for. But these berry liqueur ideas sound great nonetheless.

Lily Girl, you mean like a black pepper? Or a chili pepper? The English language has such ambiguity.

Una, I have tried the lemon olive oil a few times, but I found that I didn't use it much other than for salads. I have heard of a good technique for infusing olive oil with fresh rosemary though. I'm going to try it out soon, and if it works well, I'll probably post about it.

Lisa, I tried the candied citrus peel method that calls for boiling them in a few changes of water and then layering them in sugar. It just formed hard clumps of solidified sugar around the peels. I must have done something pretty wrong. Pomegranate syrup sounds wonderful, by the way.