Homemade limoncello recipe, continued

By Martin Zibauer »Martin Zibauer

December 22nd, 2009


Featuring the zesty goodness of grapefruit!

My homemade limoncello experiment was delayed by the LCBO’s reluctance to sell me high-proof grain alcohol unless my doctor prescribes it (I’ll ask, but I suspect he’ll give me that look) or I start manufacturing perfume. Do perfume makers really have to buy alcohol by the bottle, at the nearest liquor store? Perhaps this is why Ontario is not known for its fragrance industry.

I considered substituting common, 80-proof vodka. From what I’ve read, through, the higher the alcohol content, the greater the variety of flavour molecules are extracted from the citrus peel (or other flavouring ingredients). Ordinary vodka would likely produce a very flat, unexciting spirit.

The closest I could come to the 180-proof grain alcohol many sites recommend is a Polish 152-proof vodka called Spirytus. The bottle is pictured, and you can locate the one nearest you here. With booze in hand, I proceeded with the recipe in the Chowhound video I posted last month. It’s still steeping, and I’ll report again when it’s done. For fun, I subbed in grapefruit peel for some of the lemon. I love grapefruit zest; it has a spicy, cinnamon-like kick and deserves as much spotlight as lemon, lime, and orange zest.

Here is the recipe (after the jump) with my modification:

Homemade Limoncello with Grapefruit

2 cups high-proof vodka (500 ml)
Peel of 2 grapefruit (see Tips, below)
Peel of 4 lemons
1 1/2 cups simple syrup (see Tips, below) (375 ml)

1. Combine the vodka and citrus peels in a clean jar. Put in a cool, dry place for two weeks.

2. Add simple syrup, stir, and put back in a cool, dry place for another two weeks, giving the jar a swirl every day or so.

3. Strain to remove peel.

Tips: A sharp vegetable peeler is the easiest way to remove strips of citrus peel. Be sure to remove excess white pith, which is bitter. Hold the peel, pith-side up, on a cutting board. Use a paring knife to “skin” the pith, much as you would skin a fish fillet.

Simple syrup is a mix of sugar and water, heated to dissolve the sugar, then cooled. Most recipes call for equal parts sugar and water, but A. J. Rathbun’s recipe is a little sweeter: 6 parts sugar to 5 parts water.


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Martin Zibauer

Martin Zibauer

Jul. 5, 2010

4:12 pm

Yes, it was very easy, and this method really does invite experimentation. It doesn't always work, but that's part of the fun. I tried infusing some Spirytus vodka with chai spices, using a mix that included a small amount of black pepper. It seems the chemical that makes pepper hot (which is piperine) is very alcohol-soluble, because the end result was extremely peppery. It was almost undrinkable on its own, though not bad mixed. I'd be careful with the lemongrass, but if it's not too strong, it sounds wonderful. Let me know how your versions turn out.


Jul. 5, 2010

3:59 pm

wow - I had no idea it was so simple. Grapefruit was a brilliant addition! Since the bottle of vodka is so expensive, I think I may make a few small jars of different flavours....lemon ginger....lime lemongrass...grapefruit tarragon! wow....I am very excited. Thank you for the inspiration!

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