I promised I’d write an update about the liquor-making class at Trattoria all’Angelo, and I keep my promises! Now that I’m up and running again with a new pink computer named Patsy, blog entries are a go! If you’re wondering if she’s named after Patsy from Absolutely Fabulous (which you’re probably not), you are correct.
The Husband, our dear friend Mrs. Takai, and I learned how to make 4 types of Italian liquor – citrus-vanilla, artichoke-orange, strawberry-vanilla, and of course the famous Limoncello. I’ll give you a quick overview of each, but if anyone wants the full recipes just ask and I can add those too.
Firstly, lets talk about the term “maceration.” It basically means to soak food, kind of like marinating. Each liquor requires a period of down time where the alcohol can really mix with the flavors – this is called maceration. While the liquor is macerating, it needs to be shaken every day and kept in a cool, dry, preferably dark place. Make sense? Fabulous.
The citrus-vanilla liquor is a mix of all sorts of citrus zests. We used lemons, oranges, mandarins, and even a grapefruit. Combine that with a fresh-as-possible vanilla bean (Scrape the seeds out and add them separately from the pod for the most flavor, The bean should not be dried.) and 95% alcohol. Unfortunately 95% alcohol may not be easy to find in the States, so, there’s that…. Macerate for 10 days, then strain and add simple syrup. Ready to drink in 60 days.
The artichoke-orange was an interesting one, and quite a bit yummier than you might expect. (Unless you’re me and artichokes are your favorite food, in which case you’d expect it to be pretty damn yummy.) Chef Mauro had us thinly slice up a few artichokes, stems and all, and throw them into a jar along with orange zest, cloves, white wine, and alcohol. This one needs to macerate for 15 days. After that, you strain out the chunks, add sugar and shake until the sugar is completely dissolved. There’s a lot of sugar in flavored liquors! Ready to drink after 30 days.
The strawberry-vanilla was delicious and unsurprisingly preferred by the fairer sex. Sliced strawberries need to be soaked in dry white wine for 5 hours. Strain the fruit into a jar, add more vanilla bean, some lemon juice, alcohol and a whole lot of sugar. Macerate for 15 days, then add water and shake, letting rest another day. After that you strain out the strawberries and it’s good to drink in 30 days. (Note: You can keep the strawberry-flavored wine to drink or add it to some bubbly Prosecco for a refreshing drink.)
Lastly, the Limoncello was a whole bunch of lemon zest (10 lemons’ worth for a gallon jug) and alcohol. This macerates for 8 days. Then we strained out all the pesky zest and added a simple syrup. After 30 days it’ll be ready to drink. Too bad I don’t like Limoncello…. (Note: Chef Mauro also told us that you can keep the lemon zest, dry it out in the oven at low temperature, and then grind it into a powder. This powder can replace fresh lemon zest in your recipes, or just be used for delicious lemony flavoring.)
Every person got to leave with cute little bottles of each liquor, which we got to fill ourselves. Resisting the urge to open them until they’re ready to drink won’t be the easiest thing I’ve ever done, but I’ll manage somehow. Chef Mauro and Bari also provided us with a full 4-course lunch, complete with wine pairings and dessert.
It was a great class, and although I don’t know if I’ll actually make flavored liquor at home, it doesn’t hurt to know how. Not to mention a bottle of homemade liquor makes a pretty damn good Christmas gift. Just remember to start early – the citrus vanilla takes a full 70 days from start to finish! Limoncello is the quickest at 38 days.
Like all liquor, these will be good indefinitely so you can store them away until you want them. You can also throw them in the freezer with the vodka – they’re all best served chilled anyway!