Monday, July 26, 2010

Limoncello Madness

We're bootleggers, almost! Ever since we got the recipe for limoncello, we've both been crazy to try our hand at making the stuff. After all, it shouldn't be too difficult, as there are really only four ingredients: high proof grain alcohol, lemon peel, sugar and distilled water.

I'm pretty sure grain alcohol must be illegal to sell for consumption in Brazil. No one has ever heard of it! It wasn't hard to find, exactly, once I went to the downtown market, but finding someone who could verify that the liquid in this strange bottle was the same stuff used to make liqueurs was blastedly difficult.

Three bulk stores carried it, next to the honey, tahini and dried fruit. But no one could tell me what it was for, though it was obviously used in some method in the preparation or production of food stuffs. The label was intentionally obtuse and didn't come right out and say "Don't use this for culinary purposes." But it was packaged in a very unappetizing bottle, identical to the not-so-drinkable alcohol I use for cleaning. The only difference between them besides that little word "cereais"? Orange lettering. I couldn't get up the nerve to buy it, not if no one could confirm that this was actually the stuff I was looking for.

Later that afternoon, while stopping at a kitchen store for a vegetable peeler, I decided to ask the girl behind the counter for help. After the initial eye raise when I asked about grain alcohol (do I look like a wino?) she perked up.
Kitchen girl: "Yeah, my mom and grandmother used to make berry liqueurs and stuff out of that."
Me: "Does it come in a weird bottle? Like a household cleaner?"
KG: "Yeah. But the lettering is orange. Don't's the right stuff."

So, emboldened, I bought a liter. For just under R$7, which is perhaps why they don't advertise this stuff too much. That's absurdly inexpensive!

Notice the alcohol content in this baby? It's a good thing we're going to be diluting it way, way down once the lemons get the oil and flavor and color sucked out of them!

Add to that a stack of lemons, some newly cleaned and sterilized glass containers, our wedding aprons from Italy. and we were ready to go, as you can see from the pictures:

Here's us in our wedding gifts from some friends in Italy. I love my apron; it's got a little towel sewn to the skirt, so you always have somewhere to dry your hands!

This jar didn't actually have a sealing lid. After shaking it and watching the ensuing lemony rain peel some of the finish from our nice table, we covered it in plastic wrap instead and decided stirring was a better method of moving the rind around!

Here I am with all our supplies! The large bottle in the middle has the cool rubber stopper cap. I brought it back from Italy, filled with olive oil. I never ate so much olive oil until I moved to South America...and now it's a staple of our diet.

I got a hand cramp from painstakingly peeling the rind from 7 or 8 lemons! We made lemonade afterwards too, so almost all of the lemons were put to good use. The rinds are now sitting in a jar in the liquor cabinet, where they'll stay for another week. We pulled out a rind tonight, while stirring it, and it's already becoming pale and brittle. Odd, but a good sign.

Once this step is done, it's on to making a simple syrup, then bottling the stuff for 20-40 days so it mellows and becomes as close to a taste of the Amalfi coast as we can get during a Brazilian winter. Will keep you posted!


Anonymous said...

Looks like fun! Find a vanilla bean and stick it in a small container so you can make your own PURE vanilla extract too. Our blackberries are in, so I may try my hand at wine again this year, but I'm adding LOTS of sugar this time. If I can just let it get past the bubbly stage I may have some to share... Mom

anne said...

loved the photos, like being there, almost. So, what exactly IS Limoncello? a lemon-based drink, but am not aware of it -- is it just a South American thing, or am I just a dense American? (well, I can be, but not on purpose!)
It all sounds fun! And your winter is probably pretty mild, yes?

Steve and Shannon Mersinger said...

you'll definitely have to let us know how this turns out... by the way, thank you for your information on visa stuff... we are actually in Brazil now and have our visas! Maybe we'll be able to hook up some time if we get to travel up to Rio. Deus Te a bencoi!