I’ve been rather busy with work stuff lately, which has cut into the blogging (sorry), but last weekend I did manage to find time to brew a batch of Religious Liberty Ale, and keg my newest DIPA after dry-hopping with an obscene amount of hops (more than a pound total of Cascade, Simcoe, Columbus, Amarillo and Centennial).
Also, on Sunday, I took the next step in the Limoncello project. Since last month, I’ve had nine liters of potato vodka from Trader Joe’s “marinating” in the peels of over 70 lemons, extracting the citrus oils and esters from the lemons, along with a nice pale yellow color. Every so often I’d take the glass carboy out, shake it up a little bit, and put it back.
The next step was to add the sugar syrup; slightly less than a 1:1 ratio of water and sugar, boiled on the stove for five minutes, and cooled before adding to the lemon-ized vodka.
The objective is to arrive at a sugar and alcohol concentration that provides about 20%ABV, and more importantly, does not form ice crystals. The limonicello should pour without any solid or semi-solid ice formation even when taken directly from the freezer. Any freezing indicates that there is too much sugar and water, and not enough alcohol.
The contents of the carboy should continue to sit out at room temperature for another month or so before bottling. In other words, there should be a bit more flavor and color extraction from the lemon peel. The bottles that you see on the side were filled on Sunday because I didn’t have quite enough space to fit everything in the carboy. And they also have a bit too much syrup, so I’ve been “removing” a little bit from each bottle and “replacing” it with straight vodka to get the ratio right.
The bottles I filled Sunday won’t be quite as good as the “final” product that has had another month in contact with the peels, but I am very pleased already. The flavor, aroma and texture is definitely in line with commercial examples. In fact (not to be too self-congratulatory), I think it’s rather better than most commercial examples.
For one thing, the color is totally natural; in contrast a lot of makers add yellow dye to produce the neon yellow color. Also, there is a very full and authentic LEMON flavor and aroma in my homemade version; sometimes limonicello veers toward the flavor/aroma of furniture polish or candy.
Although we’re a few weeks from bottling, barring any surprises I think we can call the pilot limoncello project a success. It’s delicious. We took some to a family gathering on Sunday evening and everyone who tried it seemed impressed with it.
Once I get the right sugar/water/alcohol ratio (I don’t anticipate any problems here; and I have a little more plain vodka on hand for this purpose) we will have made about 22 liters total. I plan to keep about half on hand under refrigeration for ourselves and our guests, and I’ll be giving the rest away to friends and family.
As I mentioned in the earlier post, each 750ml bottle costs about $4, versus around $18 for a cheap commercial example. Yay!