I finally had a chance to deliver some of my homemade Christmas gifts to my friends and now I can tell you about what I made. I made Limoncello for the first time and gifted bottles of it to some of my friends. You can find all sorts of recipes for limoncello on the internet, so I'm not going to post one -- just the basic idea.
I used approximately 20 lemons and 2 - 750 ml bottles of everclear (grain alcohol). You only use the zest of the lemons -- I used a very sharp paring knife to be sure I didn't get any of the white pith. The pith will make your limoncello bitter. You could also use a zester but then you have to use filters to get the particles of zest out of the alcohol. Anyway, I let the lemon zest soak in the strong alcohol for one month to infuse the alcohol with the essence of the lemon.
After one month, I made a simple syrup (about 4 cups of water and the same amount of sugar dissolve over heat) and blended the syrup with the alcohol. Immediately the alcohol gets a nice cloudy quality to it. I love the way limoncello looks! I purchased bottles from specialtybottle.com and bottled the limoncello right away. The limoncello mellows with age, so it is nice to let it rest for another month if you can resist drinking it right away. The limoncello should be served ice-cold. I'm tucking a bottle of it away for a hot weekend next summer -- I think it would be splendid in the heat of summer.
That's all you have to do to make an amazing liquor beverage that is great to give at Christmas time. It is not cheap, but it is easy (besides the hours spent to peel all those lemons). When I was done peeling, I wasn't sure what to do with all of the lemons. I ended up juicing them and pouring the juice into ice cube trays to freeze. After freezing, I put the cubes in a freezer bag and dated the bag. I figured I could then thaw them as needed throughout the year for any recipe that calls for lemon juice (I'm suddenly hungry for tabouleh salad - yum!).
As it turns out, a couple of weeks later I decided to start making wine. Making limoncello is the reason I chose to make lemon wine in the first place -- to use the abundance of fruit juice that I already had on hand. As an update on the wine -- today I syphoned the wine into a new glass jar to get rid of some of the sediment at the bottom of the bottle. I also tested the specific gravity and it is almost done.
Today I am also starting to venture into fermented tea -- or "Kombucha". My good friend, Jen, gave me a chunk of her "mother" (the mushroom culture that turns tea into kombucha) yesterday when I visited. I gave my dear friends limoncello and walked away with some of her amazing apple butter and some fungus (and got to try their cranberry wine too). Stay tuned for more info on kombucha.