I almost missed Meyer lemon season again. Fortunately, while cleaning out the refrigerator last week I came across last year’s empty jar of preserved lemons. I left it in there because it had quite a bit of lemon flavored brine in it that I thought might work to add to the new batch of lemons.
After getting a few pounds of lemons and washing them, I left them in a bowl on the kitchen counter for a couple of days. They are so fragrant they filled the whole kitchen with a lemony floral aroma. It was almost a shame to have to cut them up and stuff them in jars.
There isn’t much of a recipe here. Add some spices to the jars. This year I added a couple of allspice berries, a pinch of sugar, a few peppercorns, a couple pinches of hot red pepper flakes, and a bay leaf. I used some cloves last year, but felt their strong flavor kind of limited the range of dishes I could use the lemons in. I left them out this year.
Slice the lemons in quarters lengthwise, but don’t cut all the way through the end. Leave them slightly attached so you can coat the inside with salt. Just add a big pinch of kosher salt in between the slices, gently squeeze the lemon back together, rub some salt around the outside and then place in to the jar.
Once the jar was full of lemons I sprinkled a bit more salt on top, then poured half of the remainder of last year’s brine into each jar. They weren’t quite full, so a squeeze of juice from a couple of the left over lemons brought the juice up to the top of the jar.
Put the lid on and then place in the refrigerator for 2 or 3 weeks and then they should be ready to use.
My batch last year lasted for almost a year. To use, just take a piece out of the jar, pull the peel away from the flesh and finely slice or dice the peel. These are great to use in any dish that could use a little extra punch of citrus or salt. I use them all the time in lentils, curry dishes, braised kale, lamb dishes, etc. It’s a great staple to have in the pantry to give an extra zing to otherwise ordinary dishes.
So it’s been about two months since my last addition of extra lemon zest to the limoncello. The extra zest and additional two months made a big difference in the lemony intensity. Tasting it straight it’s still really strong, like a strong lemon extract, but the sharper edges from the Everclear have started to round out a bit.
So it looked like it was time to strain the zest out. I am still really amazed at how clear this batch turned out. The two previous attempts I’ve made at limoncello resulted in a really cloudy solution that I never did get properly strained. That is definitely not an issue with this batch. In fact, I had a tough time getting a photo of the jar that showed the deep lemon-yellow color the liquid had become. It was so transparent that it took a lot of fiddling with the lighting angle to get it to hit it just right for the camera to pick it up.
I didn’t have a kitchen funnel large enough to handle a batch this size, so I decided to use my new Chemex coffee maker. The 6 cup coffee maker turned out to be the perfect size. The Chemex filters are slightly thicker than a normal coffee filter so I figured that would help as well to keep any fine particulates from getting into jar.
After filtering that left me with just over 5 cups of liquid. The next step was to dilute and sweeten it. I made a batch of simple syrup by just taking equal parts of white sugar and water, bringing to a boil for two minutes, and then cooling. How much to add is sort of a matter of taste. I had added a bit of 80 proof vodka to the original batch because the bottle of Everclear wasn’t quite enough to fill the jug. So that brought the alcohol content down slightly. I ended up adding just under 3 cups of simple syrup solution to bring it up to about 8 cups total. I opted to keep it a little less sweet than I might want it in the end, figuring I could add a little more after it’s had a couple of months to mellow in the bottle. I’m guessing the 3 cups of simple syrup might have brought the limoncello down to around 100 proof – still pretty strong, but definitely more palatable than the straight lemony Everclear.
I had been wondering what would happen when I added the simple syrup. The liquid before adding it in was so clear I was worried it wouldn’t get that bright yellow color that limoncello should have. Obviously there was nothing to worry about. It brightened up as soon as the syrup hit it.
I had enough to fill two 750ml bottles with a bit left over. As an experiment, I took the left over amount and added it to another jar with a vanilla bean. I’m not sure where that idea came from, but a vanilla limoncello sounded intriguing. I’ll leave the bottles alone for a couple months and give it a taste taste then. From my previous batches it seems they continue mellowing for at least 6 months, so I’ll try to keep track of how these change.
In the mean time, it might be time to start another batch.
I had this idea for s’mores waffle cones last summer, but never got around to figuring out how to put it all together. The idea was to have a light, toasted marshmallow flavored ice cream, inside a graham cracker flavored waffle cone, then somehow get a chocolate flavor in the middle somewhere.
So that was the basic idea that I started working on last week. I tackled the ice cream first and went through several batches until I found a combination I was happy with. I wanted to keep the texture light, so ideally it wouldn’t have any eggs in it.
For inspiration here I started with the base ice cream mix found in Jeni’s Splendid Ice Creams at Home. She omits eggs, instead boiling the milk, cream and sugar mixture, smoothing the texture with a bit of cream cheese and corn syrup, then adding corn starch to reduce ice crystal formation. I’ve made quite a few batches of ice cream using her recipes and have been really pleased with them. Unfortunately there was no toasted marshmallow ice cream recipe in the book so I had to figure that out. Continue reading
I had kind of forgotten about the limoncello over the last couple of weeks. I’m bad about remembering to write things down and put labels on projects with dates, so I couldn’t recall exactly how long it had been since I started the batch. The good thing about starting the blog for these types of projects is I just had to look at the date from the previous post. It turns out it had been exactly four weeks, which was a good time to check in on its progress.
At this point it sort of tastes like lemony fire. The Everclear has definitely extracted a lot of lemon flavor, but it’s extremely harsh. I am surprised, though, at how clear it is right now. I know the last time I made a batch of limoncello it was almost impossible to get it clear, even after straining many times. I’m not sure if it’s more clear this time due to the Everclear, or maybe grating the lemons with the microplane kept the lemon pith out which contributed to the murkiness the last time around.
Considering that it will have to be diluted quite a bit to make it palatable, at the moment I don’t think it has quite enough lemon flavor. So I decided to add some extra lemon zest. As strong as the Everclear is, I don’t think there’s much danger of it being too lemony. I zested 8 more large organic lemons to add to the mix. That gave me a pile of zest that weighed right at 20 grams. So it’s up to about 60 grams of zest total right now.
I added this zest in and gave it a good shake and put it back in the cabinet. I’ll check in on it again in another month or so and see how it’s doing.
I’ve been working with my sourdough starter for the last few months and trying to bake at least one loaf a week. Usually I tweak at least one thing every time I make a loaf. Sometimes more than one thing, so the results haven’t been very consistent. But I thought it would be good to come up with a solid baseline loaf and document that so I have something to use as a comparison for future experiments.
I like the flavor from adding some whole wheat to the dough, but it can make the dough a lot heavier. I’ve found that adding more 20% whole wheat flour (as a percentage of total flour) makes it denser than I care for, making it difficult for the nooks and crannies to develop that are found in any decent sourdough loaf. Adding a bit of gluten seems to help.
The main difficulties I’ve had in producing a consistent loaf are a decent rise in the oven, getting those nooks and crannies to form, and getting a deep brown and crispy crust to form. So I’ve been implementing some techniques that seem to be helping in these areas. Continue reading