Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Limoncello, Moment of Truth

Today is was time to filter and bottle my second attempt at making homemade limoncello. So it was off the local this-and-that store for decorative bottles and cheesecloth.

To recap, in the first batch of this favorite Italian liqueur of mine, I used Luksusowa, a Polish brand of vodka made with potatoes, as my base, and Meyer lemons as the closet equivalent to the special sort of Sorrento and Amalfi fruit used in Italian limoncello. That result was OK, but a bit rangy and fullsome for my tastes. I attributed this is part to the influence of the potatoes, and vowed to used a grain-based vodka the next time around. This I did, employing White Nights, a Belgian vodka which is just being introduced to the American market and is priced quite reasonably. I also made a change in the fruit component. I used Meyers again, but a friend suggested adding the zest of a couple blood oranges. The point is to approximate even close the flavor of those glorious Italian lemons.

I still have some of the old limoncello (let's call it the 2007 vintage) on hand, so I decided to do a side-by-side taste test to see if I fared better this time. First the old stuff: as I remembered, the 2007 was viscous, a bit meaty, almost doughy, with strong notes of marzipan along with the lemon and honey you expect. It has mellowed with age, but I still can't get past the idea that its took thick and syrupy. It lacks that silky smoothness I like in the best limoncello, and the citrusy zing.

The 2008 vintage was an improvement, no doubt. Not a great leap, but a step forward. The color is deeper, more lovely. First off, it was not as thick on the tongue. The drink was lighter, with a nice hint of an edge. The orange hints came through, and the creamy feeling was less pronounced. I also sense that this potion will be changing with the weeks.

What I'm dealing with, I now realize, is essentially rustic liqueur. It is homemade, after all. It's not going to have that sleekness I find in the commercial product. I may be asking too much of the stuff. Still, I'm going to keep trying. Perhaps I should find some Everclear and give that a go. Maybe the basic recipe I'm using is a bit off. Reserch goes on...


Ben said...

It's interesting, nearly everyone I know pans store-bought limoncello as overly harsh and otherwise unenjoyable. Our definitions may differ, but I think my homemade stuff is more "sleek" than the stuff you can buy at the liquor store. Based on your qualifications, I'd say that my palate is less sophisticated and that's at least a partial explanation, but it could be in the recipe as well. I haven't tried Meyer lemons or potato vodka yet, though it's on my to-do list. Do you filter the liquor before infusion?

You may be interested in my blog, which is devoted to this topic: www.limoncelloquest.com

Anonymous said...

Meyer lemons do not work - their skins are not thick or oily enough. Since we can't get the Femminello lemons used in Italy (yet...that should change in the next few years as they are being cultivated in the US now), use the regular Eureka lemons which, though their juice isn't nearly as good as the Meyer, has a better skin. Limoncello is all about the skin - salut!