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Making Homemade Orangecello (or Limoncello)

By Chuck Sudo in Food on Mar 24, 2006 4:00PM

2006_03_picdoBHQl.jpgIt's been a busy week for Chicagoist. So we've spent the evenings catching up on our reading. Our jaws dropped when we read that another Chicagoist is yet again undertaking the seemingly Sisyphean challenge of growing tomatoes. It's like that ant trying to move a rubber tree plant. He's got high hopes (and so do we for Tomatoist. May the weather and squirrels be fair to you this season. If you need a deterrent from the latter, we're getting our hair cut this afternoon and can lend you some clippings to keep the furry beasties at bay). In the interest of solidarity, the Bridgeport Bureau is also undertaking a summer project.

Even though we had snowfall last night, it's still March. Which means that for most of you grilling season is near; we never put the grill away. With that in mind Chicagoist opened the doors to our Bubbly Creek distillery and tasting room to prepare some homemade orangecello for those hot summer nights. Orangecello - for that matter, limoncello - requires some patience. Making it is a simple infusion recipe, but the one we're following takes a couple months to ensure quality. One just has to let nature take its course during the infusion. If the recipe is followed correctly the end result is a sweet but light liqueur with a bright color.

This is the first of a three-part series that details the process of making orangecello; next month we'll detail the middle steps, with the (hopefully) fiinished product ready for consumption by Memorial Day. We'll provide the recipe after the jump along with some photos of the process.

2006_03_orangecello2.jpgThe basic recipe for orangecello/limoncello is as follows:

- 1 to 1.5 liters vodka
- zest of 5 to 7 large navel oranges or 15 to 20 lemons
- four cups sugar
- five cups water

The first thing we did was scrub the oranges to remove any pesticides, wax, or other detritus. Then we zested the oranges with a peeler. The goal during zesting is to have minimal pith attached. Pith, the white part of the rind, is the bitter portion of the rind. We don't want bitter orangecello. When zesting properly the pores should be pronounced.

2006_03_orangecello4.jpgNow we took that zest, put it in a clean one-gallon jar (a sun tea jar will suffice), and added the vodka. Then we covered it; it's now sitting in our kitchen at room temperature for the next ten days. This begins the infusion process, where the oils from the zest interact with the alcohol, giving the mix a light orange hue. Next week we're going to stir the mix a bit to prevent some settling and place the jar in a cool, dark place for thirty more days. During that period we'll check the mix to see if the zest is breaking down and stir it up some more. Next month we'll continue with the process. Lucky for us we have a plenty of wine and spirits to keep us occupied.