By Lynnie Stein / March 7, 2021

Liquor

Italy’s grappa infused with fruits + herbs, to limoncello

(lemon) + Aran cello (orange) + Visciolino (wild cherry), Nocino (walnuts + vanilla) + Prugnolino (wild plum) + wild fennel with a spicy aniseed flavour and many more! 

Whenever offered a homemade digestive (after dinner drink) you should oblige!

It is homemade and a gift from the house.

Grown-up fruit leathers, small amounts of fruit brandy or liqueurs (nut liqueurs) can be added to fruit puree (texture of thick applesauce).

Make sure to label for adult cocktail party food and store out of reach of little hands.

The best fruits to use are apricots, peaches, nectarines, any berries, prune apples, bananas, mango or a mixture of apple and pineapple or banana and passionfruit or grated sweet vegetables.

Puree very ripe fruit in a blender. Add honey / fruit brandy to taste if desired. Pour out a very thin layer on lightly oiled trays. Sprinkle with sumac.

Place in the center of the oven at 200 F (90C), leave the door slightly open and turn the tray around from time to time.

Takes four –six hours (it is done when set).

Cut in strips, roll in wrap and store in airtight containers to keep pliable.

It can also be dehydrated in a solar dryer or dehydrator.

Limoncello is a staple along the Amalfi Coast, its popularity has grown throughout Italy and is now the second most popular drink after Campari.

It is said limoncello and other liqueurs of fermented spices, fruits, and herbs were developed in convents. 

In the early 1600s, the nuns of the Santa Rosa convent in Conca dei Marini were said to use a citrus-based liqueur to give their famous lemon pastry sfogiatella Santa Rosa its authentic taste.

They would use the zest of Sorrento lemons (also known as Femminello St. Teresa lemons, and praised for their high oil content) steeped in alcohol and mixed with simple syrup.

Limoncello is often served after meals.

The liqueur is best kept and served ice cold, preferably in a chilled aperitif glass, or can be used as a boozy cordial to spike lemonades and fizzy water and flavour cocktails.

Mix finished limoncello half-and-half with mineral water, champagne or prosecco for a refreshing cocktail.

Pour over crushed ice.

Have with crepes or pancakes, instead of lemon and sugar (but remember it is alcoholic!)

Serve limoncello over strawberries or ice cream for a grown-up dessert.      

This zingy drink goes well with spicy chicken or pork.

And tasty chicken – marinate organic chicken in a couple of tablespoons of limoncello, crushed garlic, salt and pepper, olive oil, and herb of choice: basil, thyme, or rosemary.

Then add kombucha mustard under skin and roast the chicken.

Limoncello gives the chicken a zesty zing, as Grandma used to say.

Our dear friend Maria has shared tips and her Nona’s recipe, basically all you do is take the zest of lemons and steep in vodka or grain alcohol for a certain amount of time and then strain the liquid. 

You then add simple syrup (sugar water) to the alcohol and let sit for a few days. The big differences really come from the quality of lemons and how much sugar is added to the concoction.  The amount of sugar is up to how sweet you desire – a good reason to experiment with a couple of batches!

Whenever possible, select chemical-free fresh picked home grown or organic lemons because it is the skin that is used in Limoncello, where all the pesticide residues.

Organic lemons also are not waxed, being more crap that ends up in your liquor. Try to choose thick-skinned lemons with smooth skin, being easier to zest.

15 to 20 organic lemons, scrubbed

2 (750 ml.) bottle of good quality 100-proof vodka / high-proof pure grain alcohol

4 cups sugar

6 cups clean water

Wash a large glass jar with lid (1-gallon size is best) with hot, soapy water.

Rinse well and dry.

Scrub the lemons to remove any dirt or other substances with warm water and pat dry. Carefully peel the lemons so that no white pith remains on the peel.

Place in the jar along with the vodka. Cover and let sit in a dark place at room temperature for anywhere from ten days to two months – here is where experimenting begins. The longer the lemon peels are infused, the better the taste will be. You will also notice the colour gets more intense.

When you think the flavour has fully developed, make the sugar syrup. In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; boil over medium-high heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Allow to cool. Add the sugar mixture to the lemon-vodka mixture. Cover and store as before for another month.

Wash a couple of bottles and make sure that you have caps or corks to fit. Strain the alcoholic mixture through several layers of cheesecloth to remove all traces of peel and pour into the clean bottles. Seal tightly with the cork or cap. The bottles can be stored in a pantry or other cool spot but remember to keep one in the freezer and ready to drink.

Tips from Maria: Nona would steep for several months before straining and adding the syrup.

The Limoncello mellows a lot in the first week. And though it is torture, do the first tasting a week or so after bottling. The longer Limoncello sits, the smoother it gets. This is more important if you are making the traditional way with grain alcohol rather than vodka. 

What to do with all the lemons after you are done zesting for limoncello?  Transform to lemon sorbet and a batch of homemade lemonade. Maria’s hubby likes to chew on the lemon peel after they ferment. It is also great on ice cream and sorbet.

Arancello

It is from Sicily and very similar to limoncello but made from oranges. Use blood oranges instead of lemons with a bold bright flavour.

500 ml high-proof pure grain alcohol or you can also use grappa or good quality 100-proof vodka

The skin of 5 organic Sicilian blood oranges (careful not to skin the orange too deep – you do not want the white pith)

1/2 kilo sugar

1-liter clean water

In a large jar with a lid, soak the orange-rind peels in the alcohol and leave in a cool dark place for about two weeks

After it has sat for 14 days or so, filter the rinds from the alcohol. Boil the water + sugar, making simple syrup, stirring to dissolve all the sugar in the water. Then add the orange flavoured alcohol. Bottle, freeze + serve for a refreshing after dinner drink.

Arancello, like limoncello will last a year or more in dark cool storage. Remember to keep one bottle in the freezer to share with house guests.

If the alcohol is too strong, serve with a drop of cultured cream or dollop of crème fraiche atop – then it is referred to as Crema di Arancello.

Viscioli

1 liter of red wine

100 leaves of visciole (wild cherry tree)

10 leaves of a peach tree

Let soak for 10 days and filter.

Add 600 grams of sugar

1/2 liter of grappa or pure alcohol

Mix well, incorporating the sugar.

Bottle and enjoy! You can let it continue to season or age as well – keep in cool dark storage.

Walnut Liqueur

25 green young walnuts

1 kilo (or just a bit less) of sugar

1 liter of pure alcohol (grappa, high-proof pure grain alcohol /everclear or vodka)

250 grams of water

Stick of vanilla + cinnamon

5 -7 cloves

Mix well.

Sit in the sun for 40 days – stirring + mixing the sugar each day.

Then let sit for another month in cool dark storage.

Filter and bottle.

You can let the nocino age if you would like – some prefer to drink immediately and some shelf the bottle for 2 years or more!

Traditionally, the first glass should be poured on Christmas Eve.

Milk Liqueur

2 cups of pure alcohol (grappa, high-proof pure grain alcohol /everclear or vodka)

2 cups raw or organic full cream milk

2 cups raw / unrefined sugar of choice

1/2 (or more) of lemon or other citrus, juice and rind

Mix everything together in a clean glass container with a tight-sealing lid. Shake vigorously and store in a cool, dark place for 10 days. Give the container a few shakes every day.

After 10 days, the liqueur is ready. Strain through a double layer of muslin or cheese cloth or an unbleached coffee filter to catch the milk solids and clarify the liqueur. More rounds of straining will result in a cleaner, clearer liqueur.

Transfer to a clean container and store for up to several months. Makes about 1 liter of liqueur

Variations:

• Chocolate Milk Liqueur – Add two ounces of organic dark chocolate and half a lemon or orange for Jaffa Liqueur.

•Orange Liqueur – Try adding one or two whole chopped oranges and one whole chopped lemon.

• Chai Milk Liqueur – Infuse the milk and vodka with a classic chai blend of cinnamon, fennel seed, cardamom, coriander, cloves, and fresh ginger. You could even add a scoop of tea or blue spirulina !

• Fresh Fruit Milk Liqueur – Add seasonal fruit – Strawberry / Raspberries and cream

Egg Nog

1 egg white

1 tablespoon brandy

1 tablespoon coconut kefir cream

Sugar / honey to taste (optional)

Put brandy into serving glass, add coconut kefir cream and optional sugar and mix thoroughly.

Whisk egg white to a stiff froth and stir in lightly. Serve at once.

* Do not worry when straining the kefir grain from coconut milk / cream if it is runny as the coconut milk has fat content, once refrigerated it gets firm like a pudding.

Rice Wine

Fermented glutinous rice or glutinous rice wine, is brewed with cooked glutinous rice and Chinese yeast. Fermented glutinous rice has a long history in China.

The making of fermented glutinous rice dates to the Shang Dynasty. According to historical records, people of the Shang Dynasty were fond of wine, especially King Zhou of Shang, who led an extremely extravagant life and had “a pond of wine and a forest of meat”. The wine in the pond was unfiltered fermented glutinous rice. That is why ancient people also called fermented glutinous rice “sweet wine” or “rice wine”. With low alcohol content, fermented glutinous rice tastes sweet, tinged with a wine aroma, can be used in cooking where you would use mirin or sake.

Can eat fermented rice or mix with some Osmanthus flower syrup or mixed with fruit and juice. Great addition to sweet egg drops soup.

To make fresh rice wine

The rice used is cooked glutinous rice and the fermenting yeast … rice wine yeast. Called qu (pronounced chu), jiuqu, or jiuyao (often written as chiuyao). These are little white balls from Asian grocery stores.

2 cups sweet rice (aka sticky rice or glutinous rice)

1 rice wine yeast ball (about 10 – 15g)

water

1. In a large container, soak rice in water overnight – at least 12 hours. Make sure the rice is completely submerged.

 2. Thoroughly wash and rinse rice then transfer to a steamer. Level the grains and use chopsticks to poke holes in the rice. Steam for 20 minutes or until it is almost cooked.

3. Once the steamed rice has cooled down, wash and break up the grains under cold water. Drain the excess water.

4.Transfer the rinsed rice to a ceramic-lidded container. Crush the rice yeast with pestle and mortar to powder. Put the rice in a clean mixing bowl, loosen with a wooden spoon the rice is very sticky and difficult to stir.

5. Even out the mixture and create a well in the middle of the rice. Sprinkle the rest of the dry active yeast on top of rice and around the perimeter. Sprinkle with boiled cooled water and ground rice yeast to loosen rice and thoroughly mix yeast into rice. Amount of water required is approximately 1/2 cup. You can make a hole in the center of the rice (not essential), this will give indication when rice has fermented, and juice is appearing in the hole. 

6. Place the lid on the ceramic container. Store in a dry, warm place. If your home temperature feels too cool, you can wrap in towels to keep the contents warm.

7. Check the rice after 2 days (much longer up to a week if room temperature is cool).  After 36 hours have lapsed, check on fermenting rice. The wine is ready when you can tilt the container and the rice pulls away from the sides. You will also see milky alcohol accumulated in the well.

When the rice becomes very wet and juice collecting on the bottom of the container or around the container it is ready. Another indication is when the juice starts to collect at the center hole made previously. The texture to look for is the rice is soggy like thick rice porridge and tastes very sweet. If it tastes sour or too alcoholic something has gone wrong maybe over fermented or temperature too high.

8. Stir the mixture, Strain and bottle the wine. Store in clean jar or original container and leave in the fridge up to a month. If you are not going to eat it or put it on your skin within a month can put some in the freezer.

In Korea, Makgeolli (fermented rice wine) has been growing rapidly in popularity. While Makgeolli is a longstanding Korean peasant tradition, it has become more readily available and well-respected.

Traditionally Makgeolli is served in a cup so that it can be stirred to keep it white and cloudy.

MAKGEOLLI

1kg glutinous rice (chap-saal)

250g nuruk, broken into small clumps

1.5 liters water

150g sweet potato, steamed, with skin on (this is optional)

1.   Clean the rice well by rinsing in water several times, until water becomes clear.  Soak rice in water for 8 hours.  Drain well on a strainer, at least for one hour to remove the excess water.  In a big steamer lined with cloth, spread the rice evenly.  Steam for 40 minutes, or until the rice grain is fully cooked through.  Transfer the steamed rice to a large tray to cool completely.

2.  In a large bowl, combine the go-du-bap (steamed rice) and water.  With your fingers, gently squeeze the rice to separate the grains.  Add the crumbled nuruk and massage gently to create a mash.  Add sweet potato chunks, if using, and crush it gently with hands.

3.  Continue to gently massage the mash for about 10 minutes, at which point the starches will have picked up some of the water.  Place the mash in a container that can hold 4 liters (ideally a clay pot should be used but glass containers can work as well).

4.  Cover with cloth, and place in an area where temperature is controlled between 23-25’C, though a temperature range of 20-28’C is still acceptable.  Like all fermentables, it is best to maintain steady temperature.

5.  After the first 8 hours, give it a good stir with sterilized large spoon.  This is important to help spread contact of enzymes evenly and to maintain even temperature of the mash.  For the first 4 days, the mash should be mixed at least twice a day, once in the morning and once at night.

6.  On day 5, cover with clay lid if using clay pot.  Continue to monitor temperature daily.

7.  When most of the rice grains have fallen to the bottom and you can see some carbonated bubbles floating to the top, this signals that the fermentation process is complete.  If your temperature is in the cooler end of the range, then fermentation will take longer, and vice versa.

8.  Strain the liquid.  Add sweetener to taste (e.g. unrefined sugar, syrup, etc.).  It can be stored in the fridge for up to two weeks.

Bottoms up!

Precautions: Before you raise a glass to toast your health, talk to your health professional about the risk of herb-drug interactions if you take any medications or if you have a chronic medical condition.

Love and bacteria, Lynnie xo

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© 2021 Lynnie Stein