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Making Limoncello July 21, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks.
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This project was inspired by a trip to the Farmers’ Market, where someone was selling delicious bottles of gin, grappa and limoncello. While I did partake of some samples, I didn’t end up purchasing anything because the prices were rather…prohibitive. While I’m not intending to start making gin any time soon, as we were returning home I remembered that limoncello was apparently fairly easy to make.

While I was looking about for a recipe, I did discover that yes, limoncello did seem pretty simple to make – but there was so much variation in recipes I ended up abandoning them and making my own (which was an average of several of the recipes I’d read).

I thought I’d try by making one bottle, and if it was good, I’d make more. So I started by using my microplane to grate the skin of 5 lemons. This seemed the easiest way of getting the peel into small pieces while ensuring that the bitter white pith was not included. Not having access to random high-proof spirits traditionally used to make limoncello, I instead used vodka. After the lemon zest was ready, I poured out a bit of the vodka and then stuffed in all the zest. It started to go yellow almost immediately, and most of the zest settled in the bottom.

After reading recipes that said it should be left to steep from anywhere from 5 to 45 days, I decided to leave it to steep for a month, and I occasionally shook the bottle to redistribute the zest.

After a month, it was time to filter out all the lemony bits. I used a coffee filter, which worked pretty well.

I was left with some very yellow – and very potent – lemon flavoured vodka.

Next, I made a sugar syrup (not 1:1, more water than sugar) to add to the mixture. Making your own limoncello of course has the advantage that you can make it as sweet as you like – in my case, not very sweet. After mixing the sugar syrup with the lemon mixture, I was rewarded with almost 2 full bottles of lovely limoncello, ready to drink.

I was so happy with how this came out that I immediately started 4 more bottles of the stuff, which are now steeping. This limoncello is super refreshing – very lemony, not very sweet – and is great added to gin and tonics or even to martini-type drinks. It is still quite potent and I think with this next batch I’m making, I’ll add more water to dilute it a bit more, but overall the result is very nice. So I would like to thank the man at the Farmers’ Market for inspiring me to make my own limoncello – although I don’t think I am brave enough to show off what I have made to him!

Relapse: Cucumber March 10, 2013

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Vegetables.
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Relapse: An occasional series where I discuss several ways of preparing an ingredient.

This summer I have been enjoying cucumbers in a number of ways. Of course, it’s easy to chuck one in a salad or even eat one plain, but for some reason I’ve never done much else with cucumbers. This has changed recently and I’m going through a ton of cucumbers and using them in a variety of ways. Here’s some of my favourite ways to prepare cucumbers.

Pickle them

This is a no-brainer, really. If I ever see gherkins or other pickling cucumbers for sale, I usually buy them all. And then spend the weekend making pickles! I usually make dill pickles because these are my absolute favourite – I much prefer them to the sweet variety.

You need a brine of vinegar, salt and water, plus whatever flavourings you want. For dill pickles, I use plenty of dill and garlic, plus peppercorns and general pickling spice.

It takes about 5-6 days for the cucumbers to pickle to the degree that I like them (I like them when they’re still a bit crunchy). I don’t bother canning them because I eat them so quickly it’s not worth the effort! The brine is also great to add to cocktails and other things.

Drink them

Cucumbers are pretty watery and lend themselves well to blending and pulverising. This makes them great for a variety of drinks – both alcoholic and non-alcoholic. To get a perfectly smooth juice, blend pieces of cucumber with a couple of splashes of water (and other flavourings, such as lemon juice, if you like), then strain, pushing all the pulp through so you get all the juice out.

This juice can be used as a base to create a variety of drinks, including this pseudo-tiki cocktail I made (and then drank out of Cthulhu’s head, which of course made it more delicious). This cocktail contained light and dark rum, bitters, the cucumber juice and some pineapple juice. The cucumber juice also makes a great substitute in a bloody mary-type cocktail – and of course you can add some of the brine from the pickles, above.

Eat them (in a soup)

A variation on the juice above, this method ensures you use both the pulp and juice from the cucumbers. This time you probably want to take the time to peel the cucumbers, and again dice them and add them to your blender. Then add whatever flavourings you want: I added mint, coriander, spring onions, lemons, salt – and most importantly, soft avocados.

You could use cream as well as avocados but the avocados definitely provide enough creaminess on their own. You also need some cold water to help blend everything together. It’s best if you can leave the soup to chill in the fridge for a couple of hours so the flavours can mingle. I served mine with fried onions on the top – but of course you could also use more cucumbers.

I have become a big fan of this soup and have been making it frequently during the hot weather we’ve been having. It’s super simple to make and is delicious and refreshing.

All of these methods of preparing cucumbers have definitely made me eat more of them, and I am enjoying their refreshing qualities as well as the great flavours that these vegetables provide.

Mead (part 1) February 8, 2012

Posted by inspiredbywolfe in Drinks.

This is not a full, finished recipe but instead a preliminary report of something which will hopefully be successful in a couple of months…

I can’t remember why I got the idea to make mead, but when I saw this recipe and how easy it was, I knew I had to try it myself. For the unaware (as I was until fairly recently!), mead is a wine (not a beer) brewed from honey rather than grapes. The final product has about 11% alcohol. Now, there’s a whole industry devoted to homebrewing which includes supplies suitable for making mead, but I thought I’d try it with supplies around the house (as per the link above) and see if it worked out. At this point, I’m still waiting to see if it will indeed be successful…

I bought a 4 litre bottle of water and a fair amount of honey. I removed some of the water to be able to fit the honey in, and also added some pieces of orange and a handful of raisins. Here’s what the components of mead look like…

I shook it all up to mix the honey in the water, and ended up with this.

At this stage, I let it sit overnight until I could take it to work the next day. I wanted to make sure I could keep it in a sink in case it bubbled up over the top of the bottle! The next day, I added bread yeast (yes, this recipe stated that bread yeast is OK to use…) and shook it all up again.

Instead of a fancy brewing thingy to put on the top of my bottle, I poked some holes in a balloon with a needle, and fixed this to the top of the bottle. After a couple of hours, it began frothing up, and the balloon expanded a little with the gases from the mead.

The balloon means that the gases produced can get out – without letting anything else in. Since taking that photo, the frothing has died down a bit and I have been able to add a bit more water to top it up. It smells very nice and yeasty and sweet which I am thinking is a good sign.

It should be ready in a couple of months – apparently I will know it is ready when it goes clear, and the oranges sink to the bottom of the bottle. I will report back when it is completed and hopefully drinkable!