Final steps for homemade Limoncello

Yes, we finally have limoncello! (And also grapefruit liqueur…don’t forget about that one!)

If you have time, check out my previous post for Steps 2 and 3 (also within that post is the link to Step 1): Steps 2 and 3 to homemade limoncello

And nooowww (drumroll please) we are ready to unveil the goodness that is this my pride and joy this summer…

Bottle on the left is the grapefruit liqueur
Bottle on the right is the limoncello

Here are the steps I took to finalize this long, long process…

– I strained the liquid one last time
– I found appropriately sized bottles for storing the liqueur
– I placed the bottles in the freezer
– Approximately 3 hours later I got them out of the freezer and poured a shot of each. Yes, a shot of each…

(The only other thing I need to do is create a label for the bottles… still working on a snazzy name brand. “Lori’s Limoncello”? Seems to fall flat… any other ideas out there?)

But back to the tasting… I was pleasantly surprised at how smooth and fresh and sweet and PERFECT they were! (In fact I could barely tell the difference between the homemade and the store bought version I’ve been sipping on for the past several years!) All by themselves they are great to sip on… but I’ve also discovered that I LOVE the limoncello this way: Heatwave Lemonade

And I’m working on a grapefruit martini (well, not at this exact moment… after all, it’s not even 5:30 am… you know what I mean!) Stay tuned for more on that beverage…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Step 4 to homemade limoncello…

We are one step (and 40 days) away from being able to enjoy this limoncello. This process takes about 3 months from beginning to start… I cannot wait!

To see what the first steps look like, go here: Steps 2 and 3 to homemade limoncello. Within that blog post will be a link to Step 1.

This is today’s finished product…

Here is where I picked up… I pulled the two containers of liqueur out of the dark and cool cabinet plus I need coffee filters, a funnel, a ladle, baker’s sugar, and distilled water.

Hours before I was ready to tackle this time-involved process I made the simple syrup. I chose “baker’s sugar” over granulated sugar simply because it is finer and dissolves quickly. The simple syrup must cool before it can be added to the liqueur.

To make simple syrup you simply add 2 parts sugar and 1 part water to a pot and turn on the heat. Once the sugar is dissolved and the liquid turns clear then it’s done. Give it a few stirs throughout this process… it’s that easy.

And when you’re ready to start the filtration process here is how it goes…

Remove the lemon rinds… they have served their purpose here. Lacking their bright yellow color at this point they still smell like lemon, but the taste has been left behind in the liqueur.

The liqueur now needs to be filtered of the “floaties”… yes, take a close look. It’s not pretty… but it will be much prettier later in this post.

Here we go… find a coffee filter, a funner and another container to strain the liquid into. You might be surprised how fast these filters clog with “floaties”. So be prepared to switch out the filter with nearly each ladle-full of liquid.

This process is time consuming, but necessary and well worth it.

Once it was time, I simply plopped the used filter into a bowl and placed a new one in the funnel.

Already you can see how much clearer the liquid is…

So let’s step back and take a look at the whole process here. And as you’ll see I’m filtering two liqueurs. While I’m at it I’m trying my hand at a grapefruit liqueur as well. (YUM!)

Similarly you’ll see that the grapefruit rinds have lost of lot of their color in the past 40 days. But they imparted some major flavor to the vodka. Wow…

And THIS is what the last ladle of limoncello looks like before it gets filtered. I’m happy to know it’s being filtered out.

Also this is what’s left behind in the last filter… blech! I’m glad it’s in the filter and not in the prized liqueur.

And here is where I’m going to skip some pics… the liqueur got filtered again. Yes, it got filtered a second time. The second time around the process went a bit faster… yay!

The last step is adding the cooled simple syrup to the liqueur and then adding it back to cook, dark cabinet.

I snuck a sip of the grapefruit liqueur … and if it’s any indication of what this is going to be like in 40 more days… well, holy moly!!! That will be the day!

In the meantime I’m counting the days…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Steps 2 and 3 to homemade Limoncello

Time to check in again on the homemade limoncello. At two weeks and then again at four weeks… it’s time to take a gander and a stir.

But we’re also checking in on the grapefruit liqueur… both of these liqueurs have been steeping for 4 weeks. After 2 weeks I took them out of their dark, cool cabinet to give them a stir. And now at 4 weeks we do the same…

This is what the grapefruit liqueur looks like… isn’t that beautiful?! I truly look forward to enjoying this treat when it has fully steeped.

But we still have several weeks for that…

Time to check the limoncello…

And by “check” I mean, give it a stir… there’s not much else to do here.

Except wait… the wait will go on for another month or so. Stay tuned…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Lovin’ our homemade pizza…

A new favorite in our house… an old classic. I found this multi-grain crust at my local Albertsons. “Culinary Circle” is their upscale store brand name. And wow… they sure know how to make a good upscale store brand pre-baked pizza crusts.

And then we topped it with some really good pizza toppings to make a Manly Meaty Pizza… garlic-infused olive oil, marinara of choice, Gallo salame and pepperoni, mozzarella cheese… you know, your favorite pizza toppings, whatever those may be.

On the “girly” side of the pizza I used my pesto of choice and a vine-ripened tomato… and maybe a few slices of pepperoni slipped in there too.

Next, I drizzled some garlic-infused olive oil on the crust… and brushed it over the top of the whole crust.

And I will say here that I’m convinced that broiler pans bake pizza doughs just as good as pizza stones. The air circulates up under the crust and dries it out… so it gets nice and crispy and perfectly done!

How did I discover this? Well, we’ve been using pizza stones for at least 10 years now (for frozen pizzas). And recently our pizza stone dropped and cracked in half. I hadn’t had a chance to replace it yet before I wanted to make another pizza. So, I gave the trusty broiler pan a whirl… and voila! Perfectly, crusty crust!

Now, on to the toppings… marinara sauce on His side, pesto on my side.

I sprinkled mozzarella cheese across the whole crust… then…

On His side I topped with meatballs (cut in half)
On my side I topped with sliced raw tomatoes

And then more mozzarella, and (oh yeah) also some crumbled bacon. Yes, bacon.

Next, salame… and some more mozzarella.

Last, a layer of pepperoni… followed by? What else… mozzarella.

TIP FROM LORI: If you like crispy pizza (and we do) then do what we do. If the instructions on the crust reads to bake the pizza at 400 degrees F, then we actually bake it at 425 degrees F for a slightly less amount of time.

So, it’s time for the close up shot…

Above: the Manly Meaty Pizza…

Below: the Girly Pesto Pizza…

Both are equally scrumptious… and a little sinful.

We also usually shake some red pepper flakes on top of one of those layers and sometimes some garlic salt too. Tonight I forgot… but we didn’t send the pizza back…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

killer homemade pizza…

I tested this out last week… the full blog post to follow the next time we have this for dinner.

What kind of pizza is this?

2/3 of this pizza is “Manly Meaty Goodness” (meatballs, bacon and pepperoni)
The other 1/3 of the pizza is girly-pesto-pepperoni yumminess…

Easiest dinner I’ve made in a long time… and my hero-of-a-hubby has transferred the “hero” title to me, at least for tonight.

Tonight we used the broiler pan (because our pizza stone recently cracked in half)… and I’m convinced that the broiler pan is just as good. The air circulates up under the crust and makes it crispy – just like we like it! LOVE IT!

Watch for the full post… within the next week, I promise!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

Step 1 to homemade Limoncello

Have YOU ever had limoncello? I first enjoyed this after a meal at a ristorante in a back-alley in Florence, Italy. The aperitif is said to clean the palate and leave the belly warm as you stroll through the streets at night…

Yes, it’s THAT romantic. And ever since then I’ve had a small bottle of Villa Massa limoncello in my freezer.

So, let’s try making it at home…

Here is where I started after researching dozens of recipes…

Step 1:

– Combine 750 ml bottle of vodka and 750 ml bottle of Everclear (tasteless grain alcohol) in a container with a lid, at least the size of a gallon.
– Add rinds from 15 large organic lemons (unwaxed, scrubbed clean with a vegetable brush). You will want to use the lemons with thick, bright skin that are mostly free of flaws/nicks.

Using a swivel peeler is the best (it will peel off just the skin)… but if you don’t have one of those you can use a knife. Just make sure to skim the white off the back of the skin with a knife…

Note on peeling lemons… if you are using a knife you will most likely need to remove the white pith on the back of it. You don’t want any of that white pith – it makes the drink bitter.

So, just keep peeling those lemons… one by one. And add the rinds to the alcohol. Below are the rinds from one lemon.

(It was at about this moment that I realized I needed a larger container. Hence, the different container in the next few pics.)

Yes, this is a labor of love… and believe me, it’s very worth it! Keep peeling…

And of course, once you’ve peeled the lemons you will want to juice them. I poured mine into ice cube trays and threw them in the freezer. Summer’s a comin’…

Where do I go from here?
What are the next steps?
How long does this process take?

Once I add the Everclear (tomorrow), I will transfer the fluids to a larger container (with a tight lid) and set it aside in a cool/dark place. Every two weeks I will gently stir the mixture. After 5-6 weeks I will test the lemon rinds.

How to test the rinds? Remove a rind and bend it in half… if it snaps apart like a crisp potato chip then it’s time to move to the next step. The lemon rinds will impart a most beautiful flavor without sourness or bitterness … just enough tartness to make it fabulous!

But it’s a slow process. So what’s the next step? After these 30-40 days there will be another 30-40 days in the process. Like I said, it’s a labor of love. I can’t wait to try this during the summer…

Follow along with me?

Stay tuned… you won’t regret it…

AND, I’m also making this with grapefruit…

Can’t wait… I can’t wait!

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: Lemon Curd

There is NOTHING quite like a little lemon curd spread on a cookie, or IN BETWEEN two cookies)… or slathered on shortbread, or on a scone, or … oh, so many ways to enjoy this!

It’s quick and rather easy… and so, so worth it!

Zest a lemon…

Juice a few lemons…

In a double-broiler, whisk together the eggs, sugar and lemon juice… cook into a thick “sauce”.

Strain the lemon mixture…

Remove the lemon mixture from the heat and melt the butter by whisking it into the lemon mixture.

At the very end, mix in the lemon zest and allow to cool.

And when you can’t stand it anymore… spread it on top of SOMETHING, just about ANYTHING.

Lemon Curd

3 large eggs
1/3 cup fresh lemon juice (2-3 lemons) (do not use the bottled lemon juice)
1 tablespoon finely shredded lemon zest
3/4 cup granulated white sugar
4 tablespoons unsalted butter, at room temperature

In a stainless steel bowl placed over a saucepan of simmering water, whisk together the eggs, sugar, and lemon juice until blended. Cook, stirring constantly (to prevent it from curdling), until the mixture becomes thick (like sour cream or a hollandaise sauce). This will take approximately 10 minutes.

Remove from heat and immediately pour through a fine strainer to remove any lumps. Cut the butter into small pieces and whisk into the mixture until the butter has melted. Add the lemon zest and let cool. The lemon curd will continue to thicken as it cools. Cover immediately (so a skin doesn’t form) and refrigerate. Can stay in the refrigerator for up to a week.

If it will last that long…

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

The BEST Chicken Pot Pie I’ve ever made!!!

Thank you to Cook’s Illustrated for this… Chicken Pot Pie with Savory Crumble Topping. Well-written recipe… full of flavor, some serious flavor!!!

For just me and my hubby I cut the recipe in half and it was plenty… but we sure were wanting more! Wow… words CANNOT explain how yummy this was. I guess you’re going to have to make it for yourself to find out!

Here’s where I started… the” mise en place”. I chopped, diced, measured, poured and got all the ingredients ready for the process. (I have an affinity for mise en place… what can I say?! I’m an organized person and this process is just so much fun for me.)

Chicken stock, canola oil, cream, butter, mushrooms, onions, peas, carrots, flour, soy sauce, tomato paste and lemon juice.

I’ve never used soy sauce, tomato paste or lemon juice in a chicken pot pie. I would consider these to be the “secret weapons” of this dish. THANK YOU to Cook’s Illustrated for these secrets! (This idea opens a whole new set of ideas for me… when it comes to other dishes that might need a kick of flavor. Seriously – love it!)

In a Dutch oven I boiled the chicken until cooked…

And while the chicken cooked I worked on the savory crumble topping… which is good enough to just bake up and eat as a Friday afternoon snack! The topping is made of flour, baking powder, salt/pepper, cayenne pepper, butter, parmesan cheese and cream. Watch this…

Mix the dry ingredients together and added cubed/chilled butter… then with your hands (the best tools in the kitchen) rub the butter into the flour until it resembles a coarse cornmeal. Stir in the cheese until well mixed and then add the cream.

Mix it with a spoon and crumble the topping into uneven globs of goodness onto a baking sheet… fun, huh?!

Bake off the topping in a hot oven while you start assembling the rest of your pot pie. (The pot below is the same Dutch oven I boiled the chicken in – no need to wash it. I transferred the chicken to a cutting board so I could chop it up… and I strained the broth and set it aside to use it later in this process.)

From here on it comes together pretty quickly. Saute the carrots, onion, celery in a little bit of veg oil and some salt/pepper, until soft… once done transfer the vegetables to a bowl.

Add a bit more veg oil to the Dutch oven and do the same with the mushrooms…

They will lose their moisture in about 5 minutes… then add the tomate paste and soy sauce and cook just a tad (until the moisture evaporates).

About now it will be time to remove the crumble topping from the oven… try not to snack on all of it… there IS another purpose for it!

Back to the Dutch oven… this is what has been left behind by the mushrooms, soy sauce and tomato paste process. That “brown stuff” on the bottom of the pan is pure gold in this dish!!! It’s called FOND… and I’m very fond of fond. (My apologies… that was super cheesy!)

When you add moisture to fond it comes off the bottom of the Dutch oven nicely and imparts some amazing flavor to your dish.

As you can see I’ve removed the mushrooms from the Dutch oven. They are now in the bowl with the other vegetables, waiting for their next task.

We will now start building the sauce, starting with butter and flour. Stir the butter and flour together, allowing it to cook for a minute or so… otherwise the sauce will taste “flour-y”.

Next pour in the reserved chicken stock and milk (or cream) and while stirring scrape the fond off the bottom and sides of the Dutch oven.

In the picture below, see the wall of the Dutch oven? And how easily that fond scrapes off? It will then just melt into the sauce mixture and that’s where a lot of the amazing flavor of this dish comes from. Thank you Mr Fond! Give the sauce a little taste. If it needs a little more salt/pepper add it now.

Remove the Dutch oven from the heat and add the lemon juice, shredded chicken and vegetables (including frozen peas)…

Stir together a few times and transfer mixture to baking dish… since it’s just the two of us I used a small round casserole (but the recipe from Cook’s Illustrated calls for a 9″ x 13″ baking dish). Then add the crumble topping and place it on the middle rack in the oven.

About 15-20 mins later you TOO will be saying this is the best chicken pot pie you’ve ever made!!! You can do it… and you’re loved ones will thank you for it!!!

A few tips from Lori:

– Always read through a new recipe completely before making it the first time. I’ve made this mistake so many times and am still learning it. So take it from me…. read it first, then get to it!

– Even if you don’t like to, go through the mise en place process for this dish. Have all of your ingredients pre-measured, set aside and waiting for you to grab them. Just trust me…

But most importantly… …

enjoy your time in the kitchen…

RECIPE: reduced balsamic glaze

You are looking at a baked salmon fillet glazed with a balsamic reduction, served over a simple Israeli couscous. YUM!

It’s almost sweet, it’s rich and savory… it’s the perfect topping for salmon (grilled or baked or broiled or poached), for chicken (baked or grilled or bbq’d), or to use as a dip for grilled bread… and next I’m going to enjoy it drizzled over a plate of tomato and mozzarella slices.

Here’s what I started with… balsamic vinegar, spicy brown mustard, sherry, honey, garlic and salt/pepper. Tonight I used this on baked salmon fillets… a perfect combination!

Over medium-low heat I sauteed the garlic (here I added a small bead of canola oil to the pan).

After two or three minutes I added the rest of the sauce ingredients: sherry, honey, mustard, balsamic vinegar and salt/pepper. I gave it a good whisk… and watched for it to start it’s gentle bubbling.

Within about 5 minutes it had reduced slightly and thickened up a bit (unfortunately I neglected to get a picture of the bubbling action)… so I drizzled it over the salmon that had been waiting so patiently.

And since it goes well with these flavors I diced up some fresh stems of oregano (from my own herb garden) and sprinkled it on top of the salmon before baking the fillets.

Before serving up the salmon I drizzled just a tad more sauce over the top (and over the couscous as well, OF COURSE)… and then asked the world to be quiet for at least 3 minutes while I enjoyed the best part of the day…


Confession: I have been a bit intimidated to try this sauce at home. But after going out on a limb and trying it for myself now I’m slightly upset at myself for not being more adventurous in my kitchen… so, so, so good!

Balsamic Reduction

4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tablespoon sherry (or white wine)
1 tablespoon honey (or agave nectar sweetener)
1/3 cup balsamic vinegar
4 teaspoons Dijon mustard
salt and pepper to taste

In a small saucepan over medium heat, lightly coated with non-stick cooking spray, sauté garlic for 2-3 minutes. Add sherry, honey, balsamic vinegar, mustard and salt/pepper to taste. Whisk together and allow to simmer, uncovered, for about 3 minutes. Whisk every minute or so and allow to reduce slightly. Sauce will thicken slightly.

Immediately top fish or chicken and cook meat according to instructions. Brush additional sauce on meat after being cooked . Also great over tomato/mozzarella salad, as a dip for grilled bread… etc.

enjoy your time in the kitchen…