In the Christmas Spirit

In the deep south, it's citrus time.

Lots-and-lots-of-citrus time.

"Folks bringing laundry baskets of fruit to church and passing it out in the lobby" time.

Never one to pass up a good scent or a chance to experiment, I've gratefully accepted gifts of lemons, oranges, satsumas, grapefruit, and tangerines.
With a few of my favorite people I made hand scrub. 
(We followed this recipe, each adding the combination of citrus zest of choice.)
With an Avery label and some raffia, it's a sweet gift, I think.

My mom loves orange and chocolate, so I candied some peels to dip later. 
(A second attempt is underway, leaving more pith, to make pannetone.)

On a whim I tried sea glass candy from the syrup left over after draining the candied peels and a little zest. There was an interesting caramel overtone I'll be playing with some more.

The experiment that's received the most interest, though, has been the limoncello. 
Bonus: According to Giada, you still have time to make a batch to pass around on Christmas Eve, as of today (8 days).

I didn't use her recipe, but you can if you need a quick gift. If you have more patience, try mine, cobbled together from several sources and my own willingness to try whatever strikes me (even if I have no idea what I'm doing). It worked out okay, I think. I've stockpiled recipes to try, too.

Step 1: Infuse your spirits
12 lemons
750 ml bottle vodka

  1. Scrub the lemons and slice the ends off. Cut 1/4" wide strips through the peel lengthwise and peel to remove from fruit.
  2. With a very sharp knife, cut away every bit of the pith from each slice.
  3. Place the peels in a half-gallon jar and add the vodka. Allow to steep 45 days in a cool, dark place. Shake it whenever you think of it.
  4. Decide when to strain out your lemon peels. I've read that the peels should be almost white, and I've also seen several recipes say the peels should be almost crispy.  We just let it sit until liked the color and taste (and until I had the time), and then proceeded. You decide.

Step 2: Blend your liqueur
4 cups water
5 cups sugar

  1. Make a simple syrup with the water and sugar by bringing it to a boil on medium heat. Cook until it's...syrupy...about 6-7 minutes. Remove from heat and cool completely.
  2. Stir half of the syrup into the spirits. Taste as you go, and add more syrup as needed to suit. Stir to combine.
  3. Funnel into bottles. Add a thin strip of citrus peel to each bottle if you'd like, for decoration. Seal tightly, then store in freezer and serve cold.

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