Meyer Lemon Limoncello

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When my mom’s Meyer lemon tree was overflowing with glowing yellow citrus, I found myself the lucky recipient of a giant bag on my doorstep. I started researching all the delectable ways these lemons could be incorporated into recipes. It was an experiment that yielded beautiful cocktails and desserts, and one gorgeous roasted chicken.

What makes Meyer lemons so special? ’Lisbon’ and ‘Eureka’ lemons grow year-round and are most likely the lemons you select whenever you reach for them in the grocery store. The Meyer lemon, named after Frank N. Meyer who discovered it in Asia in 1908, is a cross between a lemon and a mandarin. The Meyer lemon is less acidic and sweeter with a more fragrant smelling rind. The Meyer lemon is seasonal, available mainly from December through May (Costco had bags of Meyer lemons this year, which I just noticed).

Obsessed with Limoncello from my first trip to Italy, I decided to use the Meyer lemons to first make my own Meyer Lemon Limoncello. I let my peels infuse for a month and the result was delicious.
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This Christmas, I plan on making Limoncello again with the Meyer lemons and giving homemade bottles as gifts during the holidays. There is so much you can do with the packaging and suggesting different ways to drink, cook and bake with Limoncello. If you want to try this recipe, any lemons will do, but take advantage of the Meyer variety if you have time.

A thick piece of lemon peel can be tied around the neck of the bottle. Create an "L" out of the lemon peel and glue to a gift tag.

A thick piece of lemon peel can be tied around the neck of the bottle. Create an “L” out of the lemon peel and glue to a gift tag.

Ingredients
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11-12 Meyer lemons, washed and dried
1 750-ml bottle vodka (80-to-100 proof)
2 cups sugar
2, 1 quart Mason jars
Strainer/Collander
Small funnel
Decorative/Sealable bottle(s) of your choice

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Cover the Meyer Lemon peels with vodka

Directions
Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler being careful to avoid the pith. Divide the lemon peels equally between your two, 1-Quart Mason jars. Fill each jar to the top with vodka and seal.

Fill jar to the top, covering all peels, and seal the lid

Fill jar to the top, covering all peels, and seal the lid

Place the Mason jars in a dark, cool spot and let the vodka infuse anywhere from one week to four weeks. *The longer you infuse the vodka the more lemon flavor you will get out of your Limoncello.

Vodka being infused with Meyer Lemons

Vodka being infused with Meyer Lemons

Once you are ready, place your collander/strainer over a measuring cup that is large enough to hold at least two cups but preferably four. Strain the infused vodka through the collander/strainer. It should yield four cups of vodka approximately. Add your four cups of infused vodka to a large pitcher.

Now you will prepare a simple sugar syrup which you will add to the infused vodka (once it has cooled). Bring two cups water and two cups sugar to a boil and stir. Once all the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let the simple sugar syrup cool completely.

Once the simple sugar syrup has cooled completely, you will add it to your pitcher of infused vodka and stir. Be sure to taste it and make sure it is to your liking. I used a 1:1 ratio and thought it had the right kick.

Pour Limoncello into a decorative bottle that seals

Pour Limoncello into a decorative bottle that seals

You are ready to bottle your Limoncello. Pour into the decorative bottles you selected using a small funnel or a steady hand! I found the pretty bottles you see here at Cost Plus but am certain any variety and any size can be found online. Chill the finished Limoncello in the fridge or freezer for four to five hours before enjoying. I always keep my Limoncello in the freezer as I like to serve it cold and it will last much longer (up to a year).
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Limoncello Ideas

tamale making party

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What better way to celebrate Cinco De Mayo than with a group of friends making tamales. A few girlfriends and I embarked on this tradition four years ago. Originally, December seemed like a good time for this endeavor so we could serve tamales during the holidays. We picked a day right before the Winter recess when all of our kids would still be in school. A memorable day was spent side-by-side, filling, wrapping and steaming our bundles of deliciousness. We each went home with overflowing trays of tamales (they freeze very well).

Ready to Steam Away.

READY TO BE FILLED WITH STEAMING TAMALES

Despite our efforts, the “holiday” tamale making party fell by the wayside until we determinedly resurrected it this year. Acknowledging that the holidays were NOT an ideal time for this endeavor, we decided to plan it for “ski week” in February when schedules and obligations calmed a bit. We had a relaxing and chatter-filled day, with tamales steaming in every kind of stock pot we could find. And we each commented that the process was so easy, we didn’t know why we waited so long to do it again.

Like anything in life, the experience is what you make of it. You don’t have to follow any steadfast rules about what goes in the tamales. There are the traditonal favorites but you can be as creative as you like. There were three of us so we each brought a filling. I made a spicy shredded beef in the slow cooker. Another friend made a chicken and chile version she found online and our third friend made a vegetarian version with roasted peppers, roasted corn and black beans. The key is to ensure your fillings have enough liquid so the tamales don’t dry out after steaming. Every version was delicious and made with love, creativity and friendship.

USE PREPARED MASA WHICH IS READY TO GO

USE PREPARED MASA WHICH IS READY TO GO AND GLUTEN FREE!

You never need a reason to celebrate friendship or good food but Cinco De Mayo seems as good a time as any.

Basic Ingredients
10 pounds of “prepared” Masa. You can purchase this at most Mexican restaurants that make tamales. Be sure to ask for it “prepared” or you will get a bag of flour like substance.
3 pounds of cooked spicy shredded beef (click here for easy slow cooker recipe)
3 pounds of cooked chicken and chili (click here for easy slow cooker recipe)
1 to 2 pounds of vegetarian mixture
2 to 3 bags of tamale husks (purchase at any Mexican market, Smart & Final or Mexican restaurant)
3 to 4 large stock pots with steamers
Aluminum trays
Tongs

EVERYONE GETS A JOB - ASSEMBLY LINE STYLE

EVERYONE GETS A JOB – ASSEMBLY LINE STYLE

Basic Directions
Prep and make your filling the day before, especially the shreeded beef which cooks for 8 to 10 hours in the slow cooker. Soak corn husks in warm water the night before.

On tamale making day, create an assembly line and have each friend responsible for a step in the process. Make sure you remove the tamale husks from water and pat them dry with a paper towel (they will still be slightly damp).

Lay the tamale husk flat (it will naturally fold up a little bit). Spread about one cup of the prepared Masa on the tamale husk. Use a spatula or large spoon to spread the Masa about 3/4 up the tamale husk. Place a large serving spoon size of your prepared filling on the Masa. Fold the tamale up from the bottom first, and then roll each side in so you have a nice little pouch. Tie the top of the tamale with strings pulled from some of the tamale husks (the texture is similar to a thick raffia ribbon).

Lay each uncooked tamale on a cutting board or tray and pile them up. When you have 15 to 20, line the inside of your stock pot with the tamales. Make sure they are standing straight up with the ties at the top. You want to pack them in the stock pot.

ALL TIED UP AND READY TO BE STEAMED

ALL TIED UP AND READY TO BE STEAMED

Make sure the tamales are standing on a steamer and that you have enough water in the bottom of the pot. Steam on high heat for 90 minutes (YES – 90 MINUTES). This is why we like to have bunches of tamales ready to be steamed. If you can have 3 to 4 stock pots ready to go, you can steam 45 to 60 tamales at the same time.

Once the tamales are finished steaming, remove from heat, place in the aluminum trays (be sure to mark the different types of tamales – beef, chicken, veg) and allow to cool for about 15 minutes. When you are ready to eat, unwrap the tamale from the tamale husk and dig in!!!

STAND TAMALES UP AND PACK THEM IN. STEAM FOR 90 MINUTES

STAND TAMALES UP AND PACK THEM IN – STEAM FOR 90 MINUTES

When you are ready to divide them up, we find that large freezer type Ziplock bags work best. The tamales will keep in your refrigerator for about a week or you can freeze them. To re-heat, simply microwave them for a few minutes or re-steam for about 10 to 15 minutes until warmed through.

TAKE YOUR PICK...

TAKE YOUR PICK…

Tamales really are easy to make. Even if you have a few that don’t turn out or make a mistake, you will get the hang of it and feel like a pro by the end of the day. I can’t wait for next year – we all have some new and fun ideas for the fillings. Happy Cinco de Mayo!

EVERYONE GOES HOME WITH TAMALES

EVERYONE GOES HOME WITH TAMALES