That is pretty much what transpired yesterday. Plus some pear butter.
But before I start, I have to say, holy rainy stormy day batman! This is going to be one heck of a day and all I want to do is get a cup of tea and cozy up to a fire. The dogs really don’t want to go outside which often has some unfortunate consequences for our carpet. Let’s see how that turns out.
About a year ago at the Slow Food holiday party I learned how to make limoncello. It’s incredibly easy and results in a very inexpensive and very tasty liqueur, which is made all the better because it’s homemade. At that time, a friend of mine had gotten her hands on a 5 gallon container of organic 100% grain alcohol. We used this to make the limoncello, and holy heck was that stuff strong. It wasn’t a bad thing, just wow. Strong. From the jars I got from her I ended up making some limoncello and pomegranate liqueur. Since then I’ve been very interested in infusing alcohol with stuff. Since my pure alcohol supplier is no longer in business (the stuff ran out surprisingly quickly) I am just using vodka. In my opinion it doesn’t really matter the quality of vodka, just that it’s at least 40% (80 proof). You can get the 100 proof stuff, but it’s twice as expensive and not really worth it.
So here’s what we made: Meyer lemon limoncello, kahlua, pear liqueur, pomegranate liqueur and a pumpkin porter (as well as bottling the scotch ale with rye). Earlier in the day, I also made pear butter which I will describe here as well. So let’s go step by step:
1. Finishing the first batch of Meyer lemon limoncello: This was a recipe that I found on what appears to be a defunct blog “Voodo and Sauce.“It was different because instead of just using the zest, it used the whole lemon. So about a month ago I quartered about 8 Meyer lemons and stuffed them in a quart jar and poured vodka over the top so they were covered. I swirled it around every few days and waited a month. So yesterday I finished it up by draining out the vodka (saving the liquid, obviously) and then putting the rest of the lemons into a pot with some water, sugar and honey (I did a half batch of the recipe in the link, so roughly 2 cups water, 2 cups sugar and probably about 3/4 cups honey). I simmered that for about 10 minutes, squishing the lemons with a potato masher to get out all the juice. Afterwards I strained out the lemons (hopefully my compost is okay with a tiny bit of vodka in it…) and cooled down the syrup. Apparently it was about 1 cup too much, so I have a nice jar of lemony simple syrup (slightly spiked) in the fridge to add to tea, sparkling water, etc. I divided up the vodka into 2 pint jars to get about 1 1/2 cups of vodka liquid then topped it off with simple syrup. This now goes in a cool dark spot (my pantry/liquor cabinet) for a while to let the flavors all combine.
2. Making new Meyer lemon limoncello: I did this the traditional way as taught to me by my Slow Food friend which she learned when she was studying abroad in Italy (from an actual Italian grandmother). I took 10 Meyer lemons and with a very sharp knife (you can also use a very sharp vegetable peeler – mine is terrible so I opted for the knife) and zest the lemon in strips, avoiding as much of the white stuff as possible. Next, stick them in a jar, a quart jar here, and fill it about 3/4 full with vodka (you can go all the way, I just judged that would be enough, with no real reason why). Put it in a dark place and swirl every few days. In a few weeks I’ll go in there and strain out the vodka, put in a simple syrup (the same amount as the vodka) and voila!
3. Finishing up the pear liqueur: Again, about a month ago I found a recipe for pear liqueur that sounded super tasty. It’s from a blog called “Healthy Green Kitchen.” The recipe is described in the link, and again I cut it down by about half. This was an interesting way to do this because it added the simple syrup in with the fruit and alcohol. Typically you let the fruit infuse with the alcohol first then add the syrup. So I cooked a simple syrup and while it cooled sliced up a few pears, put them in a jar (quart) and zested a lemon in strips (just like the limoncello). All of that went in the jar and the syrup went on top. I let it sit a month then strained it out into another jar. Now it’s supposed to sit for 6 months. We’ll see how that turns out – don’t know if I can wait that long.
4. Making another batch of pomegranate liqueur: I still had tons of pomegranates (and still do) from the amazing mom at work and in addition to all that jelly and eating pomegranates, decided to make some more liqueur (I made some a little while ago from some pomegranates that my mom gave me). This is pretty much the same method as the original limoncello but instead of zesting lemons I crushed pomegranate seeds with a garlic press (wear an apron! These things squirt!), getting all the juice, and pulpy seeds into a jar (made about 1 cup) then pour vodka over that. It filled a 1 pint (2 cup) jar. I did this about a week ago, and I want to let it sit for 2 weeks before straining it out and adding the simple syrup.
To illustrate how tasty this is, here is Danie who came over to help with all this, drinking a pomegranate spritzer and looking fancy:
5. Making kahlua (coffee liqueur): While I was browsing for liqueur recipes I stumbled across quite a few kahlua recipes. So what I have here isn’t really from any one recipe but a combination of several different recipes online which I can’t even cite here because I don’t really remember which ones they were (and I’ve changed it quite a bit, I would imagine). First I took 1/2 cup of ground coffee (I was hoping we had some nice coffee beans that I could grind up, but apparently my husband decided that Folgers was good enough for him to drink, so I used that) and put it in a pot with 2 cups of boiling water. I simmered that for about 5 minutes then took it off the heat. I also made a simple syrup with about 2 cups of water, 2 cups of sugar and a vanilla bean scraped and chopped into 1 inch pieces and simmered that for about 5 minutes. I let both liquids cool then combined them. This was a lot of liquid at this point so I divided it into 2 quart jars. On top of that I added about 1 1/2 cup of vodka and 1/2 cup of dark rum (not the spiced light brown rum, but the dark stuff, almost black). This got swirled and even tasted, though I know it’s going to smooth out after a few weeks. It’s great! I’m happy to say that we made a tasty kahlua recipe for pennies on the dollar what you would pay for a bottle in the store (maybe dimes or quarters on the dollar… hard to tell).
6. Beer. Bottling and brewing: Our scotch ale with rye #2 was done fermenting (recipe to come soon) and since we lost our glass carboy (may she rest in peace) we can only do one batch of beer at a time, so we needed to bottle this before attempting to brew again. This was a full 5 gallon batch but had a LOT of crud (fancy term is “trub”) at the bottom, so we ended up losing about 1/2 gallon to that. It resulted in 44 bottles plus a little for us to sip on (that is just about right, 1 gallon = 10 bottles). Danie was happy to help with the bottling process so she spent some time cleaning, sanitizing and filling bottles. I helped too.
It’s hard to photograph things that are near the floor without getting pup pictures in,
so I figured I’d just make them sit pretty while we got a picture of the bottles.
Now comes the fun part with my recipe for a pumpkin porter. I love when I feel like I can think of recipes on my own, make them and see if they turn out the way I had in my head. That’s what happened with the ginger brew and I was so stoked. I wanted to do a pumpkin beer, but I didn’t want it to be a heavily spiced beer and I really wanted to showcase the pumpkin flavor (most of what we think is pumpkin flavor is really just cinnamon, cloves and nutmeg). Dark beers are also nice for cold days and I’ve never made a really dark beer before. I will post a recipe soon, but some of the interesting details: I used 5.75 pounds of pumpkin (after it was peeled, seeded, cubed and roasted). This meant that I needed some extra room in the brew pot so I put less water in there. This was also a partial mash setup so I had to leave room for the grains to drain and sparge (rinse). The grains didn’t get that much sparging because we needed the space for the pumpkin, but I think enough of the flavor got through. We used caramel malt 120L and chocolate malt. We ended up with about a 3.5 gallon batch and added water at the end to move it up to a 4 gallon batch. When we got the gravity reading I tasted the beer and you can actually taste the pumpkin! I’m worried that it might be a bit watery because of the added water, but we’ll see. The yeast does impart quite a bit of the flavor and I kept 2 cinnamon sticks in the fermenter for some aroma.
So that’s the boozin and infusin that we did yesterday. But I got up relatively early and decided to get a tiny canning project done, so I looked around and saw 4 pears sitting on my counter. I hadn’t done a butter in a while, so pear butter it was. I chopped the pairs and got about 4.5-5 cups, put it in a pot with some water and cooked it. After they were all soft I blended it in a blender and ended up with about 4.5 cups of pear puree (super tasty on its own, but this did need to cook into a butter). I let it cook down for about 2 hours, stirring every now and then. It cooked down into enough for 3 4 oz jars plus a little left over to put in a bowl and to eat. This was as Brandon described “pear heaven”. I canned up the little guys and unfortunately only 2 of the 3 sealed. So lucky me, I have a jar of pear butter in the fridge which I’m sure will be used up very quickly.
Now, on to that cup of tea and sitting in front of the fire. But just for fun, here are some tuckered out pups and their boy: