I go a little crazy in the summer. I'm friends with a lot of farmers and I just can't say no when they tempt me with produce. They know I love to make pickles and preserves so it's not rare for me to go home with extra tomatoes that would otherwise be composted or a strange new variety of something that they want people to try. Last year it was Mexican sour gherkins. These baby cukes are just so cute that I had to take them home with me. They taste pretty much like a cucumber with maybe a bit more bite. The plan was to pickle them but I eneded up eating them in salads with baby fresh mozzeralla balls, cherry tomatoes and basil. It's almost too much to think about when it looks like this outside. Sigh.
When summer finally gets here, it feels like a race to me. How much can I put away for later? It's not enough to go to market and just buy for the week. No, I have to buy that bushel of peaches because the farmer said this is the last week he'll have them!. So I end up eating tons of fresh produce, canning and freezing more than I can eat or even give away, and still there always seems to be more.
One way I've learned to deal with this glut is by making homemade liqueurs. If those peaches are about to go bad but I don't have the time to make another batch of five-spice peach butter, I just buy a bottle of vodka, stuff a jar with fruit and submerge it in liquor and sugar and in 6 weeks I have my own elixir. In my cupboard I currently have peach, apricot, blueberry, black currant, Dolgo crab apple and cranberry.
This spring is feeling awfully wintery so I decided to grab some Meyer lemons while they last and make some homemade Limoncello. Maybe someday I'll live where they grow on trees and friends give me bagfuls like some people.
17 lemons (preferably Meyer and organic)
One 1.75 liter vodka
5 1/2 c water
6 c. sugar
4 qt. jar
Thinly slice the lemons and put in the jar. Add the vodka. Store in a cupboard for 2 weeks. On the fourteenth day, strain the vodka and discard lemon slices. Heat the water and sugar in a pan until the sugar disolves. Add to vodka.
I got this recipe from my Aunt and didn't think to research on the internet until I had already begun. From a more authentic recipe I've found, it's recommended that you use only the zest of the lemons and use Everclear instead of vodka. It seems like the recipe above has an awful lot of sugar. I know lemons are tart but so are cranberries and I know I didn't add anywhere near this much sugar to those. When my lemons are done steeping, I'm going to make the syrup and then add it to taste so that it doesn't end up too sweet.
Store your finished limoncello in the freezer and sip in small glasses after standing over a hot stove and canning all day.