Cooking with Pete and Barb Marczyk: homemade limoncello
Pete Marczyk and Barbara Macfarlane do not leave their work behind when they leave Marczyk Fine Foods and head for their great old Denver house with a spacious kitchen. They often bring some of their market's best ingredients home with them and cook up a feast, and when they're not cooking at home, they're working with the staff at Marczyk's to create recipes for the rest of us to enjoy, usually turning to Whitney Ariss, a home cook and the market's marketing project manager and events coordinator, for inspiration.
"Since we're just about at the height of citrus season, I think limoncello makes a really great seasonal gift at Christmastime," says Ariss, adding while the rest of us are braving the brats at the mall, she's using her culinary prowess to offer homemade tidings of joy to her friends and family. "Homemade gifts are the best, because you'll not only save time, but you can also save a load of money. And it's so much more personal and fun," she points out.
For her limoncello recipe, Ariss recommends using Meyer lemons. "They're totally magical in limoncello-form," she says. But regular lemons are fine, too, although go for organic if you want to steer clear of the pesticides that are often most concentrated in the skin, she warns.
If for some reason you have an aversion to lemons, grab some clementines instead, which are abundant this time of year. "When you make the recipe, include your friends and family, because all the hard work is in the peeling of the citrus so the more hands you have, the lighter the workload," says Ariss, noting that once you've completed the peeling process, it "just takes a little time and patience before you have the sweet, tangy awesomeness that's limoncello." And, she warns, "You'll love it so much, you might not even want to give any away."
3 cups of citrus peel, (about 10 lemons, or about 26 clementines)
1 bottle vodka (Ariss loves the Mell vodka from Peak Spirits)
2 cups sugar
2 cups water
About ½ cup agave or maple syrup, to taste
1. Peel citrus and scrape off as much of the bitter pith as you can. Add citrus peel to a large jar or other glass container and pour in the vodka. Allow vodka to steep for at least four days and up to ten days.
2. Once vodka has been infused, make simple syrup by bringing 2 cups water to a boil and adding sugar. Stir until sugar has dissolved completely, remove from heat and allow syrup to cool.
3. When syrup is cooled, mix with infused vodka and stir well. Add about ½ cup of agave or maple syrup (or more, to taste) and stir to dissolve.
Chill or freeze limoncello before serving.