Making lemoncello is easy. I made a batch a few months ago and quickly realized the most difficult thing about the process was the waiting. Patience is not my virtue.
But the last of that batch was not even consumed before I started thinking about using the same process with other citrus fruits. Enter a trip to Trader Joe's and a sale on tangerines. You can follow this method below loosely - it's art, not a science.
When I make something like this though, I like to make A LOT of it. Inevitably, by the time I instagram progress shots along the way, I've got a list of folks asking for their taste...so I know now to make a big-ass batch. I suggest you do the same. It's a great gift.
I've uploaded a gallery of the step-by-step process and outlined the details below that. But here's what you will need:
- 6 pounds of tangerines (you'll only use the zest for this, but I have a recipe coming soon for tangerine sour mix)
- 14 cups of vodka. Yes, 14 cups. (I prefer a gluten free potato vodka)
- 4 cups sugar (I like to use organic)
- 4 cups boiling water
- bottles, labels, etc.
- weeks of waiting (I told you this was the hardest part)
Click the photos above to see the process.
Follow along these steps for your batch of citrus cello (tangerine, meyer lemon, grapefruit, etc.)
- Even if you're using organic fruit, you'll want to wash it well. Cellos are made with the zest of the citrus and many fruits are waxed. To clean, spray with a fruit wash and scrub them well. Rinse very well with warm/hot water and let them cool and dry before zesting.
- Using a microplane grater, zest the fruit, collecting only the colored zest, not the white pith. You'll have a bunch of zest-less fruit after this process. Save them for making homemade sour mix. Divide your zest equally among as many containers as you will need to hold your vodka.
- Fill the containers with vodka and zest and seal tightly. Place the containers out of direct sunlight and vigorously shake them once a day for at least two weeks. It's not the end of the world if you miss a day or two, but the longer you let this steep, the richer the flavor will be. Once the vodka has extracted most of the color from the zest (and therefor the flavor), you're ready for the next step.
- After shaking one last time, pour through a mesh strainer to collect the largest pieces of zest. Discard the zest. Strain once more through layers of cheesecloth or coffee filters. I like to use coffee filters, as I can squeeze out the remaining liquid. This process does take some time however, so using the mesh strainer to get the bulk of the zest saves some waiting time. You may also have to swap out coffee filters along the way to keep the process moving along.
- Bring your water to boil and fully dissolve the sugar. You can choose to let this liquid cool before adding to your steeped vodka or add it hot. If you add it hot, it will give your finished product a cloudy appearance (which I actually prefer). Stir it well, cover and let sit overnight.
- After letting it sit, you may see extra citrus oil float to the top. If you do, don't despair. This is flavor, people! You do not want to get rid of that. Instead, give it one extra step of a blend in a vitamix or emulsifying blender to suspend the oil in your liqueur. This will certainly give it a cloudy appearance but help keep it from separating over time.
- Bottle your finished tangerine cello into clean bottles. If you wish, add an extra touch by using a vegetable peeler to add a decorative strip of zest to each bottle before sealing with wax and tying on a label. It is now ready for gifting (and drinking) at this point, but if you let it rest for another couple of weeks, the flavor will be even smoother.