CITRUS CELLO INFUSION FORMULA ~2 WEEK MACERATION PERIOD:
* 3 cups citrus peel, cleaned and white pith removed (approx. peel of 6 large grapefruit, 8 large oranges, 12 lemons, or 12 limes depending on their size)
* 2/3 cup clear sweetener (ie. sugar, Agave syrup, corn syrup, Stevia, monkfruit, etc.)
* 1 full bottle of clear spirit (Vodka, Blanche [i.e. unaged Armagnac], Moonshine [or White Dog], white Rum, Grappa, Pisco or Tequila)
* Clean glass jars for infusing
* Two weeks patience
Wash the citrus clean and then cut away the peel in large strips. Then cut as much of the white pith away as you can. In a clean glass jar, add the cleaned citrus peel and the spirit. Use a small Glencairn glass to push the peel down and leave it in to weigh it down in the liquid. Let it steep for two weeks. Once the two weeks are done, strain off the infused colored liquid into a 4 cup measuring glass. Add in your clear sweetener. Stir gently until fully dissolved. Bottle your fresh citrus cello liqueur. Enjoy.
Berserkers and Boozehounds,
Last year at the beginning of summer I embarked on my second spirit infusion project and made a slew of very high-end homemade Marniers using 20 year barrel aged brandies as the bases. I'm still enjoying the successful results of that project at the end of this year's summer. So I decided to embark on a new infusion project that pretty much takes the exact opposite route. This year's project is homemade infused citrus cello liqueurs.
In honor of my late father who passed away this summer from cancer, I purchased a commercial hand press citrus juicer. He loved fresh orange juice and owned one he purchased in Venezuela decades ago. I found one on Amazon and purchased it to make fresh juice both due to my love of food and to help keep his memory alive for me in a small way. Problem is now I had a boatload of organic citrus waste to get rid of. Of course a lot went into organic recycling at the start but then I felt I was wasting a lot of that citrus peel and if only I could do something with it. That's when I got the brainstorm to do some homemade cello liqueurs.
My first project was off the beaten path a little. Since I only had grapefruit and orange husks to discard and have plenty of Grand Marnier, I decided to start with the grapefruit peel first. I cut away all the peel from the leftover husks which were previously cleaned prior to juicing. Then I painstakingly cut away all the white pith from the peel by hand. Not gonna lie, that was painstakingly long but well worth it in the end.
The next step was finding a suitable clear spirit for infusion. Now really and truly, a high quality vodka is your best choice. However, I have never made secret of my ill will towards vodka on this board and for personal reasons it was going to be an unacceptable choice. A quick trip to the local LCBO presented many options to me: corn based moonshine, white rum, gin, grappa, tequila. I even found something called Blanche, an unaged high-end Armagnac specifically designed to be used in place of vodka. The French apparently look down on vodka as much as I do. A few of these have strong flavor profiles of their own. In the end, I settled on using Pisco, the unaged grape brandy native to Chile and Peru. It's not entirely flavorless, having a bit of a Muscaty aroma and flavor but they're not very strong at all and it was a third of the price of a Blanche so I went with it.
Then it was simply a matter of infusion. I placed all the peel in a Mason jar and then poured in the Pisco... only to watch the peel float in it and stick out of the liquid. So I weight it down by placing a Glencairn glass in the middle of the peel so it would stay submerged in the Pisco. Then I patiently waited for two weeks.
At the end of the two weeks, the infusion was done and what I had left was now a brightly colored yellow liquid in the glass. This threw me off a bit as I was expecting it to be pink as I used organic pink grapefruit peel so it seems that the peel naturally colored the liquid yellow instead of pink. Neat. Then I had to do sweeten the infusion to end up with my final liqueur.
Now if you look on the internet, most recipes for cello style liqueurs will tell you to mix the final infusion with a simple syrup made of water and sugar. When mixed with your spirit which is now fully infused with the precious citrus peel oils, the final cello becomes cloudy due to the ouzo effect of the suspended oils mixing with the water and staying suspended because of the sugar. I personally dislike this both due to the cloudy appearance it gives the final liqueur and the fact that it also dilutes it and drops the ABV considerably. So the next time you buy that bottle of limoncello from your local liquor store and see that it's got an ABV of 25-30%, just know that you're paying your hard-earned money for a bottle of mostly simply syrup you could have made at home for yourself for much cheaper.
Well that wasn't going to do. If I'm going to make my own cello liqueur, it's going to be the damn best one ever made. So no simple syrup. Instead, I poured the infusion into a 4 cup Pyrex measuring cup and gently stirred in 1/3 cup each of Stevia and monkfruit, which are both plant-based zero-calorie sweeteners, until they were completely dissolved. Then I bottled the final infusion and voila. Homemade pomelocello liqueur.
In the glass, once again the color is a surprising bright and clear natural neon yellow. The aroma is of grapefruit peel and a slight touch of Muscat grape due to the Pisco but they actually blend well together. Very sweet in the mouth, with loads of candied grapefruit and a slight touch of bitterness due to the small remnants of pith left with the peel. That bitterness is pleasant and balances out the sweetness but you can definitely tell it's from the pith. That's why you have to remove as much as you can from the peel before infusing, otherwise it would completely overwhelm the final liqueur. Very clean tasting.
This is actually really enjoyable. It's rare to find any grapefruit flavored liqueur and this is not that sweet and in my specific case there are no additional calories. A nice clean sipper with a rock in it to end an evening and a good change of pace from your usual Bourbon, Brandy and Scotch whisky.
So the project is a success and next up which you can see in the photo below is another cello liqueur, this time using fresh orange peels. I plan on making two more liqueurs using fresh lemon and lime peel and possibly a passion fruit one as well which would require a fair amount of passion fruit pulp. Time to start infusing away.
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Tran's the smart one!- M Grammer