Wednesday, November 23, 2011

I'm Dreaming of a....Crafty Christmas! Part 1.

(Obviously my efforts to blog daily are an epic fail. An ER visit for what I thought was an appendix issue turned into the 12-hour migraine-from-hell, and the blogging train derailed from there. To make up for it, the next few posts will be amazing ideas for how you can make great, homemade Christmas gifts that don't scream 'homemade' or have relatives struggling for polite ways to express their gratitude.)

Idea #1: Liquor, and/or liquor assortment

Making homemade flavored liquor is not only easy, but results in a product that is often superior to what you'd buy in the store. This year Brett and I decided to make limoncello, Irish cream (aka Bailey's), and coffee liquor (aka Kahlua.) Because limoncello takes the longest (upwards of a month), it's already brewing away. The Irish cream and coffee liquors are pretty instant-gratification, so we won't be mixing them up until later. I'll post the recipes for those next week.

Limoncello How-To, based on original recipe posted by Patty Mitchell

You'll Need:

15 lemons
2x 750 ml bottles of alcohol, or one 1.75 L jug (our preference)
Everclear works the best for this, but a cheap domestic (FLAVORLESS) vodka works too
3 cups sugar
3 cups water
Large jars (canning jars work great)
Bottles for the finished product
Decorating supplies (ribbon, print-at-home sticky labels, stamps, whatever)

1. Wash the lemons to remove any wax present. Peel them, using either a vegetable peeler or a box grater. For our method, we used the box grater. Make SURE not to get any of the pith- the white part. It'll make your end product bitter.
2. If you're using the 750 mL bottles, divide the liquor between a couple large glass jars. If you're using the 1.75 L jug, you'll simply remove .25 mL (measure using a measuring cup) and reserve for another use.
3. Add the lemon peel to the liquor.
4. Hide the jars/jug in a cool, dark place. Shake them up whenever you think about it and let stew for at least 2 weeks.
5. Mix up a simple syrup using the sugar and water. Heat on the stove on low heat, stirring frequently, until sugar is completely dissolved. Let cool.
6. Add the syrup to the liquor. You may need additional containers at this point- just do your best to divide it equally.
7. Let sit for an additional 2 weeks (minimum).
8. Strain through cheesecloth (or a coffee filter) into clean giftware.
9. Allow to sit for at least another week before using. After that, you'll want to store it in the freezer.
10. Share and enjoy!

Endnote: What to do with all those lemons???

Brett and I love to cook together, and we go through a LOT of fresh lemon, as "lemon juice" from a bottle is persona-non-grata around here. After we made the limoncello, we juiced all the lemons and poured the juice into ice cube trays. Once they were frozen, we dumped them into ziploc bags. Now we have *real* lemon juice readily available! We also made some candied lemon peels with the lemons that were left after we wore our hands out juicing the first 10 or so. We will be giving those away with our limoncello. Throw in some homemade biscotti and a good coffee and you have a delicious Italian gift basket!

Are you having a crafty/homemade Christmas this year?

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