Now is the time that Arizona citrus is reaching its peak harvest season. When I lived down in the valley, there used to be citrus everywhere you looked. In the area of old Scottsdale where I lived, the home subdivisions were actually carved out of citrus groves in the 1950’s post-war building boom. The developers did a nice thing and tried to leave as many citrus trees as possible while they were building.
The neighborhood I grew up in used to be a grapefruit grove. So consequently at the high point of my childhood home we had 12 grapefruit trees surrounding us. It was a daunting task trying to figure out what to do with so much fruit. As a kid I used to sell brown paper bags full of grapefruit for $5.00 and the best days to sell were days when you knew there were a lot of tourists in town (Fiesta Bowl, Super Bowl, Parada del Sol, etc.)
We definitely couldn’t eat the fruit of 12 trees and there wasn’t much inspiration surrounding grapefruit either. Sure we would end up eating a few as a “breakfast treat” or at least that’s what my dad would try and convince us of the supremely sour fruit. I do miss the intoxicating scent of all the citrus blossoms in the spring though and the sight of hundreds of bright fruits adorning trees in your own yard. Now that I’m older, I do have to say that I’m a fan of citrus and miss the plethora of the harvest sometimes. And, since I’m on my quest for sustainability I’ve also discovered a lot of different uses for the warm weather fruit.
The December issue of Sunset magazine had a great recipe for homemade Rosemary Limoncello. Limoncello is an intensely flavored liqueur typically served as an after dinner drink on Italy’s Amalfi Coast and adjoining Sorrento Peninsula. This is the perfect time of the year to make this homemade liqueur in the desert southwest because of the availability of lemons. If you don’t happen to have good access to lemons in your neck of the woods, you can order direct from some citrus orchards out here. The recipe recommends using Meyer lemons because of their fragrance. But you can also achieve excellent results using Eureka lemons. A local Arizona citrus orchard is McClendon’s Select. The Limoneira Orchard in Southern California offers Meyer lemons through their mail order business. Ojai Citrus also does mail order with mixed boxes containing a variety of citrus choices. You could also get a nice variety of swing-top glass bottles to put your limoncello in for giving out to friends and family once it’s matured. To me, it sounds like a great and different way to enjoy this year’s citrus harvest. If you have a favorite recipe using the refreshing flavors of citrus, let us know about it!
Courtesy: Sunset Magazine, December 2007 edition
You will need:
18 lemons (washed and dried)
one 4-inch rosemary sprig (washed and dried)
2 bottles of 100 proof vodka (750ml bottles of Stoli or Smirnoff)
4 1/2 cups sugar
1) Peel lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler, taking only the zest (top layer) and avoiding any white pith. Put rosemary in a 1 gallon glass or ceramic container with a tight seal. Add zest to jar.
2) Pour 750ml. vodka over rosemary and zest; seal container. Let sit undisturbed in a cool dark place for about 40-days.
3) On 40th day, in a saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add sugar. Cook, stirring, until sugar has dissolved. Let sugar syrup cool to room temperature, about 1 hour.
4) Pour syrup and remaining 750ml. vodka over lemon-vodka mixture, stir and seal container. Let sit in a cool, dark place for another 40 days.
5) Pour limoncello through cheesecloth into a large spouted pitcher and divide among gift bottles. Limoncello will keep indefinitely in the freezer. Recipe makes 10 2/3 cups and will fill ten 8.5 oz. bottles.
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