Limon Mandarinochello

I always say that every brewer and cordial maker has their signature lemon liquor. Mine is a spiced lemonchello with a spiced Rum base.

Therefore, it was not surprising when last week, my mom contacted me for lemonchello advice.

What you may not know, is that my mom moved to Costa Rica after retiring from one too many years of being a High School teacher in Northern Nevada. My mom likes wine even more than I do, can go tequila shot for shot with me, and takes her martinis dry with gin.

Costa Rica has great weather, fabulous beaches, and amazing surfing (did I mention my mom married a surf instructor?). But do you know what Costa Rica does NOT have? An alcohol surplus.

As much as my mom is enjoying the local flaura, fauna, and waves, she is really missing her cabernet from the California foothills.

See, as awesome as Costa Rica is, they don’t have a surplus of  Two-Buck Chuck or cheap alcohol. What they do have instead, is a local distilled beverage called Guaro.

Guara is a Latin American distilled alcohol made from sugar cane juices. It typically ranges from 30-40% alcohol (so just shy of Rum and Vodka) and is slightly sweeter than our distilled alcohols.

I have neither Guara nor limon mandarino in order to figure out how to advise my parents how to make their liquor, but my lemonchello (whose base also comes from RUM, a distilled sugar can base) is amazing; so I figured what the heck.So basically my mom tells me that my step dad really wanted to make lemonchello from Guara and this lemon/lime fruit combo called limon mandarino that grows on their property.

Basically they are going to need to get enough of their limon mandarino thingies to get 1/2 cup juice. Before they squeeze the limon mandarino, they will want to zest them.

When zesting (and juicing), always make sure to get none of the pith (that’s the white yucky stuff between the outer area you zest and the meaty area you juice), as it will give your liquor a bitter flavor.

Bring 2 cups water to a boil and stir in 3 cups of sugar, as well as the zest. This needs to come to simmer to become a citrusy simple syrup. This needs to simmer long enough to reduce a bit and completely dissolve the sugar. Don’t boil and don’t simmer too long or it will turn into a hard candy. A low simmer for about 15 minutes should be good. Remove the zested simple syrup from heat and let cool just long enough until you can touch it without scorching yourself. Weirdly this is the hardest part- too hot and you will burn off all the alcohol (ALCOHOL ABUSE), and too cold and the simple syrup will stick to the pan. Basically, if it is still warm and you can stick your finger in without burning it, you are good to go.

Finally, add in the half cup of juice and stir thoroughly before adding the 3 cups of Guara. This then needs to sits in a cool (as cool as Costa Rica gets) dark place for about 2-4 weeks.  Don’t refrigerate the cordial (that will crystalize the sugars in the simple syrup), but keep it out of direct sunlight and away from heat while it ages. Strain through linen/Muslin/cotton fabric (or worse case scenario a coffee filter) to get rid of all of the zesty bits (or any pulp bits or seeds that get in from the juice).  Bottle in anything you have and keep out of direct sunlight while you enjoy it.

Hypothetically speaking, this liquor can be used just like a lemon or limechello: meaning it can be drunk straight, added to anything sparkly, spice up a little ice tea, or added to a tasty pound cake, since my mom is also a fabulous baker. :-)

A Crafting PSA

If someone makes you something, be it cookies, booze, sewn or knitted items Say Thank You.

I honestly did not believe that this is something that needed to be said, but if Christmas this year has taught me anything, it is that this PSA should be woven into ugly sweaters everywhere.

If someone mentions that they have made, are making, or would like to make you a homemade gift, don’t turn it down. Accept it graciously- say thank you and move on with your life.

You may think you might be saving them the hassle, but what you’re really doing is hurting their feelings. They have thought enough about you to put you on their gift giving list, so be considerate and accept it politely.

Trust me, I understand, I don’t particularly enjoy getting food items myself. However, if you gift me some, I’ll take them to work and share them around. Those items that were lovingly crafted and given, have now brought happiness to all who enjoyed them, as well as joy to the person who bestowed them upon me. It’s a WIN-WIN situation.

You know what is not a Win-Win situation? Making someone feel as if their efforts are not good enough to grace the presence of your gift-giving world.

Okay, so you don’t drink, but you have  received homemade alcohol? Cook with it!  Pass it on to someone who will enjoy it! By turning it down up front you will inevitably hurt the person who offered it, even if it is a fleeting blow.  Even if it is your intention that they should feel relieved,  in reality, how that makes them truly feel is that their gift-crafting efforts and skills aren’t good enough. Or worse, if they are anything like me, they will go and try to make you something else instead.

The holiday season is about GIVING; it is not about you getting gifts. So give something back to the person other than heartache, and graciously accept their offering.

Apple Pie Meade

I am fortunate to be rich in friends but sadly poor in extra funds.

I was creating my holiday gift giving list, and when I started to draw close to triple digits I knew I was going to have to do something creative when it came to gift giving this year.

Being the Drunken Duck that I am, I had a LOT of empty bottles. So I figured I would brew up my holiday gifts this year.

Brewing takes time: a month for cordials, 4-6 weeks for beer, 2 months for mead, 3 month for wine. That’s just the fermentation time until you can bottle; most still need to age in the bottles before they are even palatable.

I can brew in 5 gallon quantities, which fills either 25 wine bottles, 50 (12 oz) beer bottles or any combination therein. Even if I gave out just the beer bottle sizes, I knew I was going to have to brew a few batches to cover everyone on the friends, family, and coworker wish list. Luckily, I have enough supplies to brew up to four different batches at once.

The first batch turned out to be an Apple Pie Meade. Meade? Meade is the name for a honey wine that normally has an ABV around 15-17% ( although you can have some with less or more). Just like wine, a meade can be dry, sweet, or anything in between.

Besides time, do you know what else brewing takes? Money.

Bottled Apple Pie MeadeFor my Apple Pie Meade I used 13 lbs honey, 20 apples, 4 packets of yeast, ½ cup ginger, 1 cup raisins, and 4 TB of spices. Before bottling, I added another 1.5 lbs of honey to sweeten to my taste buds.

That breaks down to $38 in honey, $10 in apples, $2 in ginger, $1 in raisins, $5 in yeast and about $5 in spices. The bottles I already had, but I needed corks ( .25 each), labels $10 and bleach $1. Total this batch cost me just under $80. (That does not include time of brewing, removing labels, and bottling.)

Brewing in the large batch meant I was able to get at least 25 gifts for about $3.20 per gift – and though the initial investment hurt my already tight budget, the end results (AND being able to give out so many drinkable gifts) were awesome!

The Apple Pie Meade was the first one in and the first one out (though cloudier than I would have liked). Even though I told people to put them away as they will only taste better with age, quite a few people have already tapped theirs and the initial response had been positive.