The Puglia Christmas Kitchen | Clemencello
We make our own limoncello with lemons from the trees in our olive grove. Most families have their own recipes and won’t budge. But we have adapted ours over the years, decreasing the infused alcohol/sugar syrup ratio from 50|50 to 30|70 (we buy 96% proof alcohol from the supermarket to make it, stripping the lemon essence out of the peel; using vodka will give you a lemon infusion that won’t create the cloudy, opaque turbidity when the syrup is added - and if you do, shake it regularly to aid the infusion).
Yet even in these proportions it is too much for the subtler Christmas spiced clemencello that will be included in this year’s #thePugliaKitchen Christmas hamper. Made with shop bought vodka this facilitates the delicate Christmas spice infusion we want to come through to reinforce our season’s greetings. But don’t count on the spices to disguise a cheaper vodka. Be generous - it is Christmas after all.
We use a potato peeler to strip the zest from our lemons for our limoncello. But the clementine skin is thinner so peel them, then use a knife to scrape out the pith. A fiddly but necessary step. Otherwise the Christmas clemencello will be too bitter.
A note about clementines
We spotted the first clementines of the season on one of our favourite market stalls today. We are still a long, long way off from having Santa decorations in the shop, so these come as an early warning that holidays are coming.
Here clementines are sold individually. We select those that with some give when we squeeze them, not ripeness, rather space between the peel and the fruit.
Sterilising your jar
For the vodka | peel this needs to be large enough for 1 litre. When we add to the sugar syrup we do this in the pan used to dissolve the sugar in, then we pour this into newly sterilised jars.
To sterilise we put the jars in the dishwasher, taking care not to touch the insides once they come out.
Alternatively we boil the kettle then fill the jars, seal and after 2 minutes, turn the sealed jar upside down to sterilise the lid. Then open and empty the water, again taking care not to touch the insides
clementines | 10, unwaxed
vodka | 1 litre
cinnamon | 2 sticks
vanilla pods | 2, cut in half lengthways
star anise | 4
sugar | 250g
Wash, dry and peel the clementines. Scrape the pith from the peel using the sharp edge of a small kitchen knife, otherwise it will be too bitter. Put the peel into the sterilised jar. Add the spices and then pour over the vodka. Seal and leave for at least a week, shaking the jar at least once a day to flavour into the vodka.
Once the week has passed, though better 10 days, add the sugar in 500ml water and heat gently until dissolved (don’t boil, it’s not jam). Use a large enough pan you can add the vodka mixture to.
Once dissolved, leave to cool completely, then add the vodka mix. Pour back into your sterilised jars. Seal and then leave for another week (to 10 days), shaking the jar at least once every day.
Then happy day. Sterilise your gift bottles. Strain the vodka mix and bottle. Seal and store in a cool place. Just before giving add a cinnamon stick and a twist of clementine peel.
Waste not want not
The tradition of the Puglia Kitchen is that little goes to waste and we can make something out of almost nothing. Be sure to use the fruit either to crystallise or to juice and reduce as a base note for our Christmas pasticciotto mincemeat mix.
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