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Today is my Mom’s birthday – Happy birthday Mom!  To celebrate, I made her homemade limoncello – here’s how I did it.

My mom LOVES limoncello, and is planning a trip to Italy with my Dad in the fall, so I decided I would try my hand at liquor making and give her a (hopefully) super tasty treat for her birthday.  Turns out making limoncello is pretty darn easy (it has only 4 ingredients), but does require some serious patience. Don’t start this project 3 days before the gift-giving event (or 3 weeks…more like 3 months would be good – think xmas gifts).

ingredients for step 1 - lemons and alcohol

Ok, here’s the scoop on what you’ll need:

  • 1 bottle of grain alcohol (everclear or vodka) – the stronger the better
  • a bunch of the prettiest lemons you can find (I used 8 )
  • 3 cups water
  • 2.5 cups sugar

Wash the lemons really well – scrub all the wax off with a scrubbie brush.  Then peel them all with a veggie peeler, making sure not to get any of the white part under the rind (it will make it bitter).

day 1 infusing

Dump the peels into a big glass jar and pour in the alcohol.  Set in a dark place and forget about it for at least 45 days (I let mine sit about 70 days – I kinda did forgot about it)

infusing day 70

On day 45 (or any day after that if you let it sit longer), make a simple syrup with the sugar and water.  Let cool completely, then add to the lemon mixture.  cap it again and put back in that same dark place for another 2 – 4 weeks.

I only waited about 2 weeks, and I tasted it after one week to see how it was coming along.  It mellowed a lot by week 2, so I decided to strain and bottle it.  I used a tea strainer on the top of a pitcher to get all of the lemon rind out.  My strainer has a really fine mesh, so I only strained it once, but I’ve read others strain it several times.  Once was good for me.

Here’s how the final product came out.  I got these bottles at World Market and made the tags to go around the necks.  I also put a recipe on the back of each tag.

I gave these to my mom last week since I saw her then, and we enjoyed the limoncello together, first straight up, and then as a bellini mixed with some champagne.  It turned out very tasty, and I already have my second batch infusing.

Recently I brewed my very own, from scratch (whatever that is) all natural root beer.  From actual roots.  True story – there are actually lots of roots in root beer.  Go figure….that fabulous, herby, sweet beverage doesn’t just come from a sugary artificial extract.  This was my second batch – I wasn’t quite happy with the first, so I tweaked it and tried again.  It is actually quite tasty!  And easy to make.  I researched for about a month before ordering the hard-to-find roots online (at Mountain Rose Herbs) and coming up with this recipe.    

ingredients to make homemade rootbeer

  • 1.25 quarts filtered water
  • 1/4 oz sarsaparilla
  • 1/2 oz sassafras*
  • 1/4 oz dandelion root
  • 1/8 oz burdock root
  • 1/8 oz licorice root
  • 1 whole star anise
  • 1/2 cinnamon stick
  • 3/4 cups honey
  • 1/8 cup molasses
  • 1 pound white sugar
  • 1/4 tbs pure vanilla extract
  • 5 drops wintergreen essential oil

NOTE – measure the roots and sugar by weight, not volume 
*sassafras was banned by the FDA in 1960 because it’s oil, safrole, was labeled a carcinogen, so root beer today does not contain it.  It is a primary ingredient in old rootbeer recipes.  I decided to use it since it is such a small amount, but please do your own research on the subject.   

 
Add everything except the vanilla and wintergreen to a pot and bring to a boil.  Simmer uncovered for 1.5-2 hours.  Remove from heat and strain out the herbs.  Add vanilla and wintergreen, stir well.  Let cool, and funnel into glass or plastic bottles for storage.  Keep in refrigerator or may also store in freezer.   

concentrated homemade rootbeer syrup ready to be mixed

This makes a concentrated root beer syrup that needs to be mixed with soda water before drinking.  Use 1 part root beer syrup to 4 parts club soda or seltzer water (I like the seltzer water best)   

Tasting Notes: 
I really like this root beer!  It’s a little rootier (is that a word?) than what you think of as root beer and not quite as sweet.  Really refreshing, and I like that it’s all from roots and herbs instead of artificial flavors.  It is lighter in the glass than store-bought root beer, but I’m gonna guess that’s ’cause there’s no artificial color added to it.  This batch is darker than my first batch, though, I think because I boiled it longer.  Next time I think I will try brown sugar instead of white, and I might leave out the wintergreen all together.  Even with only 5 drops, it’s pretty strong, but gives a nice rootbeer flavor.  I might also up the sassafras a little next time to make it even more root-beery.   

my homemade rootbeer all mixed up and ready to enjoy!

Did I mention this whole experiment spawned from me wanting to make root beer soap?  I figured I should know what goes in actual root beer before I try to make a soap that smells like it.  Stay tuned for the soapy version 🙂

Everyone has a favorite place for a good margarita.  My favorite local Mexican restaurant, Frescos, has a really tasty rita called the true agave.  Paired with their fajitas, it is just about the perfect meal.  My mouth is starting to water just thinking about it.  Fajitas and margaritas say summer to me.  So in honor of the rising mercury and Cinco de Mayo, I’m sharing my favorite margarita recipes – one in drink form and the other in soap.  

First, the drink (priorities)  

on the rocks - no salt for me, please

 

Ultimate Margarita  

2 oz. tequila  

6 oz.  limeade – I like the simply limeade  

2 oz. orange juice – whatever you have, but my favorite is the simply orange with pineapple – extra tropical!  

splash of triple sec  

the lineup of ingredients in my margarita

 

shake ingredients vigorously in a shaker, pour in your favorite glass, squeeze a wedge of lime if you have it (I didn’t) and enjoy!   

Now for the soap  

first batch of margarita soap colored with parsley

 

I’ve made 2 test batches of margarita soap so far, and they both smell fabulous.  They are not looking as fab as they smell, so will work some more to get these looking beautiful.  The first batch has ground parsley for the yellow/green color, unscented soap chunks as ice and salt on top.  I wasn’t completely satisfied with the parsley, so tried something different next batch.  

second batch of margarita soap colored with lime juice and green clay

 

For the second batch, I still used key lime and lemon oils, but also added some litsea to help those citrus scents stick around.  I used fresh lime juice and french green clay, as well as the unscented soap chunks, for the color.  Not crazy about this color either, although it is pretty darn close to the color of my actual margarita.  

I see another test batch in my near future, and lots of sampling ahead.  I better mix up another margarita for inspiration.   

Cheers!

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