Virtual melon squeezing, please.
December 6, 2010 7:31 AM   Subscribe

Will using zest from soft, 10 day old lemons ruin limoncello?

My parents have a prolific lemon tree that's still producing (they're in a really warm climate). The last time I saw them my dad handed me a bunch of gorgeous lemons. But I just now had the presence of mind to think of making limoncello to give them for Christmas. The lemons are a little soft, and one's starting to get green on the end.

Since the recipe revolves around the zest I'm wondering if I can still use these lemons, or if the age has made them bitter or something? They smell and taste fine to me. Thanks, MeFites!
posted by shopefowler to Food & Drink (6 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Discard the green one for sure. If the others' taste and smell is good, as you say, I'd totally go for it. Lemons normally start smelling gradually more "off" way before they officially get bad, so you seem to be on the safe side. Yum. Limoncello!
posted by Namlit at 7:46 AM on December 6, 2010

Bitterness from citrus comes from the pith - the white bit underneath the zest. Don't grate or scrape the lemons too deep, and you should be okay. As the lemon gets older, it might dry out and have less oil in the peel, or be too hard to zest. I would suggest zesting the lemon, then cutting it open and looking at the inside. When the lemon is getting soft and squishy, it could be starting to go bad. However, as long as the segments of lemon aren't brownish or otherwise look off, and as long as the zest smells strongly lemony, you're probably fine.

Liqueur making usually takes a while though - the limoncello might not be ready in time for christmas. Gunther Anderson says for fruit based liqueurs, steep a month, age three.

Don't let that discourage you though, just give your parents a "gift certificate" for the limoncello, redeemable in a couple months.
posted by dubold at 7:56 AM on December 6, 2010

Best answer: If the green is mold, discard it.
If it has been touching the others, give them all a rinse with some vinegar and rinse.
(This is not essential since you're gonna be soaking the zest in high test alkeehaul.)
Definitely give each lemon a smell test before zesting it.
You may want to zest each one into a bowl then cut it open to smell the flesh. If the flesh smells off, you may want to discard the zest from that fruit (I suggest cutting after zesting just because I find it to be a p.i.t.a. to zest a cut fruit).

If your parents grow other citrus, try making other citrus liquers. I like orange (arancello), bergamot (bergamocello), lemon and lime mixed (Sevenupocello). It's fun to play with alcohol!
posted by Seamus at 8:03 AM on December 6, 2010

Agree with dubold about the time.
I have found you can cut down on time by increasing the amount of zest per unit of alcohol. More wasteful.
Plus, the flavors get better with age (after the steeping and sugaring is done).
posted by Seamus at 8:05 AM on December 6, 2010

I think the problem would be that the oils in the zest might have gone (slightly) rancid. I would taste some of the zest and make sure it tastes lemony and not at all soapy.

Also, make sure any of the lemons skins haven't gone dull looking. That would be the first "layer" of the green mold on the other one. Maybe the alcohol would kill it, maybe not.
posted by gjc at 8:26 AM on December 6, 2010

Response by poster: I definitely know I'm late in the year for this, but we're an "it's the thought that counts" kind of bunch, so a gift certificate will still do the trick. I'm just hoping they don't totally go to waste. Thanks, you guys!
posted by shopefowler at 9:52 AM on December 6, 2010

« Older Looking for iphone apps that help change behavior   |   Favorite massage products? Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.