Monday, February 25, 2019

Buddhacello!

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You are surely familiar with limoncello, that wonderfully citrus aperitif that smells and tastes of summer and sunlight. It’s one of the many things that make me so happy Italy exists.
But as good as this liqueur is with lemons, it’s even better with Buddha’s hand citron. 
A couple of weeks ago I showed you how to make candied Buddha’s hand citron, and I really hope you took my advice and made a batch, because that is one extraordinary candy. (If your excuse is that you don’t have this kind of citron in your area, try grapefruit or pomelo peel… they are incredibly tasty, too.)
Today, though, is booze day. Be sure and make this before these fragrant citrons are out of season. And by the way, it’s incredibly easy to do if you use this recipe.
Cleaned up tentacles
I used to carefully peel off the zest, which is a major pain in the butt when you are dealing with all those skinny tendrils. My friend Scott, though, made me see the error of my ways (thanks, Scott!). I now happily chop the whole hand up and call it a day. The pith isn’t bitter like, say, grapefruit, so no damage is done here by being lazy.
Plain old vodka is great here. I also use rock sugar, as it gives the liqueur a smoother aftertaste—none of that sourness that white (caster) sugar creates. What you get as a result of this tiny tweak is something really smooth and delicious.  Do note that this Buddhacello is less sweet and syrupy than most limoncellos because that's the way I like it. If you prefer a sweeter brew, just double down on the sugar.
You can vary the flavors in here with happy abandon, of course. Add a split vanilla bean, maybe, or some kaffir lime leaves or lemongrass or whatever makes your heart sing or whatever you happen to have hanging around. And then when the dog days of summer finally arrive, treat your friends to this syrupy elixir. I keep a bottle in the freezer (it’s almost pure alcohol, so it remains liquid) for life’s little celebrations. It’s also great in cocktails or in a champagne glass topped up with chilled Prosecco.
Buddhacello
Fóshŏu fànqiánjĭu  佛手飯前酒
Italy, with a detour into China
Makes about 1 gallon | 4 liters
Chopped and ready to macerate
Around 1½ pounds | 600 g Buddha’s hand citron 2 (1.75 liter) bottles vodka (Tito's is recommended) 10 ounces | 300 g yellow rock sugar 1 cup water 1. Scrub the citron well. Slice it between the tentacles and be sure to scrub really well down there in the wrinkles and folds. Roughly chop the whole citron and place it in a very clean gallon jar.
2. Pour the vodka over the citron. Cover the jar and stir it every day for a couple of days so that the citron soaks up the vodka while releasing its fragrant oils. Let the citron sit in the vodka for a week or up to a month. (I didn’t notice any difference in the flavor after a week, but it doesn’t hurt.) Strain out the citron and return the vodka to the jar.
3. Place the sugar in a saucepan and add the water. Bring the pan to a boil, cover it tightly, and lower the heat to maintain a gentle simmer. Remove the pan from the heat when most of the sugar has dissolved. Cool the sugar water to room temperature, and then stir it into the vodka. Divide the Buddhacello among some clean bottles. Cap, label, and date the bottles. 4. Now comes the aging part. You can, of course, drink this now, but it will be so much better once it's had some time to mellow out. Keep it in a cool place for a couple of months at least before you give it a try. If you are happy with it at that point, stash one bottle in the freezer and the rest in a dark pantry. This will keep for years and become even mellower in the process, if you are strong-willed.