Thursday, July 30, 2020

When Life Gives You Lemons

By Carl Weiss

Image courtesy needpix
You're no doubt familiar with the  adage, "When life gives you lemons, make lemonade."  Well, I'd like to make an amendment to that sad old saw.  Because when I have a half dozen lemons, what I like to do is make something much tastier than lemonade.  What I'm going to show you below is how to use both the rind and the juice from six lemons to make a creamy Italian liqueur and a fabulous icebox pie that's guaranteed to keep you cool when it's hot outside.

Crema di Limoncello

I first heard of this liqueur from a buddy of mine who had just come back from a trip to Tuscany.  Other than the fabulous cuisine he sampled in Italy, he waxed poetic about a liqueur that he had sampled at the B&B he had stayed in.  His description was so tantalizing that I felt I had to try it for myself.  After a little research online, I came up with the recipe:

The zest of 6 lemons
1 bottle of grain alcohol
1 carton of half and half
3 cups of sugar
1 tbsp of vanilla

Image courtesy pxfuel
To start with, scrub a half dozen lemons.  Then take a vegetable peeler and carefully peel all 6.  Place the peels in a pitcher and pour a bottle of grain alcohol over them.  Juice the lemons and set this aside for the pie.Set the bottle in a cool, dark cabinet for 7-10 days.  (You'll know the booze is ready when the liquid is yellow and the peels are white.  Strain the alcohol and set aside.

Next, you need to make a simple syrup by warming the cream and adding the sugar.  Make sure you continually stir the pot or you risk burning the cream.  When the mixture starts to bubble, take it off the heat and add the vanilla.  Then allow it to cool with the lid off.  This will thicken the cream slightly.

Let the vanilla cream cool completely until it reaches room temperature.  Then pour the cream into the pitcher of strained grain alcohol and stir.  I like to decant the Crema di Limoncello into a couple of wine bottles which I then cork and store in the freezer.  Due to the high alcohol content of the liqueur, you don't have to worry about it freezing.  To serve, you can either drink a shot straight, or you can pour the liqueur on the rocks and add a splash of cream.  You and your guests will think you've all died and gone to Siena.  Mama Mia!

Here's what you do with the lemon juice:

Long before the Crema di Limoncello is ready to drink, you can make a tangy Lemon Icebox Pie that you and your friends will love.  In fact, since the recipe only calls for the juice of two lemons, you'll have enough to make three pies.  (note: lemon juice freezes nicely)  Below are the ingredients and the video to show you how to make this delightful dessert step-by-step.

Juice from 2 lemons
1 cup sugar
1/4 cup of butter (1/2 a stick)
2 large eggs, separated
4 tbsp flour
Pinch of salt
Partially baked pie crust

Image courtesy Man Cave Munchies
While you can buy a prepared crust, man up and make it yourself.  Store-bought crust isn't nearly as tasty and flaky as homemade.  Not to mention that it isn't difficult to make.

1/2 cup cold vegetable shortening (I keep a can of Crisco in my fridge just for crust & biscuits)
1 1/3 cup flour
1/2 tsp salt
6-8 tsp ice cold water

Even though I show you how to make the crust in the video below, this isn't rocket science guys.  Into a big bowl pour the 1 1/3 cups of flour and then add a 1/2 cup of chilled vegetable shortening to the bowl.  Take a fork and begin cutting the shortening into the flour until the mixture resembles crumb cake.  Then add 4 tablespoons of water and using the same fork, stir the water into the flour mixture.  Once the mixture begins to clump together, put a little flour on your hands and start making mud pies.  Add up to another 4 tablespoons of water a little at a time as you continue to knead the mixture until a dough ball forms.

Take the dough ball over to the cutting board and place it between two sheets of wax paper.  Using a rolling pin or a wine bottle, roll the dough out into a 12-inch wide circle.  (You'll know you're done when the dough reaches the edges of the waxed paper.  Carefully peel back the wax paper and lay the dough into a pie plate.  Preheat your oven to 425 degrees.  While you're waiting for the oven to warm up, use your fingers to work the dough into a pie crust.  Then prick the crust all over with a fork.  This will keep the crust from cracking.  Blind bake the crust at 425 for 10-minutes and then remove from the oven.  Now you're ready to make the pie filling.

Before you start pulling together the filling, you need to separate two eggs.  (If you don't know how to do this, see the video below,)  Put the yolks in a medium bowl and the whites in a separate bowl.  I used a mixer to beat the whites until they were fluffy, but you can also use a hand whisk to achieve the same result.  Set the whites aside.

Cream the sugar and the butter with a fork, then pour in the lemon juice, the egg yolks, the salt and the 4 tablespoons of flour.  Use a whisk to blend until the mixture is smooth and all the flour lumps have disappeared.  Then gently fold the whipped egg whites into the filling.  Don't worry if all the lumps of egg white don't fully break up.  Pour the filling into the pie crust and bake at 425 for 10-minutes, then reduce the heat to 325 and bake for an additional 30-45 minutes until the top of the pie is browned and the filling is set.  Cool for 30-minutes before putting in the fridge for several hours to chill before serving.  Top each slice with a dollop of whipped cream.

Want to see even more videos? Go to the Man Cave Munchies website.  Feel free to leave your comments below and don't forget to subscribe to the blog.  Munch on!

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