Sunday, 23 September 2012

Zio Mimmo's Sweet Delight (Crema di Limoncello)

In the heat of an Italian Summer, you can  easily forget long Winter's days and short nights. The snowy footprints of a cat outside your door, a sprig of holly, the smell of the earth on a rainy day, seem so far removed from life in a hot climate.

I'm thinking of hot days and even hotter nights, when it's hard to sleep and every little sound, from the street, becomes as deafening as thunder. It is sometimes impossible to stand that kind of heat... it takes over your life, but I love it!

I'm thinking of Summer evenings, at my sister's house, spent laughing and chatting, and watching the world below... so many lives, so many people and cars... cars and then cars. The whistle of a smartly uniformed police woman stops the noise... for a few seconds, and then... the carousel starts again: voices, laughs, music, cigarette smoke and the smell of sun lotion in the air.

I love Italy! I love the colours, the music, the lack of discipline and the fact that every Italian is an individual. In Italy, we don't like uniforms...

Our house up on the mountains of Cilento, is something else: peace, quiet, the sound of the wind softly blowing through your hair and the scent of wild herbs and lemon trees. I love our house and the pace of life ( we couldn't do it for over 5 weeks, though! Too quiet for us!)

This Summer I found out that we have tiny baby gekkos living in the box which covers the door bell, and I saw a snake, making its way down the stairs, outside our house right behind my husband. I told him later...

So, I have brought back with me the scents, the colours and the music of my native beautiful Italy. I sometimes stop and wonder: if it's true that God created the World, why and how could he have placed so much beauty just in one place? Italy is a land blessed in many ways.

 With these very happy thoughts in mind and a little supply of beautifully scented and coloured lemons, I decided to make Crema di Limoncello, following my brother Mimmo's recipe. He's quite THE CHEF!

Crema di limoncello is creamy, lemony and very, very smooth. It goes well with any cake made with ricotta, which is what I did: I made a ricotta and strawberry cake, using a new recipe (to follow.)

If you want a real smooth, soft, velvety taste of my Italy, try this recipe. I used Spirit, which I brought back from Italy. Vodka is a subsitute, but I cannot guarantee it will taste the same... but it's better than nothing, I guess!

Crema di Limoncello di Zio Mimmo
(Uncle Mimmo's Crema di Limoncello)

Makes about 1 1/2 litre of wonderful liquer

1/2 litre Spirit or Vodka
(use Spirit if you want an authentic flavour)
The zest of 6 lemons
( my mum always used 4 lemons and 2 limes)
1 kg sugar
1l whole milk
250g pouring cream
some vanilla

Very easy to make! Peel the zest off your lemons and limes (if using) making sure to avoid the white pith, as this would make your liquer bitter (and if you were making normal limoncello, it would also make it cloudy!)

I put my Spirit (which I brought back from Italy) in a jar, then added my lemon zest, made sure the jar was tightly closed and placed in a dark place for two days.
Two days later... my spirit had turned a lovely shade of bright yellow and I knew I could now make my lovely creamy liquer.

In a saucepan, I brought my milk and sugar to the boil and, stirred continuously, to make sure the sugar was melted. I then let the milk cool down and waited... I was so impatient... I couldn't help it... it was quite exciting... Eventually my molk was cold and I was ready to add all my beautiful cream, my vanilla (did you know the pods are orchid seed pods?) and the spirit.

All I had to do, now, was stir, and taste... so good, so creamy... just fantastic! Mimmo was right: adding cream makes Crema di Limoncello really delicious!

I took some photos of my beautiful vintage bottle, filled with the sweet delight I made. I went outside and picked what possibly might have been the last of the Summer's bloom: roses and hydrangeas, to add colour and beauty.

 The little vintage glasses were given to me by an old lady at a flea market. It had been a beautiful day and I thought I would make a ricotta cake, as, apparently, ricotta and Limoncello go well together. I made my cake look pretty, with leaves and fruit. It tasted delicious!

We had a wonderful Italian meal with a "Gran Finale": my chilled Crema di Limoncello and my Torta alla Ricotta were a fantastic combination!

As you can see... I'm finally back to share my Taste of Italy with you all!