Summer Sips

I’ve never liked limoncello, not even when I tried the authentic version in Italy years ago. It was always too strong and tasted like liquid lightening, burning as it travelled down my throat. But thanks to our colorful friend Jimmy “The Fur” and his outstanding recipe (“Good s*#! and fun to make!” he told me), we have a new hobby here at Honeysuckle Hill—from-scratch limoncello. The homemade version of this traditional citrus liquor has officially won me over.

Our daughter went to an extended sleep-away camp this summer, and my husband and I spent LOTS of time making homemade limoncello (actually, my husband watched helpfully as I peeled about a hundred lemons by hand) and nearly as much time drinking it. If I was feeling adventurous, I’d throw in some lime and orange peels to make the flavor a little more complex. Note: you DO have to be patient, because it takes three weeks for the grain alcohol to become fully infused with the citrus oils. But in the end, it’s definitely worth the wait. Limoncello not only won MY heart, but has become the most requested summer cocktail at our house.

SERVING TIP: Limoncello is traditionally served arctic cold, without ice. I recently found these mini shot glass mason jars at Cost Plus World Market—they hold just the right amount, and they look great!

JIMMY’S HOMEMADE LIMONCELLO

½ gallon grain alcohol (I use Everclear) or unflavored 100-proof vodka
30 lemons
¾ gallon water
4–5 cups granulated sugar

Pour alcohol into a large bowl or glass jar with a lid. Use a vegetable peeler or very sharp paring knife to carefully peel only the top layer of skin from the lemons into wide strips—no white pithy parts. Discard the fruit (or better yet, set aside to juice for lemonade or lemon ice cream, later). Place the peels into the container with the alcohol, cover with lid, and freeze for 2 weeks to infuse liquor with citrus oils.

After 2 weeks, remove container from freezer and bring to room temperature. Remove peels and discard. In a large pot, bring ¾ gallon of water to a boil. Add 4–5 cups sugar, depending upon how sweet you prefer your limoncello. Stir until sugar is completely dissolved and liquid is clear. Remove pan from heat, and let sugar water cool. When mixture reaches room temperature, add to the lemon-infused alcohol. Presto! Limoncello! Serve ice-cold. Makes approximately 1 ½ gallons.

BEST BEEF
To me, nothing says summer like the sound of burgers sizzling and popping on the grill. It’s not like I need an excuse to eat them more often, but if I did, here it is: Nancy Silverton’s Special Burger Blend. This unique ground beef mixture, available exclusively at Huntington Meats in the Los Angeles Farmers Market, makes THE BEST burgers I’ve ever tasted, anywhere. The meat is not seasoned; rather it’s a unique blend of coarse-ground prime chuck along with other select cuts. An ideal fat content makes them drip and smoke just so—giving you a crispy charred crust outside, and tender, juicy meat inside. If you’re within a decent drive, it’s worth braving the traffic and parking for the perfect burger.
www.huntingtonmeats.com

ROAD TRIP FIND: ROSE’S SUGAR SHACK


We stumbled across Rose’s Sugar Shack Cafe in San Clemente accidentally, while looking for a pit-stop during an excruciating bumper-to-bumper drive from LA to San Diego. Just off the El Camino Real exit from the 405 Freeway, we found two kinds of relief: a clean restroom AND true cinnamon roll greatness. I don’t take traffic lightly, but these might be worth two hours of gridlock.

Proprietor Rose bakes her secret recipe from scratch every morning; the cafe is only open through lunch AND they sell out most days, so you’ll need to get an early start. If your arrival time is approaching 10 a.m., consider giving Rose a call—if you ask nicely, she’ll be happy to set a few rolls aside for you. If you need to take your rolls to go (and can somehow avoid scarfing them down in the car), use Rose’s easy trick for re-heating. To keep these huge cinnamon rolls moist and gooey, simply place a glass of water in the microwave next to the plate with your cinnamon roll. Heat for 45 seconds, and enjoy. A LOT.
www.sugarshackcafe.net