Every chef instructor’s biography on The Chopping Block's website lists the five ingredients they can’t live without. As a chef assistant, I’ve haven’t had to think about that. That’s a really tough question, but I know one of my five is definitely ginger. I love it’s warm spiciness in both savory and sweet cooking. Whenever a recipe calls for ginger, I almost always add double the amount it calls for, from gingerbread to Thai curry.
Lately I’ve been making my own limoncello, inspired by the way my great aunt used to do it. It’s as simple as taking a neutral liquor (Everclear, vodka, or any grain alcohol), steeping lemon peel in for two weeks, and then adding a simple syrup. After aging one batch and then clearing one of my jars earlier this week, I decided to attempt a ginger liqueur.
Now bear in mind this is steeping as you are reading this, and it’s an experiment, but stay tuned for next month’s blog for the final results. In the meantime, I will show you how I got started, and we’ll be going on this journey together. We will find out how gingery it tastes, how long it took to steep, and how much syrup to add for the final product.
For this recipe, I am using 750ml of plain vodka (get the cheap stuff for this), one large knob of ginger, and a half gallon jar with a nice tight fitting lid.
It is important to peel your ginger because the peel is very bitter, and it will prevent the oils in the ginger from steeping into the vodka. However, do NOT use a peeler to remove the skin, because the peeler will also remove the top layer of the flesh, which is where most of the oils are. Instead, use a spoon! Simple! Plus it helps you get around all those lil nubbins that ginger is notorious for having!
I chose to grate the ginger on the fine grates of a box grater, but I imagine slicing or mincing would work just as well. If you do choose to grate, watch your fingers! (Fun fact: even though we rarely have classroom scrapes, more of them happen from graters than from knives.)
The knob yielded a little over ½ cup. When I make limoncello, I use about 10-12 lemons worth of peel, but remember, ginger is very strong, so a smaller amount should suffice.
I can’t wait to see what this yields. My current plan is to taste this in a week, to see how much the ginger has steeped. If I feel it needs more, I’ll give it one more week. Then I plan to see how much simple syrup I think it needs. Keep in mind I love ginger, so this is tailored to my spice-loving palate!
I'm looking forward to experimenting with this liqueur in some warming cocktails this season. Are you interested in learning more about wintry cocktails? Join us for Winter Cocktails and Appetizers at at our Lincoln Square location on Thursday, January 25 at 7pm. Just four spots remain!