One of the dinners I shared with my family in Sao Miguel was at my cousin John Manuel’s home with his lovely family.We had the usual late dinner that didn’t start until 8:00 pm, and it was nearing midnight when it was about to end. But we still had one more thing to do: have some homemade liqueur to help settle our stomachs. That is when I had the most delicious tangerine liqueur. John Manuel told me that my mother was very good at making liqueur, and she would often have an assortment of tangerine, lemon, pineapple and milk liqueurs during the Christmas season to offer to all of her visitors. I loved hearing the stories of how my dad would make the wine in the fall, and from the leftover grape skins he made moonshine so my mom could make her liqueurs.
This recipe can be used for different citrus fruits. Since all the fruits were typically picked fresh and in season, it’s best to use organic fruits. The alcohol will extract the color and flavor of the peels, so you want the liqueur to be as pure as possible with no added chemicals. I experimented with lemons and all I can say is it was delicious.
4 cups grain alcohol
2 lbs organic lemons
6 cups water
4 cups sugar
Peel the lemon skins very thinly so that only the yellow part of the skin is peeled. Be careful to avoid the white part of the rind, as it will make the liqueur bitter.
Soak the skins in the alcohol in a plastic container. Make sure the lemon skins are completely submerged. Seal the container with a lid and let it stand for a minimum of 14 days.
After the lemon peels have soaked, strain the lemon peels from the alcohol. If the skins have broken up into very small pieces, use a coffee filter in your strainer to help catch all the loose pieces. Throw away the peels and set the lemon-infused alcohol aside.
In a separate pan, bring the water to a boil. Add the sugar and stir until it has dissolved. Cover the pan and set aside until it has cooled to room temperature (at least a few hours).
Once the sugar-water mixture has reached room temperature, mix in the lemon flavored alcohol.
You are now ready to bottle.
I was able to fill one large wine bottle and 6 smaller ones with this recipe, but how to store and serve the liqueur is up to your preference. In Sao Miguel, it was served at room temperature, but I personally prefer it chilled from the freezer.