Mandarinetto from Campania
Most people have heard of limoncello, that sweet, tangy oh-so-mediterranean liqueur from the Amalfi Coast which just screams of summer, sun and after dinner drinks on a balcony surrounded by the scent of the sea. Yes, limoncello is deservedly famous. And easy to make… but that’s for another post.
How many of you have heard of its equally delicious winter equivalent, mandarinetto? Not many of you I bet.
With its richer, darker colour and sweeter, even more aromatic flavour, mandarinetto is every bit as good as limoncello as well as even easier to make. So when I saw a basket full of mandarins sitting in the corner of the green grocer’s on the corner for 80ç, I bought them.
You will need (makes 2 litres of liqueur):
about 16 medium sized, thin skinned mandarin oranges
1 litre of 100% food grade alcohol (or strong vodka if you are in the UK)
700g of caster sugar
One week of patience.
The first step is to peel the mandarins. If they are still good inside then you might think about using them to make a sauce or a cheesecake topping. The ones I used were pretty dry and shrivelled so I just chucked them.
What you want is the peel. With as little of the pith as possible – if you have thicker skinned mandarins or you are using a different citrus fruit (such as lemons hint hint) then use a potato peeler to get the coloured part of the peel without taking the white pith as too much of this will make your liqueur bitter.
Fill a large ceramic or glass bowl with the peels then pour one litre of pure alcohol on top. Seal this with some clingfilm – make sure that this is relatively airtight as you don’t want to much evaporation – put the bowl out of the way… and forget about it for a while.
This is where patience comes in. You need to wait until the alcohol has taken on the colour of the fruit and the peels themselves have gone a bit pallid and what can only be described as “crunchy” (please don’t actually try them, you’ll be able to feel it by touch alone) as all the essential oils will have leeched out into the alchohol. Some recipes say that you need to wait for up to a month or longer, and suggest shaking the peels avery day. I generally find that if I just ignore the bowl on top of the fridge for a week to ten days that does the trick, in all honesty.
Once your week (or fortnight, or month) has elapsed, remove the clingfilm and seive the alchohol into another container, before throwing the peels. Heat up one litre of water (a little less if you are using vodka) with about 700g of caster sugar and stir until all of the sugar has dissolved. While the syrup is still warm, but not hot, pour it into the container with the alcohol. The heat causes a reaction which makes the liqueur take on the characteristic cloudiness of Amalfi coast fruit liqueur – if you want it clear, apparently you have to wait until the syrup is cool. I have never waited, so I am not sure if this is the case or not.
Get your bottles, and ladle the liquer into them, using a funnel and some filter paper, or even a big wad of cotton wool, to eliminate any particles pf peel or pith left over. Once the liqueur is cool, but some bottles aside, and be sure to place one in the freezer – this stuff is at its best icy cold.