Over the tuscan stove – Homemade liqueurs
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Over the tuscan stove – Homemade liqueurs

Raised in California, I’d never seen fireflies until I moved here. I’ll never forget the first night I saw them. What a miracle! I passed the Ferragamo Villa while driving into Florence from Fiesole. It looked as though they had decorated their fields with Christmas lights.

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Thu 09 Jun 2005 12:00 AM

Raised in California, I’d never seen fireflies until I moved here. I’ll never forget the first night I saw them. What a miracle! I passed the Ferragamo Villa while driving into Florence from Fiesole. It looked as though they had decorated their fields with Christmas lights. I thought I was dreaming!

 

Recently, my husband Andrea called me out to see the fireflies in our garden. It’s heaven right here on earth!

 

In addition to the fireflies, June brings several other things to Florence as well. On the evening of June 24th, there are fabulous fireworks to celebrate St. John the Baptist, the patron saint of Florence, as well as the final playoff of the annual Renaissance soccer game played by teams from four neighbourhoods: Santa Croce, Santo Spirito, Santa Maria Novella, and San Giovanni. The game is a combination of soccer, rugby, and big-time wrestling.

 

Each game begins with a colourful parade of over 400 people in costume. They look like they’ve stepped out of a Renaissance painting! Their faces haven’t changed in centuries!

 

On the morning of June 24th, I’ll be out gathering unripe green walnuts to make Nocino (recipe below), Florence’s after-dinner drink. Tradition dictates that the walnuts should be gathered on the feast day of St. John the Baptist (Natività S. Giovanni Battista) when the morning dew is still on them.

 

For those who don’t like walnuts, try another favourite Italian after-dinner drink, Limoncello.

 

Originally from Capri and the Amalfi Coast, Limoncello should be served directly from the freezer and has become a necessity in my house!

 

Only use organic lemons because soaking lemons in alcohol draws out any chemicals that remain on the fruit. In Italy organic lemons have the stems and leaves still on them. If you’re unsure, soak for 10 minutes in warm water and then dry off.

 

Limoncello Liqueur

 

Soak the zest of 5 organic lemons in 2 cups whole grain alcohol for 3 days, in a clear jar.

(If you can’t find the alcohol, use 100 Proof vodka and reduce the water to 1 cup.)

Make a simple syrup by heating 2 cups of water and 1-1/2 cups sugar.

Mix together and strain out the lemon peels.

Keep in the freezer.

Enjoy!

 

Nocino Italiano

Walnut Liqueur

 

30 walnuts, green & unripe, (noci fresche)

1 litre of whole grain alcohol, Everclear in America

(Alcool puro)

1 large strip lemon zest (about a quarter of a lemon)

2 cinnamon sticks, cannella

5 cloves

1/2 litre water

2-1/2 cups sugar

 

Clean the walnuts with a damp towel and cut in quarters. (Be careful; they will stain your hands!)

Place in a large jar, add the alcohol, and cover with a lid. Let sit for one day.

Add the cloves, lemon zest, sugar, and water.

Shake the jar once a day for 40 days.

Filter and save the liqueur.

It is ready to drink after 3 months’ rest.

I always try it right away!

Serve in tiny glasses at the end of a meal.

I love to drizzle the liqueur over vanilla ice cream. Some people save the walnut pieces, cover them with sherry, and serve them chopped up for dessert.

For more recommendations see Divina Cucina’s dining guide online at www.divinacucina.com

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