There is something very special about the smell of oranges. It immediately stirs those Christmassy feelings of course, but it also seems to have a wonderfully healing fragrance that is both cleansing and nourishing.
Essential oil of orange has many beneficial properties; anti-inflammatory, antidepressant, antispasmodic, antiseptic, aphrodisiac, carminative, diuretic, tonic, digestive and sedative. So with such an impressive list of benefits, why not harness them into a home-made liqueur? Such a fragrant and warming after-dinner treat on a cold winter’s night.
This is a really simple process, but it does take time. Steep the orange zests in vodka for at least a month, and as the orange oil releases, the flavour will intensify. When the vodka has extracted all the orange essence and is glowing like a jar of sunshine, you mix the concentrated vodka essence with sugar syrup and more vodka. It should now be allowed to continue to mature for a further month before you discard the spent zests. Only then are you ready to decant the Orangecello into smaller bottles ready for Christmas.
- 12 medium oranges with a good firm, bright orange skin, washed and dried.
- 1.5 litres of vodka (a supermarket brand is fine)
- 5 cups of water
- 3 cups of sugar
- Pour half of the vodka into your largest glass storage jar and then add the zest of the oranges. Be careful to avoid the white pith as this makes it bitter.
- Put the lid on the jar and leave it alone to steep for a month, in a cool dark place. Don't worry if you leave it a little longer, this will only intensify the flavour.
- During this time, you will notice the colour changing from clear to golden orange, this means the vodka is doing it's work.
- When at least a month has passed, put the sugar and the water in a heavy pan, bring it to the boil and cook for around 7 minutes until it turns into a thick syrup.
- After it has cooled, add it to the contents of the jar, and top up with the rest of the vodka.
- At this point it may be too much for one jar, so divide the mixture equally between two.
- Close the lids and leave for another month.
- Now it is time to strain your orangecello and discard the zest, you'll notice they are much paler now as all the orange essence has been released.
- Hooray! It's ready to bottle it up for gifts and enjoy!
Although this makes a lovely gift at Christmas, you can make this anytime of year as it’s incredibly useful to liven up all sorts of desserts, and I find it always makes everyone want second helpings of fruit salad!
This is not a project for anyone in a hurry, but you will find it is well worth waiting for! And if you need a liqueur recipe which is just as nice, but much quicker to make, then check out my Homemade Amaretto.
When you remove the zests, if you want to be extra frugal, you can use them again by soaking them in white vinegar for a few weeks. This makes a very effective cleaner because the essence of vodka and orange oil has powerful properties too!