12.10.2016

Just in Time

We first encountered mandarinello in the spring of 2002, when we were staying a week in Vernazza, one of the five villages that comprise the Cinque Terre.

We had rented a grape harvester's cottage high above the village for our own version of Enchanted April. That film was set in Portofino, a few miles west along the Tyrrhenian Coast.  In the garden of our cottage, the spring vegetables were just coming in. The precipitous terraces enabled us to reach to the tops of the mandarin trees growing below to pluck fresh fruits nearing the end of their season.

Each day, we hiked from at least one of the five villages to another, and sometimes back. On occasion, sated by a tremendous noon dinner, we would return by the milk train. If you haven't been there, this is the quickest way to get from village to village.

When in Corniglia, the middle village of the five, perched high atop a bluff overlooking the sea, we had just finished a wonderful midday meal at Osteria A Cantina de Mananan, when we came across a little shop that sold limoncello and mandarinello.

We were well acquainted with limoncello, but had never tried mandarinello. So we bought a bottle, and the bottle itself was spherical and embossed with the continents to make it look like the globe.

The truth is, we bought the mandarinello for us, and the bottle for our friend Mikey who collects maps and globes. Mikey doesn't drink, so we simply had to empty that bottle before giving it to him.

Now that is true friendship, right?

Flash-forward to this year when we had a lovely crop of mandarin oranges on our very own little potted tree. It was our first year with this particular variety and we admit to being a little disappointed. The fruit was much more tart than we anticipated.

If, when life gives you lemons, you make Lavender Lemonade, it only follows that, when life gives you sour mandarin oranges, you make mandarinello.

You can make this liqueur with any kind of mandarin orange or clementine. It takes only 10 days to steep so, in December, when the fruits are prolific in the stores, you are just in time to make it and have it ready for the holidays.

~ David

Mandarinello

16-20 mandarins or clementines, organic (untreated)
3 1/2 cups Everclear® pure alcohol, or vodka
2 cups sugar
3 cups water

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the mandarin oranges and place it in a large glass jar that has a lid. • Pour the alcohol over the zest and seal the jar. Set the jar aside in a cool, dark place for 10 days, shaking it from time to time while the zest macerates.

After the 10 days, make a simple syrup by bringing the sugar and water to a boil, stirring until all the sugar is dissolved. Let it cool to room temperature.

Using a fine mesh sieve, strain the alcohol into a large bowl. Discard the mandarin zest. Pour the simple syrup into the strained alcohol and stir. If you use pure alcohol, it will turn cloudy. Decant into bottles and store in a dark, cool place. I keep mine in the freezer. ••

• If you desire, juice the fruit and either drink it or use it for a marinade.

•• If you decide to use vodka instead of pure alcohol, you cannot keep the mandarinello in the freezer.



28 comments:

  1. Mandarinello indeed is limoncello only made with mandarine oranges, which sounds absolutely lovely. Like the place where you made its acquaintance. Don't you find the memories only make it taste even better?

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    1. They do, Frank - sometimes the memories taste even better!

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  2. I have a first year crop of satsuma so that I hope are sweet enough to eat out of hand. If not thanks for this smart fix for sour fruit. PS You paint a vibrant image of you Italian trip. GREG

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    1. I hope your Satsumas are sweet, Greg - if not, I am sure you will make something fantastic out of them!

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  3. I take it that no arms were twisted to empty that bottle! And you stayed in Vernazza? So jealous. Part of the trail was closed when were were there, so we didn't get to see all of the villages. At least Vernazza was one of them.

    Some friends of ours make their own limoncello, so I may be telling them about this beauty. Only so it's ready for when we get back home.

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    1. I have stayed in Vernazza twice now - once before it was the popular destination it has become, and then once with Mark about 14 years ago. I definitely want/need to go back.

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  4. I am sure Mandarinello is delicious. We love limoncello and have recently fallen in love with melonise (combination of melon and anise). But, you need to come to Provence to try it :-)

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    1. You need not twist my arm, Carolyne! The melonise sounds fantastic!

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  5. Very nice David, I bet Mandarinello is delicious. Staying in a grape harvestor's cottage sounds romantic to me, the perfect way to explore and enjoy an area. Beautiful pictures!!

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    1. It was pretty romantic, Cheri - the living room and kitchen were outdoors under the patio roof, and the bed and bath indoors, although there was no temperature differential!

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  6. David, I enjoyed the beautiful pictures of your trip. That village looks magical and romantic! Your Mandarinello sounds delicious. :)

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    1. Marcelle - it is one of my favorite places on earth, and definitely romantic!

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  7. Oh my word, what a beautiful post, David. Thank you so much for sharing this. I had not heard of Mandarinello before this xxx

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    1. Thanks, Liz! I have never seen mandarinello outside of Liguria - maybe it is a local specialty?

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  8. Beautiful post. I love seeing the amazing photos. I haven't heard of mandarinello, so this excites me. thanks for sharing the recipe. I would love if you share this at our link party, Dishing It & Digging It. The party is live now.

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    1. Thanks, Linda - I am so sorry I am reading this the next morning. I need to find out about the Dishing It & Digging It parties!

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  9. This is such an amazing colour! What a great story to go with this drink. Would love to try it!

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    1. Thanks, Caroline - the color itself warms your heart...

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  10. Between the beautiful shades of orange and images of the Cinque Terre, this is a gorgeous post. Inspiring--makes me want to make the Mandarinello and return to the Cinque Terre!

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    1. Susan - you should definitely do both those things! Make it, and return!

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  11. I have such fond memories of the the Cinque Terre . Thank you for bringing back those memories with this gorgeous post. David. Could you please email me the address of your cottage if it's still for rent . I have to try your mandarinello , it looks delicious.

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    1. Gerlinde - sadly, we lost contact with the owner, and I have even looked on Airbnb to see if I can locate it. But, the good news is, that while on Airbnb I fond many places I would love to rent!

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    2. Thank you for trying David. I haven't made any traveling plans for 2017.

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  12. That is such a picture perfect part of Italy and your photos certainly show the charm of the area. What a nice and delicious way to use your sour fruit.

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    1. Karen - it makes me so happy to know that such beautiful still exists in the world!

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  13. I've yet to make it to Cinque Terra, David, but would very much like to tour the 5 towns when I next visit my family. Your photos only strengthen that desire. If I can find enough mandarins, I'll gladly prepare this liqueur. In the past, I've made limoncello, arancello, and calcello, as well as a tart cherry liqueur. Mandarinello would make a fine addition to my repertoire. Thanks for sharing both your photos and recipe.

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    1. I have never head of calcello, John, so am on my way to look that up! Happy Christmas!

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  14. What a lovely solution--your tree is beautiful even if the fruit was not what you expected. And how nice that it brought back such interesting memories (and dramatic vistas)!

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Thank you for taking the time to leave me a note - I really appreciate hearing from you and welcome any ideas you may have for future posts, too. Happy Cooking!

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