Sunday, March 10, 2013

Peeling Citrus For Making Liqueur

In my post on making limoncello, I glance over harvesting the zest. Making the zest is tricky because you want just the yellow part of the lemon. If you leave any of the white pith, it will impart a bitter taste. The size of the zest also matters. The finer the zest the cloudier the limoncello. Here are my notes on the various tools for removing the zest.


The microplane grater is the classic tool for making zest. Slow and steady wins the race here. As long as you are careful, there will not be any pith in your zest. The big downside to this method is the amount of work it takes to make the zest. In addition, because it makes fine pieces, the resulting limoncello will be cloudy. I am not a fan of this method.

Lemon Zester

A zesting tool removes the zest very fast. Because it uses a scraping mechanism, it will not remove any pith. However, lacking an actual blade like a peeler, it will make your thumb sore from the extra force required. Additionally, it wastes a lot of zest in between the five scrapers. Ultimately this tool makes decorative zest and is slow at zesting in bulk. Save this tool for when you are using extremely clean tasting vodka and cannot allow even the smallest bit of pith.

Vegetable Peeler

A vegetable peeler is my preferred method of removing the zest. It is quick due to the wide blade and you can remove nearly all the zest in one continuous stroke. (The picture is the zest of an entire orange.) While fast and easy, it can cut a little deep if you are not careful. If you are good with a knife, you can cut the pith off and if you are not, then just throw away the section with the pith. You can see some pith remaining on the right curl in the picture. Leaving zest in large pieces will make for a very clear limoncello. Unfortunately, you will always have some pith when you use this method but it will not be noticeable if you are only using mid-range vodka.