Although my husband comes from Arcadia, all his relatives live in Sparta, Lakonia. Sparta is situated on the foothills of Taygetus Mountain and is the center of an agricultural plain whose focus is the Eurotas valley. It is the local center for the processing of goods such as citrus and olives. Recently, it has invested in one of the largest and most modern fruit juice production and conditioning plants in Greece, and has built up a reputation of excellence for its orange juices, produced from Lakonia oranges.
View of Taygetus from their back yard
My in-laws who live there have both orange and olive groves. The production is just for their personal use and whatever extra they have they give around to friends and relatives. Each time they visit us they bring along some of their produce.
Greeks are very hospitable people and when you are friends with them whenever the occasion arises they will send you some of their home made or home produced products. We also have some friends from Crete and during the past years my eldest son, who is a student, has been working during the summer time in Cretan hotels. Whenever he used to come home on his days off, for a couple of days friends would send a bottle of their famous tsikoudia. Tsikoudia is their local drink and whoever has been to Crete before knows that wherever you go you will be offered a free drink of tsikoudia. So I have many bottles of tsikoudia from Crete and my relatives from Cyprus have also been sending me the Cypriot equivalent which is called Zivania.
The ones I have from Cyprus are produced in wineries whereas the ones from Crete are distilled in home distilleries. I’ve had them in my cupboards for months now not knowing what to do with them as we do not drink a lot in my family except occasionally my husband drinks some wine and ouzo.
The last time my sister-in-law visited us with her family they brought along a big carton of oranges which were too much to consume so I wanted to squeeze some into orange juice.
When squeezing the oranges this great idea came up. To combine both oranges and tsikoudia and make an orange liqueur.
I remembered seeing this procedure last year on television and searched my cooking notebooks to see if I had recorded it.I had listed the ingredients but the notes on the procedure were a bit vague so I decided to see more recipes on the internet and get everything clear before proceeding.
The procedure proved to be a very easy one, as the only thing needed was to put the orange peels in the liquor for at least fifteen days and then prepare a syrup and mix it with the liquor.
So easy and you get a pure, natural orange liqueur which is a very mild drink by itself or you can make use of it in sweet and savory dishes.
Reading about liqueurs I learned that orange liqueurs are also called triple sec and the general principle of liqueur-making is to take an alcohol base (sometimes called «neutral spirits») such as vodka, ouzo, tsikoudia, tsipouro, zivania, raki or whatever neutral spirit your area produces and steep a flavoring in it for a time. Next, filter out any remaining solids, add sweetening, and age. Finally, bottle and serve. Every recipe is different, and many have somewhat different procedures, but they each pretty much come down to that and each flavor creates its own dynamics over time.
For my liqueur I used the peel of four oranges which I put them in a coffee/tea jar, which had a filter on the top, filled it with tsikoudia and pressed the filter down so that the peels would submerge into the liquor.
I also made a bergamot liqueur. However since I wanted the peels to make the spoon sweet I made the liqueur exactly the same way only instead of peels I used the zest of the bergamot.
Any other citrus can be used. Smaller ones like mandarins or kumquats are added whole in the liquor.
Citrus liqueur, recipe by Ivy
3 cups tsikoudia
4 oranges, or bergamot, or lemon, etc (use only the peel). Add more smaller fruit.
For the syrup:
3 cups of sugar
2 cups of water
1 teaspoon lemon juice
Peel four oranges as thinly as you can (without the white) and place in a jar. Add three cups of alcohol, such as tsikoudia, or vodka, ouzo, raki etc and leave it for 15 days, or more to steep.
On the fifteenth day prepare the syrup and set aside to cool.
Place all ingredients except for lemon juice in a saucepan and boil for 5 minutes. Remove from heat, add lemon juice and discard lemon peel.
Meanwhile remove the orange peels from the alcohol and strain with a cheesecloth or coffee filter and when the syrup is cold mix them together and store in bottles.
Note: Updated 2nd December, 2009
After making a Coffee Liqueur using leftover syrup from a Cherry spoon sweet, it would be a great idea to use any syrup left from any citrus spoon sweet to make the above liqueur.
Other relevant recipes:
Kopiaste and Kali Orexi,