I love Lillet. It’s spring in a bottle; the flowers are in bloom, the winter chill is gone, the sun is shining, and I can enjoy the outdoors before it starts to get really hot.
When I first came across this recipe in the New York Times cookbook I wanted to make it. Amanda Hesser’s notes on this recipe intrigued me, “modeled after Lillet and far more delicious.”
What kept me from making it was the cost, and the time. Seven bottles of Sancerre and a bottle of vodka. 40 day and night maceration time. Purchasing corks and cheesecloth online. It’s a project. But like all of my favorite projects it’s primarily hands off.
So when a work colleague posed interest and agreed to split the cost we spent the morning assembling this. I passed over Sancerre for an affordable white Bordeaux made exclusively of Sauvignon Blanc. We got the vodka on sale. It’s the perfect time of year to find various types of citrus and grapefruit at the market. The stars aligned for this one.
Grapefruit Wine (Vin de Pamplemousse)
- 3 Ruby Red grapefruits, scrubbed
- 3 white grapefruits, scrubbed
- 4 lemons, scrubbed
- 2 vanilla beans, split
- 3 cups granulated sugar
- 6¼ bottles (750-ml bottles) sauvignon blanc, preferably Sancerre
- 32 ounces (1 quart) 80 proof vodka.
Start with a sterile 3 gallon or larger bucket or crock (I’m using a stainless steel pot). Thinly slice the grapefruits and lemons, rind and all, and toss them into the bucket. Add the split vanilla bean and sugar. Pour the wine over the citrus and sugar. Add the vodka, and stir well.
Cover the bucket tightly with plastic wrap and let stand in a cool, dark place for 40 days. A basement or closet are fine. For the first seven days, stir the grapefruit wine once a day to dissolve the sugar and draw the citrus oils from the rinds. After the first seven days, stir once every two to three days.
After 40 days, strain the wine through a strainer or sieve lined with several layers of cheesecloth into another large sterile bucket. Discard the vanilla and citrus.
Part 2: Bottling
Have eight scalded wine bottles on hand.
Using a funnel, decant the wine into the bottles, leaving 1 to 2 inches of space at the top. The recipe states to boil new corks (that you can buy on www.thegrape.net) and seal the bottles.
I’m going to look into the bottling process more and write a follow-up post because I believe it will require the purchase of a corker, and the jury is relatively mixed on boiling corks before sealing bottles. I’m pretty glad I have 40 days to figure it out.