limoncello - lemon liqueur
Last Spring a friend travelled to the Amalfi Coast and took this photo of fresh lemons at a grocery store in the town of Amalfi.
I loved the photo so much I put it up on my pantry door as it makes me smile ever time I see it. Yes, it’s true, lemons make me smile. So after looking at these lemons the last 150 days, I finally thought "I should try making my own limoncello!" What took me so long?
This elixir is so tasty, with citrusy-sweet sunny flavors rolling over your tongue, cool yet warming all at the same time.
My limoncello has me dreaming of California not Amalfi, as that's where the lemons I used were grown, but no worries, my inner Italian still says "gratzie et salute"!
Note: The whole limoncello process takes about 40 days, so start right away (mid-November) if you want to be sipping your limoncello over the holiday season.
- 16 organic lemons, scrubbed
- 2 (750 ml.) bottles of very good quality 100-proof/50% alcohol vodka (I used Smirnoff’s Blue Label)
- 4 1/2 cups sugar
- 4 1/2 cups water
- Note: you will also need 8 - 375 ml. or 4 - 750 ml. bottles with tight fitting corks to store the finished liqueur in.
Wash 4 quart or litre glass jars with lids in hot soapy water or put them through a dishwasher cycle. Rinse and dry thoroughly.
Rinse and scrub lemons to remove any dirt or residue on the lemons using warm water. Using a sharp potato peeler, carefully peel the lemons staying away from the white pith which will add bitterness. Divide the peel among the four jars then pour 1/2 bottle of vodka into each jar.
Screw on the lids and set in a cool dark cupboard at room temperature for about 30 days, swishing the jars a few times each week. Over the weeks the color from the lemon peel will slowly transfer to the vodka, making it vibrant yellow and infusing it with the lemon flavor.
When the mixture looks like it has fully developed in color, and the peels look pale, make the simple sugar syrup.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water and boil over medium-high heat until thickened, about 5 minutes. Let cool to room temperature and then divide the syrup evenly into the lemon/vodka jars.
Put the lids back on and return the jars to the cupboard for another 10 days to 2 weeks.
Wash your 375 or 750 ml. bottles in hot soapy water and allow to dry. Also ensure you have your clean, tight fitting corks handy. I used a plastic "t-cork" that fit the frosted "ice wine" bottles I bought at a local "U-Brew" wine store.
Strain the vodka mixture through cheesecloth or a fine sieve into a container that's easy to pour from to remove the peel. (I used large Pyrex glass measuring cup with a pouring lip.)
Funnel the vodka mixture into your clean bottles and cap or cork firmly.
Bottles should be stored in a cool, dark spot like a pantry, ensuring one is "enjoyment ready" in the fridge or freezer.
Pour a little limoncello into a small glass straight from the freezer or fridge anytime you need a smile.