Make your own limoncello at home this summer.
Ah…Italy, summer, a nice dinner just over. What are you going to have now? A limoncello, of course, Italy’s famous lemon-infused liqueur. Some of the best comes from the Amalfi Coast and Capri where locals grow those big, juicy, gnarled-looking lemons. But if Italy isn’t on your summer sked, do not despair. You can be anywhere to enjoy a chilled glass of limoncello. IF you can find it at home. Where I live in Northern Virginia, liquor is regulated by the state, so you have to schlep to a liquor store to see if it’s on the shelf. Our liquor store has one brand of limoncello and there were maybe two bottles on the shelf when I looked for it.
My cure for this outrage: how to make limoncello at home. This is one of those easy 4-ingredient Italian recipes. But it requires some patience–for a couple of weeks–as the alcohol steeps in wonderfully scented lemon peels. You can drink limoncello straight and chilled, over fruit, mixed with Prosecco or pour it onto your ice cream.
Italians apparently use a high-proof grain alcohol that only they seem to have. But it’s easy to make homemade limoncello with vodka. Use only organic lemons as you don’t want chemicals steeping into your liqueur. The first step then is to peel the lemons. A vegetable peeler does the job nicely. Pull away only the peel and not the bitter white pith.
Put the peels into a large, sealable jar and pour in 3 cups of vodka. I used 100 proof but really…80 proof is fine if you can’t hold much liqueur!
Above, you see the lemon peels getting thoroughly soused on their first day in the booze. Keep your jar at room temperature like this for ten days. I kept mine in a cabinet.
Above, you see the limoncello-in-waiting after about a week. Notice how the color, and hence the flavor, is moving out of the peels and into the liquid.
You see how few ingredients go into making limoncello. An alcohol, lemon peels, suger and water.
After ten days fly by, strain the liquid through a collander into a glass bowl. Leave the peels in the strainer as they aren’t off the hook yet.
In a saucepan, boil the water with the sugar, stirring till the sugar is dissolved. Keep the boil on for 3 more minutes. Pour the hot syrup over the lemon peels through the same collander used earlier, into a heatproof bowl. Let the liquid cool. After it reaches room temperature, add the syrup to the vodka. Pour the liquid into bottles with tight lids and allow to stand for five days. Afterwards, store your limoncello in the freezer.
I came across a Web site called Napastyle that sells a lovely set of limoncello glasses along with a decanter that you see below. I haven’t bought one yet but you can check it out.
You can drink your limoncello straight and chilled, enjoy over fruit, mix it with Prosecco or pour it onto your ice cream. Small bottles of limoncello make great gifts for your friends. Enjoy!
Yield: 1.5 quarts
Total Time: 40 minutes total plus infusing time
- 8 organic lemons
- 1 bottle of good vodka, preferrably 100 proof
- 3 cups purified water
- 1 1/2 cups sugar
- Clean and dry lemons and peel the skin off them using a vegetable peeler (do not peel the white, bitter pith)
- Put the peels in a jar with a tight close, pour in the vodka and close the lid
- Let the vodka steep in the lemon peels for ten days
- Pour the vodka/peel mixture into a fine-mesh colander set over a pan to catch the liquid. Keep the peels.
- Combine the water and sugar in a pan, bring to a boil and cook stirring for 3 minutes.
- Put the colander with the peels over a heat-proof bowl and pour the simple syrup mixture into the colander.
- Let the syrup cool then pour it into the vodka mixture.
- Pour the mixture into smaller bottles and let them sit for 4-5 days. The limoncello mixture is ready to drink after it has been cooled in a refrigerator.
- For a longer life, keep the limoncello in the freezer.
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