Limoncello is the generic name for an Italian lemon liqueur that is served well-chilled in the summer months. It is a digestive that aids in digestion of a meal, a wonderful palate cleanser, or simply an after-dinner drink. Limoncello is considered the national drink of Italy and can be found on nearly every Italian table, in every restaurant or bar.
The Amalfi Coast is known for its citrus groves of Sorrento lemons, as well as its narrow, winding roads. Authentic Limoncello is made from Sorrento lemons. Every Italian family has their own Limoncello recipe, and they pass it down for generations.
Limoncello served with tonic or sparkling water is a sweet, tasty refreshment. A step up is to serve it with champagne or mixed with juice as a cocktail. It can also be simply drizzled on ice cream, fruit salads, or fresh strawberries for a treat.
The ingredients are simple and few, and preparation is minimal. After about 80 days, you’ll have a batch of liquid gold.
• 15 organic, ripe lemons with no green spots*
• 2 bottles (750 mL each) 100-proof vodka
• 4 cups sugar
• 5 cups filtered or distilled water
1. Wash lemons with vegetable brush and hot water; pat dry. Zest with zester or vegetable peeler, avoiding pith (the white part underneath the skin — it is bitter and you don’t want it in your Limoncello).
2. In 1-gallon glass jar with lid, pour vodka. Add lemon zest. Cover jar and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 days — or up to 40 days — in cool, dark place. (The longer it sits, the better it will be. You’ll need to shake it every few days, but there’s no need to stir. Just let it sit, and wait for the vodka to slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest.)
3. After allotted time, combine sugar and water in large saucepan, and bring to gentle boil. Let mixture boil for 5 to 7 minutes, then remove from heat. Stir well and allow to cool, then add to mixture in jar. Cover jar and allow to sit for another 10 to 40 days, shaking every few days.
4. When you are convinced it’s ready, strain mixture using moistened coffee filter or cheesecloth, and discard lemon zest. Pour strained Limoncello into bottle or bottles of your choice, and seal tightly.
5. Store in freezer until ready to serve. Serve ice cold from freezer.
*Organic lemons will be free of wax and pesticides on the peel; choose thick-skinned fruits, which will be easier to zest.
Craving more fresh Italian recipes? Check out Farmhouse Style Italian Recipes.
Karen K. Will is editor of Heirloom Gardener magazine, and co-author, along with Editor-in-Chief Oscar H. Will III, of Plowing With Pigs and Other Creative, Low-Budget Homesteading Solutions (New Society Publishers, 2013).