Limoncello

My friend Cathy returned from Italy recently and sent me this cloth that celebrates lemons and limoncello.

If you’ve ever visited Italy, especially the south, you may have been offered a little glass of ice-cold limoncello at the end of your meal. Or you may have brought home some little bottles of the stuff for a souvenir and tucked them away in your freezer. The liqueur captures the essence of lemon zest and is refreshing (as well as intoxicating!) on a warm day.

So, since folks have been asking me for a recipe for limoncello,  I’ll replicate the one on the cloth here:

Ingredients

  • A litre of water
  • A litre of alcohol
  • A kilo of sugar
  • 8 lemons
  1. Peel the lemons finely and put the peels down in alcohol. Close the infusion in a jar.
  2. Wait four days
  3. After that prepare a syrup with a litre of lukewarm water and a kilo of sugar
  4. Add the infusion and mix together. Wait 10 minutes, then filter and bottle.
  5. Serve it very cold.

Now, you can try converting from metric to U.S. units — here’s a converter for you– but if you’d rather not, check out this recipe that appeared in the L.A. Times in 2004 and sounds very good. It seems less sweet than the recipe above, which would be a good thing. It also takes longer, meaning the flavor of lemon zest is fully infused in the liqueur.

This recipe calls 12 lemons and 2 bottles of 750-ml 100-proof vodka (it would be easy to cut the recipe in half if you don’t want so much limoncello).  You zest the lemon peel and let it steep in half the vodka for at least 2 weeks, or until the peels have lost their color.  Then 2 cups of sugar and 2 cups of water are heated to make a sugar syrup, and the vodka– strained from the peels–is mixed with the syrup and the other half of vodka. You bottle and seal the liqueur and ” let the components marry for at least 1 week before using.”

Also, it’s worth reading the accompanying excellent story on limoncello written by L.A. Times writer (and esteemed food scholar), Charles Perry.

Note: With either of these recipes, I’d recommend using organic or unwaxed lemons and washing them well. Also, since you’re going to end up with a lot of peeled lemons, you could use the lemon juice for lemonade, simply adding sugar and water to your taste. Or pour the lemon juice into ice cube trays, freeze and store the cubes in a zip-lock bag in your freezer for later use.

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