For years now I have wanted to try making my own Italian Limoncello. Sorrento, Italy was one stop on our honeymoon and that is where my husband and I developed an appreciation for this Italian liqueur.
The landscape of the Amalfi Coast is covered with beautiful lemon trees. They are gorgeous to look at and they bring a freshness to the air. Unfortunately, there are many signs around that say “do not pick the lemons” – they are the inhabitants prized possessions! In the Main Piazza Tasso in Sorrento, there are so many little shops that sell Limoncello. After a while, it was difficult to taste the difference between them so we decided to go with the best price for best value – and a nice looking bottle was also part of our criteria. To this day, every time I have a taste of this delicious Italian liqueur, I am transported back to our honeymoon five years ago.
Next, I had to source the vodka. Recipes I had been looking at mentioned 80-100 proof vodka. I had no idea what “proof” meant but after a short discussion with a helpful lady at the liquor store, I now understand that dividing the “proof” in half gives you the alcohol content you need. This made a lot more sense since all of the vodka I was seeing was 40% alcohol. I couldn’t find any 50% (100 proof) vodka anywhere which I am okay with as I want to make a Limoncello that is easy to drink.
I bought my bottles from Ikea for $3.49 (Korken Bottle). I also used a few left over maple syrup bottles I kept. It is best to use a bottle with a rubber stopper because it keeps the most air out and it allows your Limoncello to stay fresher longer. Also, it won’t leak. I wanted to find a wine label I could print on to label my bottles but those are hard to source, expensive and time-consuming to create. I ended up finding myself at Michael’s where they carry glass paint, glass markers, and stencils. I decided to use glass markers with a pretty stencil to label my bottles.
Ok, so here is a summary of what what you will need to make 1 Litre of Limoncello:
10 lemons, washed and dried
1 750-ml bottle vodka (100-proof preferred, or 80-proof)
2 cups simple syrup, to taste (recipe below)
- Vegetable peeler
- Paring knife
- 2- 1 quart mason jars with lids to store your vodka while it is being infused and to store your simple syrup while it is cooling
- cheese cloth
- A sieve
- 4-cup measuring cup
- Small funnel
- 1 clean 1 Litre bottle or several bottles equalling similar volume
Peel the lemons: Use a vegetable peeler to remove the peels from all the lemons. Try to remove only the outer yellow skin and as little of the pith as possible. Trim away any large pieces of pith with a paring knife, but don’t worry about trimming every last scrap.
Infuse the vodka: Let the vodka and lemon peels infuse somewhere out of the way and out of direct sunlight for at least 4 days or as long as a month. The longer you let the vodka infuse, the more lemony your limoncello.
While you’re waiting for your vodka to infuse, here are some tips of what you can do with all of those naked lemons:
What to do with Naked Lemons:
So I have made a huge batch of Limoncello (5 litres = 50 lemons!) and I am left with all of these peeled lemons! Usually I can find a use for naked lemons after using the zest for baking or whatever the case may be but this was a special case where I had to plan quickly how I would put the naked lemons to good use so that I wouldn’t waste them. Here are some uses for naked lemons:
- Squeeze and freeze – It is a great idea to squeeze your lemons and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. Once they are frozen into cubes, put them into a Ziplock bag and you have a squeeze of lemon juice whenever you need it! You can use your lemon juice to make a vinaigrette or even lemonade.
- Slice up and refrigerate – slice up your naked lemons and store them in your fridge. You can use them for squeezing into your hot tea, iced tea, water, or other cold or hot beverage of choice. You can even put half of a naked lemon into a chicken and roast it.
Strain the vodka: Line a sieve with a cheese cloth and set it over a 4-cup measuring cup. Strain the infused vodka through the filter.
*You can play with the ratios of water to sugar. I personally prefer the 2 cups alcohol to 2 cups simple syrup ratio. The limoncello is smooth but still has a nice kick. Start with the 2 cups of simple syrup, stir and taste the limoncello. Add additional simple syrup mixture gradually until you reach a flavor you like — up to 4 cups of simple syrup. Adding more water will dilute the alcohol base, making a less alcoholic, milder, and smoother-sipping liqueur. Adding more sugar will make a sweeter limoncello.
Bottle the limoncello: Insert the funnel in the neck of one of the bottles and fill with limoncello. Repeat with remaining bottles.
Chill and store: Chill the limoncello in the fridge or freezer for at least 4 hours before drinking. Limoncello can be kept in the fridge for up to a month or the freezer for up to a year (and often much longer!).
(With notes from www.thekitchn.com)
Photography & Styling By: Julie Miguel