I always have a citrus-cello project in the works. It is the final resting place for all the excess citrus…we grow and gather. Limoncello is an Italian digestivo, that is most popular on the Island of Capri…but can be found all over Italy, and now the States as well. It is a delicious lemon liqueur, and has so many uses beyond drinking. Although making this takes passive time, it’s really easy…and makes a wonderful gift. Start now for the holidays.
You need lots of lemons, mostly the peel, but also some juice.
Waste not, want not; so her are some ideas for the rest of the lemon:
Cut in half, pour some salt on it and tame your elbows (Barbra Streisand does it and so should we).
Juice the lemons and make the required sugar syrup in advance (but keep it in the freezer, so it doesn’t get weird).
Make lemon curd…better yet, make lemon chicken…ooh what about lemon bars? Those are my fave.
Back to the recipe. Wash and dry about 10-15 lemons. The lemons should be unwaxed. Remove the peels. Now, this is very important…you do not want the pith. That is the white stuff that hugs the peel like a preschooler hugs his mom on the first day of school. Remove it all…you only want the yellow part. The pith is bitter and is not good for your end result. Place all the peels in a large glass or ceramic jar with a tight fitting lid. Pour 1 bottle of vodka or grain alcohol over it. You do not need expensive vodka for this, you want the alcohol content, but the theory is that you will be changing the flavor of it, so don’t break the bank on this one.
Put the top on the jar, date it, and put it away in a cool dark place for a minimum of 2 weeks but as long as 3 or 4 months. I tend to steep mine for a long time; mostly because I forget.
When you see that all of the lemon peels have lost their color and/or it’s been at least 2 weeks you can move onto the next step.
In a heavy saucepan place 3 cups of water, 1/2 cup of strained lemon juice, 3 cups sugar and 3 Tbs honey. Boil over low heat until the sugar is completely dissolved and mixture is clear. Don’t let it go too long and get thick and gooey. Let cool.
Pour the syrup into your glass jar with the lemon peels and vodka. Cover and let steep for another week (or longer if you have the time). When you are ready to bottle your limoncello, strand the liquid using cheese cloth or fine sieve. Squeeze all that you can from the peels and then throw away (or roll in sugar and dehydrate for a sweet and boozy garnish). Bottle the liquid in clean jars and seal tightly.
Like revenge, this is best served cold…store it in the freezer.