When life gives you lemons, add hard liquor: DIY limoncello

March 23, 2011|By Jasmine Wiggins

I hope you all have been enjoying the spring weather we've been having. The first few days of spring always make me crave fresh things to eat and I love how refreshing lemon drinks are. Life has also been giving me a particularly insane amount of lemons lately, so I thought this DIY project was a good solution to both problems. (Wink wink).

What is limoncello? It is a traditional Italian digestif. It’s enjoyed after dinner on warm summer nights. It’s a sweet, lemony liqueur, and it’s surprisingly easy to make. It takes a few weeks to prepare, so if you get started now, it will be ready in time for those breezy late spring nights.

I spent a bit of time searching the Internet for recipes and there were slight variations across the board. The gist is, you need about 10-15 lemons, one bottle of 100-proof vodka, sugar, and filtered water.

First, you peel the lemons and place the peels in a jar or other container you have around. Then, you add the vodka. Most sites recommend Everclear, but I could only find 100-proof Smirnoff. You want to purchase a vodka that is 100 proof or higher because, I’ve read, it draws the lemon flavor from the peels better. Save the good stuff for another occasion.
Also, since you are using the lemon peels, try to use the best lemons you can afford. Organic lemons are recommended. Be sure to clean them very well and remove any dirt or residue. You can use a vegetable peeler or a paring knife to peel the rinds from the lemon. The sharper the better. Be careful not to get any of the pith (the white, bitter part). If you you end up with some pith, trim it off.  The great thing about this recipe is that you end up with several whole lemons to use in other recipes.

Pour the vodka into the container with the peels, seal up your container and let it sit for about two weeks. Agitate the jar once a day.

Once the two weeks are up, you’ll bring water to a boil, remove from the stove, add the sugar and stir until it dissolves. Let it cool. Strain the peels from the vodka, then add the sugar/water mixture. Seal it up, and let sit for about a month, shaking the jar once a day. After that, transfer the liquid to smaller bottles and put into the freezer. Remember to leave room in the bottles for expansion, so don’t fill them all the way up.

Note: Limoncello should be served ice cold. I especially like it in cocktails. I’m thinking about adding some ginger, and soda water, or adding rosemary or mint when it’s ready.
I used a recipe from Giada De Laurentiis mainly because she used just one 750 ml bottle of vodka. Most recipes require more, and I thought it might be dangerous to have more than that around. I’m holding out for an authentic Italian recipe that I should be getting my hands on soon, and I will be sure to post it.

Limoncello, recipe by Giada De Laurentiis

10 lemons
1 (750-ml) bottle vodka
3 1/2 cups filtered water
2 1/2 cups sugar

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.

Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.

Tip: Bottle it up nicely, and throw a ribbon around it, and it makes a great gift!

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