Have you ever been to Italy? Specifically, have you ever been to Capri or the coast? If you have, you've probably experienced limoncello, a luscious lemon liqueur. The Italians typically serve it after dinner as a digestive or with flaky Italian pastries or rich desserts. If you read my blog or Facebook page, you know I am a big fan of limoncello. I use it in a lot of cocktail recipes and love to keep a bottle in the freezer for late afternoon summer sipping.... takes me right back to Italy:)
We had a Facebook friend, Leslie, tell us she made her own limoncello and I remember Giada made some on her show once.... so I decided to give it a go. Before summer arrives, try making your own limoncello. You'll be so glad you did!
A couple of important notes: you have to take care to get rid of the white pith of the lemon rind. It becomes bitter in the distilling process. Also, you can use grain alcohol instead of vodka. I've made it both ways and simply prefer the vodka version but there is not a disenable difference in taste or cost. Select thick skinned lemons that are fully yellow with no green or soft spots on the exterior.
20 fresh lemons
2 750ml bottles vodka (use 100 proof, if possible)
4 cups sugar
5 cups water
2 vanilla beans- split with seeds removed (optional but yummy)
Wash the lemons well. Use a brush to remove any wax or residue on the peel. Pat dry. Peel the lemons using a vegetable peeler. Use only the outer part of the lemon rind. Try not to remove the white pith, If you do, take a sharp pairing knife and remove as much of it as possible; discard. Reserve the lemons for another use like lemon marmalade or fresh lemonade that you can freeze for a few weeks, if necessary.
Put the lemon peel into a large glass container, like a Mason jar, a large pickle jar, or a pitcher with a tight-fitting lid. Add the vodka or grain alcohol. If you are adding the vanilla bean, add it now. Split the bean and using the back of your knife, remove the seeds by scraping the bean. Add to the jar and secure the lid tightly. Allow to sit undisturbed at room temperature in a dark place for ten days. Do not disturb the mixture or stir. Just wait patiently as the vodka soaks up the yummy lemon flavor.
On the 11th day, make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a pan over medium heat. Stir occasionally until sugar completely dissolves. Allow to cool completely.
Pour the simple syrup over the lemon peel/vodka mixture. Cover and allow to stand at room temperature for at least 24 hours but the preference would be to let it stand for at least another 10 but no longer than 20 days; the longer you allow it to stand, the better the flavor will be.
Strain the liquid to remove the peel and the vanilla bean, if you used it. Pour the liqueur into pretty bottles with a resealable stopper or tight-fitting lid. Seal tightly and refrigerate. If you don't have a fine mesh strainer, a coffee filter will work but be sure to dampen it first.
Chill the bottles well before serving. The limoncello should be very cold. You may even store them in the freezer to extend the prime flavor.
Serve very cold; in tall shot glasses or cordial glasses.
And as they say in Italy... "No poem was ever written by a drinker of water." - From the great Roman poet Horace around 65 BC. Not much has changed:) Salute!