Limoncello makes everything better
The first digestivo (after dinner drink) I ever tried was limoncello. It was a very memorable moment; not only for the fact that I took my first sip of this concentrated lemon delight, but also because it was the first time I met my new boyfriend’s WHOLE group friends in Italy, all at the same time. The sea of Italian chatter, which I didn’t understand at the time, swirled and eddied around me as I took my first sip of limoncello. What bliss!! Who cares if I didn’t understand anything, or that it was a tad daunting to be introduced to 20 people who had hung out together for the last 10 years all in one go! Well, the boyfriend became my husband, and many of those people have become my friends too over the last 15 plus years, and now I understand everything, but the limoncello remains the same.
A note about socializing, Italian-style
Just as a side note on Italian culture: younger Italians tend to roam in packs: they don’t go out in groups of two or three, they go out in groups of 10, 15 or 20. We would all meet in a square at around 10:30pm (my bedtime, not going out time as far as I’m concerned), and then they would talk for two hours about where they were going to go. We would go to the place, have one drink, but because it was very late, leave the pub/club soon after, then stand around outside for an hour or so saying goodbye. In the end, the socializing was done hanging out in the piazza before and after, and the drink was an excuse to go out.
The wait is absolutely worth it!
Now, before you go running off to buy lemons to get the limoncello ready for Summer, just sit back down a sec. It takes about 90 days of very patient waiting, but after tasting the limoncello I made, I have to say that it’s worth it! The best thing to do is to put it in a dark, unvisited place in your house or garage and leave it alone, so that you don’t even look at it. Don’t forget to put a note on your calendar to remind you when it’s ready though. No point leaving the limoncello too long and depriving yourself of it!
It’s a very easy process to make it, which surprised me. There are only two steps (well, three if you count the final filtering): mixing most of the ingredients together at the beginning, then about half-way through the maceration process (after 45 days), adding the rest of the ingredients. That’s it!
Notes on the alcohol used for making limoncello
To make this I bought pure alcohol from Italy (which is unavailable in France). It does NOT work that well if you use vodka, as vodka doesn’t have a high enough alcohol content. Once you mix it with the water for making limoncello, it drops by more than half. To have a good limoncello, the finished product should have an alcohol content of 30% (or more), otherwise it will freeze when you put it in the freezer. After being in the freezer it should have a thick, syrupy consistency. In you live in the U.S.A., try to get your hands on a bottle of Everclear. For other countries, if anyone knows what is available, I’d love you to put a comment on this post to help others get hold of the alcohol needed for this recipe.
So, now you can run off and buy the lemons: make sure they’re biological ones, otherwise you’ll end up with pesticidecello rather than limoncello. Time for me to rumble up another batch: I don’t think the three bottles I made are going to last very long!
By Lisa Watson
- 13- 14 lemons Lemon zest medium-sized, non-treated
- 1 L Pure alcohol
- 1.5 L Water
- 1.1 kg White sugar
- Pour 750ml of the alcohol into a jar with a good seal (e.g. a mason jar).
- Grate the zest and add it to the alcohol, being very careful not to add any of the white pith.
- Cover the jar with aluminium foil. Place it in a dry, dark place and leave it undisturbed for 45 days.
- Second phase:
- Put the water and sugar in a pot and heat, stirring until the sugar has dissolved.
- Let the sugar syrup cool, then add it to the lemon mixture from the first phase, along with the last 250ml of pure alcohol. Stir.
- Cover the jar in foil, and put in a cool, dry place for at least 40 more days.
- Third (and last!) phase:
- Pour the limoncello through a fine-meshed sieve to strain out all the bits of lemon zest.
- Put it into clean glass bottles with good caps or seals.
- Put it in the freezer, wait for a few hours and then, DRINK (though try not to drink it all at once)!