This wonderful lemon liqueur is native to Southern Italy. Imported limoncello is available in U.S. stores but it’s fun to create this intense tart-sweet liqueur for yourself and it makes an impressive gift. The process isn’t difficult but there are several steps and the alcohol should infuse for at least 8 weeks—so budget your time accordingly. You’ll need several large, lidded glass jars, a metal mesh sieve, cheesecloth and a funnel, as well as glass bottles to give as gifts or keep for personal enjoyment. Store Limoncello in the freezer and drink it from there, very thoroughly chilled. Add it to champagne, sip it as a digestif after supper or use it in baking. For the holidays, add cranberries or pomegranates for two delicious, red-hued twists on the classic bright-yellow Limoncello.
Author: Jules Shepard
1/2literdistilled grain alcohol or vodka
Simple Syrup(recipe above)
Wash lemons thoroughly and dry them. Using a vegetable peeler or a sharp knife, peel the rind off the lemons, carefully avoiding the pith. (The pith is bitter. The peel contains intense lemon flavor and essential oils that make limoncello piquant.)
Place peels into clean, large, lidded glass jars. (Use a separate jar for each flavor of Limoncello. See variations below.)
Pour alcohol and vodka over peels in the jars, making sure peels are completely submerged. Cover the jars and let rest 8 to 10 weeks in a cool, dark location.
To strain the liquid, arrange a single layer of wet, unbleached cheesecloth (very fine mesh) over a large bowl. Slowly pour the liquid through the cheesecloth. Before any peels from the bottom of the containers are poured out, wring the cheesecloth into the bowl to reserve all the precious liquid. Discard all peels once liquid is strained.
Add Simple Syrup in a 1:1 ratio (syrup to alcohol). Add more syrup, to taste.
Use a funnel to transfer Limoncello to smaller bottles to give as gifts or to freeze for your own use.
Cranberry Limoncello: Add 1 cup fresh or frozen cranberries to jars with lemon peel in step 2. Follow recipe as instructed. After alcohol has infused 8 to 10 weeks, add Cranberry Ginger Simple Syrup in a 1:1 ratio (syrup to alcohol). Add more syrup, to taste.Pomegranate Limoncello: Fill a large bowl with water. Cut 6 pomegranates in half vertically. Put the cut side of the fruit into the water, pushing onto the centers with your thumbs to force the seeds out of the fruit and into the water. The seeds will sink to the bottom of the bowl, while the fruit debris will float to the top. Skim off debris and rinse the seeds. Using a fine metal sieve over a bowl, press the seeds with the back of a spoon into the mesh to crush them. Pour the broken seeds and the juice into the jars with the lemon peel in step 2. Add a cinnamon stick to each jar. Follow recipe as instructed but strain the liquid 2 or 3 additional times until it’s somewhat opaque but not cloudy. There should be no gray membrane or pith in the final product. Add Simple Syrup in a 2/3:1 ratio (syrup to alcohol). Add more syrup, to taste.