Enjoy life's lemons: Appeal of limoncello is in the peelHere’s to life handing you lemons – lots of them. With vodka and sugar, you’ve got the makings of limoncello – and an excuse for a get-together.
By: Sharon K. Ghag, McClatchy Newspapers (MCT), INFORUM
Here’s to life handing you lemons – lots of them.
With vodka and sugar, you’ve got the makings of limoncello – and an excuse for a get-together.
Julie Jean did just that recently, gathering with friends to make the aperitif. The drinking comes later – much later.
“We picked, washed and peeled multiple buckets of Meyer lemons,” said Jean, of Hilmar, Calif. Then she and her friends added the peels to vodka.
“I don’t really have an exact recipe,” she hedged, but she offered plenty of ideas on how to use the vodka-based drink.
“We enjoy our homemade limoncello as a mixer with soda, champagne, fresh margaritas and on the rocks,” she said in an e-mail. “We also chose to reserve some lemon-infused vodka into a separate container to use as a homemade citrus vodka for mixed drinks.”
Limoncello really needs no adornment. Pulled chilled from the fridge or freezer, the after-dinner drink is like a cool breeze on a stifling day. Its bright, intensely citrus notes offer a nice counterpoint to any meal.
“It’s very refreshing. I love it,” said Laura Howard of Modesto, Calif., who uses a bottle of vodka, peels from a dozen lemons and a simple syrup that’s one part water and one part sugar.
Readers who shared recipes followed a basic method:
You zest some lemons and put the rind in a jar with vodka.
“No white pith,” said Lee Palleschi, president of Valley Spirits, Modesto, Calif.-based maker of locally produced ultra-premium Cold House Vodka. “The zest and only the zest. The pith makes it terrible.”
Put the jar in a cool, dark place for six to eight weeks.
“Shake once a week,” he said.
After about six weeks, add a simple syrup to the jar.
“Store for six more weeks,” said Palleschi, “shaking it twice a week. After five or six weeks, the zest becomes dull-colored and it becomes brittle.”
Filter out the zest, add more water to bring down the alcohol content and freeze. Pour yourself a little glass, and sip slowly at the end of a difficult day.
Jean uses 100-proof vodka. “The brand of vodka is not important,” she said.
Palleschi recommends his 80-proof handcrafted Cold House Vodka. He said the liquor content makes a difference. The higher the proof, he said, the less time is needed to extract the oils from the zest.
Use the freshest, most fully ripe, blemish-free fruit, and wash it gently and thoroughly, being careful not to bruise the skin and release the essential oils.
Variations on limoncello can be made with any type of citrus, or a combination of lemons, limes and oranges. Palleschi is fond of limecello.
Limoncello also can be made with Everclear, a pure-grain alcohol that’s preferred by Jeff Denno of Merced, Calif., or a combination of three parts vodka to one part brandy.
“Making it with Everclear gives it a more intense flavor,” said Denno. His recipe, brought back from an Italian holiday and later tweaked, calls for 12 to 15 lemons, 1 (750-milliliter) bottle of Everclear, 1¼ to 1½ cups of sugar and 2 to 2½ cups of water. It’s strong.
“I like it pretty potent,” he said. Denno, who uses a serrated-edged potato peeler to peel the lemons, has no strong views on shaking the jar. “You can shake it once in awhile if you feel like you should be doing something,” he writes in the instructions to the recipe.
Terri Boersma of Ripon, who has been to Italy’s Amalfi Coast, where limoncello originated, suggests using thick-skinned lemons like Eureka, Lisbon or Citron.
“Meyers lemons do not work,” she wrote in an e-mail, “because the skins are too thin.”
Boersma’s recipe, “from an elderly lady from Sorrento, Italy,” calls for 15 lemons, 2 (750-milliliter) bottles of 100-proof vodka and a simple syrup of 4 ½ cups sugar to 5 cups water.
LIMONCELLO from “Lidia’s Italy in America”
Makes 1½ quarts
It seems fitting that this is the final recipe in “Lidia’s Italy in America,” by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (Alfred A. Knopf, $35), because this would be perfect to polish off a dinner with friends.
Peel of 15 lemons
750-milliliter bottle of vodka
3½ cups water
2½ cups sugar
Wash and pat dry the lemons. Use a vegetable peeler to zest them, making sure to omit the white pith. (The pith will make the limoncello bitter.)
Add the lemon peels to the vodka in a glass jar. (There is no need to stir or mix the liquid.) Cover and keep in a cool dark place for 30 days. When it is ready, the liquid will smell strongly of lemon rinds and be a deep-yellow color.
Bring water and sugar to a boil and boil for five to seven minutes; let cool.
Add sugar syrup to the vodka and lemon zest, stir and let rest for an additional 30 days, to let the flavors further mellow and blend with the sugar syrup.
Strain the limoncello through a moistened cheesecloth or coffee filter. Discard the lemon zest, pour the strained limoncello into your choice of bottle and seal tightly.
LIMONCELLO by Ghillie James
Makes 1 quart
Ghillie James offers limoncello as a variation to her recipe for raspberry-cello in “Jam, Jelly & Relish: Simple Preserves, Pickles & Chutneys & Creative Ways to Cook With Them” (Kyle Books, $22.95). The raspberrycello calls for a half pound of raspberries in place of the lemon rind and juice.
Zest of six lemons and juice of two
750 milliliters vodka
2 cups granulated sugar
Remove zest from six lemons and squeeze the juice from two. Add to a large Mason jar with the 750 milliliters (25 ounces) vodka; seal. Leave for about a week, inverting or shaking the jar every day.
In a pan, heat 2 cups water with
2 cups sugar until dissolved. Leave to cool. Stir the sugar mixture into the vodka mixture and leave for 10 more days. Strain into bottles and keep in the freezer.
LIMONCELLO from "Gifts Cooks Love"
Makes 4 (1-liter) bottles
This recipe is from “Gifts Cooks Love: Recipes for Giving,” by Diane Morgan (Andrews McMeel, $25)
15 organic lemons
2 (750-milliliter) bottles Everclear (151 or 190 proof)
4 cups granulated sugar
9½ cups water
Wash 1-gallon glass jar and lid in hot soapy water and dry. Scrub lemons in warm water and dry. Remove the zest from the lemons and place in prepared jar. Pour in one bottle of alcohol. Secure lid and place jar in cool, dry place to steep. After 20 to 30 days, add the second bottle of alcohol to the mixture.
Place sugar and 7½ cups water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Decrease to a simmer and cook 10 minutes to ensure that all the sugar has dissolved. Remove from heat and cool. When sugar syrup is cool, add to the lemon and alcohol mixture. Secure lid and return jar to cool, dark place for 20 to 40 days.
To bottle, wash bottles in hot, soapy water. Strain liquid through fine-mesh strainer into a large bowl. Add 1 2/3 cups of water to the limoncello if you used 151-proof alcohol. Add 2 cups if you used 190-proof. Ladle limoncello into prepared jars. Limoncello will keep for several years.