I first made Limoncello at a Portland Culinary Alliance event and steeped my lemon peels on my office window for a couple of months. I was hoping to approximate the lovely Limoncello I had sipped with my girlfriends when we celebrated our collective 40th birthdays in Rome. We consumed homemade Limoncello at the home of our girlfriend’s soon-to-be-former fiancè. My version came close but does anything ever taste as good as it does when in Italy. Italian coffee? Neopolitan pizza? Gelato? Ok, maybe once in a while. Gelato Fiasco in Brunswick, Maine, comes close.
If you’re not familiar with Limoncello, it’s an Italian liqueur made from the peels of lemons. Like all good peasant cooking, very little food goes to waste. With bumper crops of lemons each year, Italians found a creative and delightful way to use this the citrus cast-offs.
So, for a change, I got to think ahead for homemade Christmas gifts and gave myself time to steep the lemons in time for a holiday gift. This is not a complicated recipe, but you will find many variations on method. So, I am offering up mine for your review. I choose to steep the lemons in the vodka and add the simple syrup at the end of the process. If you use 100-proof vodka, you can freeze your limoncello and then decant into bottles when it’s time to gift. Or keep it for yourself and sip it out of fancy little cordial glasses. I also like to pour it over raspberry sorbet for a boozy dessert.
Makes about 4 cups
10 organic lemons
1 750 ml. bottle vodka (100 proof)
1 cup sugar
1 cup water
1. Wash lemons and peel off the top, yellow layer of the lemon being careful not to get too much pith (white stuff). Steer around blemishes. You can also use a zester.
2. Put lemon peels in quart canning jars or other lidded jars. Pour vodka over top and close lids. Store in a dry area out of direct sunlight. Let steep for anywhere from 2 to 6 weeks. I like steeping for a long time and went for the 6 week+ — this gets you a more lemony drink. Feel free to shake the jar a couple times a week.
3. After your steeping period. It’s time to strain the mixture. Use a fine strainer or a cheesecloth and set it over a 4-cup measuring cup or other ‘pourable’ vessel.
4. Make your simple syrup by boiling 1 cup of water. Add 1 cup of sugar and stir until dissolved and you have an obvious syrupy consistency. Add the syrup to your vodka. Taste and adjust. If you want it sweeter, then add more simple syrup.
5. Decant limoncello into decorative jars or store in canning jars in the freezer.