It’s been a while since I first posted my incredibly easy and incredibly good recipe for home-made Limoncello – that delicious Sicilian digestivo made from lemons.
What prompted me to dust-off the recipe was the imminent onset of the lemon season – well, here in Italy at least. Wherever you might happen to be though, buy the most beautiful, flawless lemons you can find.
The recipe for my home-made Limocello calls for a litre of 100% pure alcohol, which is available everywhere in Italy; I think in the USA too; but not in the UK.
But don’t despair. Scroll down the page and you’ll come across an alternative recipe version using Vodka.
Here’s what you’ll need for the full-on authentic version…
– 1 litre of 100% alcohol
– 1.5 – 1.75 litres of water
– 150g of lemon peel (about 6-8 good-size lemons)
– 600g of white caster sugar
You’ll also need a large glass bottle capable of holding at least 1.5 litres; and an even larger glass bottle capable of holding 5 litres.
The only marginally-challenging aspect of the recipe is to get hold of unwaxed lemons. The waxed variety don’t release the lemon’s essential oils, which are the key ingredient of Limoncello – and by scrubbing them in warm water – even gently – to get rid of the wax, you’ll get rid of most of the oils too.
Start by peeling the lemons. Using a speed-peeler is much easier and infinitely faster than trying to use a knife. The idea is to get the absolute minimum amount of the white pith along with the peel, but just a little’s not going to ruin the end product.
What you don’t need is any lemon juice. Not even a drop.
Now put the lemon peel into a 1.5 litre glass bottle. You’re going to throw away the bottle and the peel after you’ve finished making your Limoncello, so don’t use any kind of special, ornamental bottle.
Once you’ve stuffed the peel into the bottle, add the litre of hooch. Give it a shake; stick it somewhere dark like under the kitchen sink; and get on with your life for the next two weeks.
If you can remember, give the bottle a shake every day. If you forget for a few days, it doesn’t really matter.
But each time you shake it, you’ll see the clear alcohol taking on a distinct yellow tinge, which gets a stronger during the fortnight.
One day before the two weeks is up, make a sugar syrup by putting the 1.5 litres of water into a large saucepan; adding the 600g of white caster sugar; bringing it slowly to the boil; then gently simmering it for around 10 minutes – giving it an occasional stir – until the sugar’s completely dissolved.
Leave this for a few hours – or overnight – to get cold.
You use white sugar because any kind of brown sugar has too pronounced a flavour for Limoncello. You use caster sugar rather than the more coarse granulated sugar because it dissolves more quickly.
If you have 600g of white granulated sugar in the cupboard and can’t be bothered to go out and buy a bag of caster sugar, your Limoncello will still be fab provided you ensure that every last grain of sugar has dissolved.
And by using 1.5 litres of water, you’ll be making Limoncello that’s around 37˚ proof. Commercially-produced Limoncello’s in the 25-35˚ proof range, so your home-made variety will be a bit stronger.
But if you feel this is a little much, by all means add up to a total of 1.75 litres of water, which’ll soften the effect a little !
The final stage involves getting a large glass container – a 5 litre demi-john would be perfect, into which you strain the lemon-tinged alcohol.
You’ll notice the lemon peel is now almost completely white – and brittle !
Now add the sugar syrup to the alcohol. Give it all a shake and you’ll notice the liquid has instantly become opaque.
And that’s it. You’ve made Limoncello ! Congratulations !
Next, simply decant your Limoncello into smaller bottles.
If you’re really, really patient, you can wait for three months before you drink it – and while it’s true this does make for a smoother result, it’s still excellent sampled right away.
Limoncello is best drunk very cold, so keep it in the fridge – or the freezer.
(You might end up with a Limoncello Slush Puppy – but it’ll taste good !)
And if you can’t get 100% alcohol ? Use:
– 1.5 litres of 40˚ proof vodka
– 475g of sugar
– 125g of lemon peel
– 400ml of water.
Follow the steps outlined above and while the end result will taste a little different to the real thing, it’ll still be pretty good.
Incidentally, keep tabs on the blog, because next-up, I’ll be posting a few suggestions on the different ways you can enjoy your delicious home-made Limoncello !