We travelled to Italy a few years ago, and were lucky enough to stay in the beautiful town of Positano very near Pompeii. It is a town built on a cliff above a few beaches. I think it was something like 250,000 steps from our hotel to the beach. Ok, not really, but it felt like it. We learned a little late in the game that you can take the local bus for very little and avoid all of the steps. I highly recommend the bus.
Everywhere we went in Positano, the lovely pottery for sale was covered in lemons. Every restaurant featured lemon sauces, lemon desserts, etc. all followed with little glasses of limoncello. If you have ever had it before, at first taste it reminds you of lemon-flavored cough syrup with a kick. It is meant to be a digestif after all of the pasta and such. At first, we were not fans, but by the third or so we loved it.
I asked a local about why everyone serves limoncello. He said that most of the families there have lemon trees. After the tourist season ends in October or so, they head home to harvest their lemons with their families. They get whole grain alcohol from the government, and use the rind from the lemons for the limoncello. It takes 95 days from start to finish, which means it is ready when the weather starts to warm up. They use the juice from the lemons for their sauces throughout the summer as well. It turns out that making limoncello is mostly just waiting and a little bit of making. I can totally do that! I found a recipe that included a vanilla bean, which really does soften it just enough. If you drink limoncello, then be sure you are just serving it in little shot glasses. Beware, it can get really easy to drink, and before you know it, you have passed the point of no return…and you are desperately needing a nap! If drinking it intimidates you, I have also served it poured over a lemon sorbet topped with raspberries. It makes for a really refreshing dessert. The texture of the drink is syrupy and viscous, so it is best served very cold. I keep my bottle ready to go in the freezer. It gets more aggressive the warmer it gets. Why do I bring up limoncello now? Well, it is citrus season! Hooray! My Meyer Lemons are almost ready to pluck, but they don’t make for good limoncello. That said, you can run to the grocery store, and grab big lemons right now. Just be sure that you are only removing the yellow rind- leave the white pith behind. I used my lemon “innards” in my juicer so that my 10 year old could make his lip-puckering homemade lemonade. Enjoy!
(this is a double batch)
What you’ll need:
One liter of Everclear
10-15 really nice lemons (the rind matters, friends)
5 cups of sugar
4 cups of water
1 vanilla bean
What you’ll do:
First, after you have washed those lemons, you will zest them. You can use the five whole zester, the microplaner or the carrot peeler. Put all of the zest in the large sealable jar with the liter of booze. Don’t do vodka- it’s not the same. Let it sit for 45 days in a cool dark place.
After 45 days, you will need to make the syrup, and remove the peels. You can simply pour the mixture through a fine mesh to remove the peels. Put the lemony goodness back in the jar with one vanilla bean. This will mellow it out just enough to make it irresistible. Bring the four cups of water to a boil, and dissolve the 5 cups of sugar into the water. Allow it all to cool, before you add it to the limoncello. Once combined, store it back in the cool, dark place.
After the second 45 days, take your mesh, and line it with two coffee filters. Put it over a bowl, and filter your limoncello into the bowl. This will take a while as it should be thick and syrupy. You can filter again if you want it to be more clear. Finally, use a funnel to fill up the bottle or bottles of your choice. Store in the freezer until you are ready to use.