I think I've said this before, but in case you've forgotten, lemon is one of my favorite flavors. I love anything lemon. I've wanted to try to make my own limoncello for a while now, and today is the day. At least for step one. Making limoncello is not a quick process. In fact, it takes several months. Don't let that deter you though. I'm making a double batch so that I can give it for Christmas gifts. How cool is that? Homemade limoncello for my friends and neighbors. Here's what you'll need:
- 6 oz lemon zest ( about 14-16 lemons depending on size)
- 1.5 liters of grain alcohol (I used Everclear)
- 1050 grams of sugar (about 2 1/3 lbs)
- a one gallon jar with a tight fitting lid
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemons until you have 6 oz. by weight. Make sure you remove just the yellow peel and not any of the white pith.
Put the zest in a gallon jar with a tight fitting lid.
Now add the grain alcohol.
Put the lid on the jar and store in a dark, cool, dry place for 42 days. That's right. 42 DAYS! Just forget about it. Don't be tempted to open it or shake it up, just make yourself a reminder on your calendar and leave it alone until the time is up.
STEP 2--42 days later...
Strain the liquid from the jar, discarding the lemon peels. I thought it was cool how the once soft, pliable, bright yellow peels were now more like crunchy brown potato chips. All that delicious lemon flavor has been transferred to the grain alcohol and it smells delicious, but don't be tempted to drink it yet.
Now pour the alcohol back into the containers. You can see that it's gone from clear liquid to a beautiful yellow.
Now it's time to sweeten it up a bit. Here is where you can adjust it to suit your taste, but these measurements are good for a drier, less sweet version, which is what we prefer. Weigh 1050 grams of sugar and add it to a saucepan with 6 1/3 cups water. Heat the mixture, stirring until all the sugar has been dissolved. Let the syrup cool to room temperature.
For these 2 batches, I tried 2 different kinds of sugar. One is regular pure cane sugar and the other is an organic, less refined sugar. I just did it because I was curious. Okay, I really did it because I ran out of refined sugar and I didn't want to go to the store. The organic sugar is what I keep in the house. Anyway, the color difference is dramatic. I'll see if the taste is any different when the process is complete.
Once the syrup is cool, pour it into the jar of alcohol and put the lid on. Now it's back to the cool dry place for a month. Yes I'm serious, 1 more month. You can check on it every week or so and gently shake it if you see sugar settling in the bottom, but don't open it or drink any until it's had a month to rest.
I'm a little disappointed by how brown and muddy the organic syrup made the batch on the right. I'll see how it looks in a month, but my guess is that it won't change much. That means I will probably keep that batch for us and use it for cooking and drinking and give the pretty batch away.
I made a reminder on my calendar and checked on the limoncello once a week, shaking it gently to make sure all the sugar was dissolved. FYI: I stored my limoncello under my house the whole 10 weeks. It's dark and cool and no one but me ever goes down there. If you don't have a space like that, a closet works just fine.
1 month later...
As you can see, it looks just like it did a month ago. That's partially because I forgot to take a picture so I'm using the same one again... You'll just have to trust me here, it will look the same. Before you put it into containers, you need to strain it. I poured it into a pitcher to make it easier to transfer without spilling. Then I lined a sieve with a coffee filter and set it over another pitcher. Slowly pour the liquid from the first pitcher into the strainer. This took a lot longer than I thought it would...
After you've strained it, pour it into your choice of containers and store in the freezer. Yes, I really mean keep it in the freezer. Don't worry about it freezing. Remember that is mostly 190 proof grain alcohol with some lemon flavoring and a little sugar. But it is sooooo good!
A word about my jars. They are too big. And too small. I need to get some that are in between these 2 sizes, but for now, this is what I have. I think a good size for gifts is about 1 liter. That gives your recipient enough to enjoy some for a while while leaving them anxious for more later.
Now, how about that batch made with the organic sugar? That will be my personal stash to cook with and drink. It tastes great, it's just not pretty like limoncello is supposed to be. You drink with your eyes too you know. (I know it's supposed to be eat, but in this case it's drink.)
So what to do with it now? Limoncello is for drinking and cooking. I will be posting recipes as I use it, but you can also find hundreds of them online. It's great in savory dishes as well as sweet desserts. Of course it makes delicious drinks too! Sip it SLOWLY, over ice for a refreshing summer drink, or make a lemon drop martini. Just remember it's strong stuff so be careful.