Limoncello is a delicious lemon liqueur native to Southern Italy. Limoncello can be quite pricey but you can make your own limoncello at home with this simple recipe. Put it in a nice bottle, add a handmade tag and it makes a beautiful gift. Use organic lemons if possible because only the peel is used and you want to avoid any unnecessary coating or pesticides.
Items you'll need:
- 1-gallon glass jar
- vegetable peeler
- long wooden spoon
- measuring cups
- large saucepan
- 4 (1-liter) glass bottles
- fine-mesh strainer or coffee filter
- large bowl
- narrow-neck funnel
- 15 organic lemons
- 2 (750-milliliter) bottles Everclear (or another 151- or 190-proof grain alcohol)
- 4 cups granulated sugar
- 9 1/2 cups water (divided)
- Gather the ingredients.
- Wash a 1-gallon glass jar and lid in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the jar and lid through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.
- Scrub the lemons in warm water and pat dry.
- Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from each lemon in wide strips. Be careful not to remove the white pith, which will impart a bitter flavor to the limoncello.
- Place the lemon peels in the prepared jar and pour in 1 bottle of the alcohol.
- Push down the lemon peels with a wooden spoon to completely submerge them in the liquid.
- Tightly secure the lid, and set the jar in a cool, dark place to steep. Stirring is not necessary.
- After 20 or 40 days, add the second bottle of alcohol to the mixture.
- Place the sugar and 7 1/2 cups of the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar.
- Decrease to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes to ensure that all the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool.
- When the sugar syrup is completely cool, add it to the lemon and alcohol mixture in the jar.
- Tightly secure the lid, and return the jar to a cool, dark place to steep for an additional 20 to 40 days. Over time, the liquid will absorb the flavor from the lemon peels and turn bright yellow in color.
- To bottle, first wash the bottles in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the bottles through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.
- Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer, or coffee filter set in a strainer, into a large bowl.
- Add 1 2/3 cups of water to the limoncello if you used 151-proof grain alcohol; add 2 cups of water if you used 190-proof. (Note: The addition of the water will turn the liquid cloudy and pale yellow in color. This is the desired outcome.) Let it rest for a moment so that any remaining sediment will fall to the bottom of the bowl.
- Using a narrow neck funnel, ladle the limoncello into the prepared bottles, leaving 1-inch headspace.
- Wipe the rims clean, secure the lids, and label.
- Serve after dinner as a sipping beverage and enjoy.
Store the bottles in a cool, dark place, or keep in the freezer until ready to serve. Limoncello will keep for several years.
- Tie each bottle with raffia or ribbon and attach a gift card. To turn this into a gift basket, add a set of cordial glasses.
- Add a fun tag that says: "This homemade Limoncello was bottled on [give date] and can be enjoyed for several years to come. Store it in the freezer, and enjoy it as a refreshing liqueur to sip after dinner."
Reprinted with permission from Gifts Cooks Love by Diane Morgan and Sur La Table (Andrews McMeel 2010). (Buy on Amazon.)