Homemade Limoncello

Foodbuzz 24 x 24 | An Ode to Orvieto

This recipe was a part of a special menu for Foodbuzz’s June 2011 food blogger party, 24×24. Showcasing posts from 24 Foodbuzz Featured Publisher bloggers, the monthly Foodbuzz 24 highlights unique meals occurring around the globe during a 24-hour period. Read more about my meal along with all of the other recipes at An Ode to Orvieto.

I know some folks might be surprised by this claim, but the majority of limoncello offerings here in the states are straight rocket fuel.  Sure, the lovely bright taste of lemon is first and foremost on the palette, but most immediately smack you in the face shortly thereafter with bitterness and pure, unmellowed alcohol.  My very first trip to Italy included a tour of Sorrento, the dreamy southern town known for their luscious lemons coaxed into deliciously smooth limoncello.  And yet, the gorgeous lemon liqueur doesn’t really seem to be available here other than a whole lot of fully-loaded (to the point of noxious) imposter cousins.

A while back, my grandmother turned me on to a recipe that her friend had provided her for homemade limoncello.  Homemade limocello?  That had to have been like the versions here, only slightly worse.  Imagine my surprise when she brought me a taste from the freezer of a limoncello that was smoother, brighter and more heavenly that all of the other sips I had had in ITALY!  How could that be?  I was then presented with a recipe that was 10 pages long.  I read through and the drink required a mellowing time of at least 3 months.  I would have questioned the need for the sheer amount of work had I not tasted the final product.  It was inevitable.  I had to make some majesty for myself.  Good thing that it made a gallon at a time!

Probably the most important advice I can give for this long-form recipe is to keep all of your ingredients as pure as possible.  Use good lemons (I picked mine from my tree in the back yard) and don’t get any (and I mean ANY) white pith in the batch.  Go out of your way to find Everclear or grain alcohol – this is not like a lot of the recipes around that have you infusing vodka or rum for a short period of time.  It’s a slow waltz of pure alcohol with the essence of lemon, dancing away to smooth perfection.  Last but not least, let the stuff mellow for as long as you can stand and when you are ready to drink it, filter the eff out of the stuff.  The clean deliciousness will come from your filtering the liqueur and not short-changing the process.  I promise you, you will be ruined for all other limoncello once you taste this one.

Homemade Limoncello

2 bottles of Everclear
18 lemons
4 c. of granulated sugar
5 c. of spring water

Clean a one-gallon jar with a screw top well.  Carefully zest the lemons, making sure that you do not get any white pith with the zest.  A microplane seems to work the best for getting the zest just right.  Add the zest and Everclear to the jar, seal and let sit for 45 days.

Make a simple syrup by combining the sugar and water in a pot.  Bring it to a simmer and cook for 4-5 minutes.  Let cool completely and then add to the limoncello.  Seal again and let sit for another 45 days.

Now to filter – take a permanent coffee filter (preferably purchased just for this) and set it over a pitcher.  Pour out the limoncello and discard the zest.  Now pour the filtered limoncello through the filter a second time.  Next, take two disposable coffee filters and put them into the permanent filter.  Pour the limoncello through this double filter twice.  By the time you are about finished, you’ll have a little bit of liquid that isn’t going through the filter.  Simply discard this last bit.

Put your filtered limoncello in the freezer to hang out for as long as you can stand, at least one more week, if not another month.  Drink and relish your good fortune at having limoncello so good.