What do you do when life gives you lemons? I make limoncello with the Meyer lemons from my tree.
Last week I made a batch of limoncello and crema di limoncello, which I learned to make from my cousins. In Calabria people make all types of liqueurs, infusing grain alcohol with different fruit, herbs, flowers, even hot peppers. (The most unusual liqueur I have ever tasted in Calabria was at Villa San Domenico in Morano Calabro where the owner had infused the alcohol with porcini mushrooms.) It is a custom to offer a bicchierino (little glass) of liqueur when someone comes by to visit. Most waiters in Calabria won’t leave you alone until you have a little glass of limoncello or other infused liqueur after dinner.
Limoncello is very easy to make: you just need some lemons that haven’t been sprayed or waxed, a bottle of Everclear and some sugar. Crema di limoncello, the recipe for which I give you below, has one extra ingredient: milk.
Wash your lemons and remove the peel with a very sharp peeler or knife, being careful to remove only the yellow part of the lemon. You don’t want any of the white pith–this will make the limoncello bitter.
Place the peels with the alcohol in a jar with a hermetic seal. I use this jar that is large enough to hold the peels and the alcohol, and has a tight seal. Leave the peels in the alcohol for a week.
After a week, strain the alcohol and add the cooled sugar syrup, made with either water for plain limoncello, or milk for crema di limoncello. That is all there is to it. Leave it alone for a week and then enjoy a little glass as an after-dinner drink.
Crema di Limoncello
(Creamy lemon liqueur)
Peeled zest of eight lemons
1 bottle of grain alcohol (750ml) (Everclear 151 Proof)
6 cups of whole milk
4 cups of granulated sugar
1. Remove the peel of the lemons taking care to peel only the yellow part and none of the white. If any white pith is left on the peel it will make the limoncello bitter.
2. Pour the alcohol in a bottling jar that will hold at least three quarts and add the lemon peels. Close the jar with a tight fitting lid and leave to infuse for one week in a dark cool place.
3. After this time, place the milk and sugar in a pot over a low flame and heat until the sugar is dissolved. When the sugar is dissolved, remove it from the heat and let it cool to room temperature. Make sure that the sugar mixture is completely cooled. For making regular limoncello this is very important; if the sugar syrup is still a little bit hot the limoncello will turn out cloudy instead of clear. Remove the lemon peels from the alcohol and then add the cold milk syrup to the jar and mix well.
4. Pour the crema di limoncello through a fine sieve lined with clean cheese cloth and decant it into bottles. Close the bottle with a cork or lid. Leave to rest for at least a week in the freezer before using it.
Crema di Limoncello is always served cold. I keep it in the freezer once opened.
Limoncello Variation: If you wish to make limoncello, just replace the milk with water. Boil the water and sugar and let it cool. Follow the rest of the recipe. Keep refrigerated or in the freezer once made.
Makes 3 quarts.
Copyright 2005, Rosetta Costantino. All rights reserved.