Limoncello

                Every couple of years, I make a batch of Limoncello for myself and some friends.  It’s a pretty simple recipe and only involves a couple of hours of actual work time.  The remainder is just waiting.  So, I like to do it in the winter when nothing much else is going on.  Here are my tips and tricks for making limoncello.

                The first thing you have to do is get the initial ingredients.  This includes lemons and some high proof neutral alcohol.  For the lemons, I use 15 medium sized organic lemons.  They should have a rood zest as that is the part you will be using.  I tend to go organic just because I don’t want any residual pesticide on the skin.  The next part is the alcohol.  You can use 100 proof vodka, or you can use Everclear.  Both are somewhat difficult to find.  In Massachusetts, Everclear is illegal, so you have to go to Connecticut to buy it.  If you’re not sure about your state, call a few liquor stores and ask.  They may have a different name for it (I got Graves), but it is 95% alcohol.  If you do decide to use 100 proof vodka, I’ve used Smirnoff blue.  I found it in a medium sized store, so any large liquor store should have it.

                The next thing is zesting the lemons.  I use a microplaner, and this is a huge timesaver.   (I got mine on Amazon here (http://www.amazon.com/Microplane-40020-Classic-Zester-Grater/dp/B00004S7V8/ref=sr_1_1?s=home-garden&ie=UTF8&qid=1359921169&sr=1-1&keywords=microplaners).   I previously used a zester and that thing took forever.  Since you don’t want to get any of the pith (the white stuff underneath the skin), I had to be extremely careful with the zester.  Don’t try using a peeler either, you’ll definitely have a problem.  It takes me about 45 minutes with my microplaner to do all of the lemons.  I collect all the zest in a large bowl.  I ten give my wfe the lemons.  This year, she made lemon sorbet.  Always have a reserved purpose for the rest of the lemons, otherwise it is a huge waste.  I then take a 1 gallon jug and sanitize it with some One Step.  This is an overkill as the high alcohol will probably kill anything, but I always sanitize.  I then pour 1.5 L of Everclear in and add the zest.  Over the next 5 days, I shake it every day.  Then, I only shake it once a week until I get to the 40th day.

                The next part is to make the simple syrup on that 40th day.  I use 4 cups sugar and 5 cups water.  The water goes in a pot on the stove and I slowly add the sugar.  I slowly heat the mixture until all the sugar dissolves.  People do talk about boiling the water, but I never get that far before it dissolves.  They might be using more sugar, which may necessitate more boiling.  I then take the mixture off the stove and let it cool before adding to my limoncello.  This step takes about 15 minutes, and then you must wait another 40 days.

                After 40 days, you have a great smelling mixture.  Unfortunately, it has tons of lemon zest and looks really cloudy.  So, I strain out the lemon zest with a  simple strainer and then run the mixture through a coffee filter.  I use unbleached coffee filters for this purpose.  This part takes a while and you will have to constantly change the filters as they get clogged.  However, you are left with a magnificently clear mixture.  I then sanitize 8 375 mL clear bottles and pour he mixture in.  It makes about 3 liters, so you get about 8 bottles (for $50).  I then stash one bottle in the freezer and enjoy it on those hot summer afternoons or evenings.

limocello