Limoncello? How to make it yourself
Shout out if you don’t like Limoncello.
I thought so.
Limoncello is an Italian lemon digestif, these days produced in Italy wherever lemons grow. Its origins are probably from around the Amalfi Coast of Campania, south of Napoli. There, the large oval and sweet Sorrento lemon called Femminello Santa Teresa has a zest unusually high in lemon oil.
Many Italian families would have recipes passed down through generations, and it’s been commercialised for a century or more. A bottle will be between £20 and £30 in the UK. Luxardo makes a good example but there are many others, including brands from the Amalfi coast.
Why not make Limoncello yourself at home? Fatto in Casa, you might say. It’s quick and easy. It’s also much cheaper, fun to do and tastes better than many a commercial brand.
Quite honestly, using any good quality lemon is fine, as long as it is unwaxed. Traditionally, grain spirit or clear un-aged Grappa would provide the alcohol. However, a neutral spirit like Vodka is an ideal substitute.
- Four unwaxed lemons
- 750 ml bottle of 40% Vodka
- 560 g caster sugar
- 525 ml boiling water
Pare the zest from the lemons. Make sure to remove any white pith, which is bitter. Keep those lemons for use elsewhere.
Now cut the lemon zest into thin strips. Put these into a large, clean jar and then pour the vodka over. Don’t worry about using expensive vodka, cheap is good.
Cover the jar with a tightly fitting lid and leave for a week to steep. Kilner jars are ideal for the job. Shake the jar each day, and the liquid will begin to turn yellow, and the peel loses its colour. Keep it in a cool dark place.
After a week, put the caster sugar in a heatproof bowl and pour the boiling water over it. Stir until the sugar has fully dissolved, creating a syrup. Now add the vodka and lemon peel mixture and leave for a further week to blend. Again, shake the jar each day.
Strain the new Limoncello through muslin or a coffee filter into sterilised bottles using a funnel. Then seal tightly under cork or screwcap.
The resulting Limoncello will be clear and about 25% abv in strength. The result will be explosive and refreshing. It’s not overly sweet, as the sugar balances the acidity. Ecco qui!
Feel free to experiment with infusion and storage times. This recipe takes two weeks, but taking longer should produce even better results.
I recommend using small bottles because the Limoncello has no added preservative so will gradually deteriorate. Keep it in the fridge after opening.
However, if you prefer a sweeter Limoncello, experiment with increasing the amount of sugar syrup. Upping the sugar will also increase the viscosity. It may even turn the liquid cloudy (in the same way as water clouds Raki, Pastis or Ouzo). Do not be alarmed if this happens!
If you like this recipe, try substituting the lemon peel. Use the zest from five limes (Limecello) or two large oranges (Arancello).
On its own, as a digestif serve ice-cold, even from the freezer.
Add lemonade, sparkling water or Prosecco for a longer summer drink.
Pour over fruit salads or ice cream for a delicious dessert.
Various Cocktails use Limoncello too. Try a Limoncello Collins: Gin, Limoncello and Soda water over ice.
Just remember, when life brings you lemons, make Limoncello.
And if you’d like to try making your own Cassis, look no further than here.