Making Limoncello every fall is a tradition in our house. It’s a unique gift and I love to use it as a special treat throughout the year.
It all began when I went to Italy years ago with two friends and my mother. We spent several days in Rome then drove to Umbria and stayed just outside of Assisi, the birthplace of St. Francis and the Franciscan order. Assisi is on the western flank of the mountain of Monte Subasio. We spent a rainy but beautiful week driving the curving back roads as far north as Florence and all around Umbria.
The first afternoon we drove up Monte Subasio until the snow made us turn around. On the way down we found a tiny restaurant jutting out over the edge of the mountain. We were generously given a table in the middle of the small dining room and were kindly greeted by the other diners with help ordering and with stories of life on the mountain. I had my first pasta with black truffles there, which I remember to this day. Capping off this lovely, hilarious evening we toasted our good fortune with a small glass of limoncello. The proprietor even gave Lisa the small glasses as a gift.
We found ourselves placed at the middle table in quite a few small restaurants. This pattern of meeting lovely people, pantomiming our way through a delightful meal and finishing the evening with limoncello, was set for the rest of our trip.
Limoncello is made in three steps: 1. The lemon zest is soaked in vodka for 30-40 days. 2. Then more vodka and a simple syrup is added to the soaked lemon zest. 3. Finally, the limoncello is decanted and stored in the freezer until used.
This takes less than 30 minutes of active time.
18 lemons, zested. Be careful not to get any of the white pith in with the zest because it is bitter.
1 Bottle (750ml) 100 proof vodka
1 Bottle (750ml ) 80 proof vodka
3c sugar (used in step 2)
3c water (used in step 2)
A 1 gallon glass jar, a zester, and a strainer (used in step 3)
Step 1: Put the lemon zest in the gallon jar and fill it with half of each bottle of vodka. Put the jar in a dark corner and leave it to steep. I usually leave mine for 30 to 40 days. You can leave it for at little as 2 weeks but it just gets better and better as it matures.
Most recipes use 100 proof vodka only because limoncello is stored in your freezer and you do not want it to freeze.
The first year I made limoncello I used a bottle of Grey Goose vodka. Well – I’m just spoiled after that. I’ve since tried a variety of less expensive vodkas. One year I bought a much lower priced vodka and ran the vodka thru a filter 8 times but even with all that filtering the limoncello came out with a slightly bitter edge.
I find the 80 proof smoother so I mix them. The 100-proof vodka is basically acting as an anti-freeze – but what an anti-freeze!
The vodkas I am trying this year are Polar Ice and Burnett’s Vodka.
Steps 2 and 3 will be on the blog site on the first of December!