Limoncello Diary, Part 1


The other week I read somewhere about someone making their own Limoncello. A virtual ear perked up at that–I’m always up for trying something new! Then Grace flat-out asked how to make Limoncello this weekend.

Oh, it’s on!

That was just the little nudge I needed to add lemons and grain alcohol to my shopping list this Saturday and away we go!

First, of course, I did a little digging as to the how to. I’ve found recipes that are done in a weekend all the way up to 3 months and a few points in between.

Limoncello is, essentially, a lemon-infused alcohol sipped after dinner in Italy. It’s fairly simple to make since you don’t need to distill or ferment anything, you just need the patience of a saint to let it sit for up to three months. While the recipes that suggest a weekend or week’s wait is all that’s require are, I’m sure, perfectly fine, the peanut gallery is actually very helpful in persuading me to do it longer, a la LimoncelloQuest.

***I should also point out that, should you play along and make your own Limoncello with me, that you can drink it at home and share it with friends but under no circumstances should you attempt to sell it without proper authority of the Bureau of Alcohol and whatever-else in your area. End public service (and save your ass) announcement.***

Ben over at LimoncelloQuest has been incredibly thorough in practice and documentation of his mission to create amazing Limoncello so I’m going to use his experience and the base for my forray into infused liquor, adjusting as necessary, though his recipe mirrors others I’ve found across the Internet with the exception of time involved.

All we’re using is the zest, so choose lemons based solely on their appearance. I know, I know, it’s not fair to the lemon’s inner beauty but we’re looking for thick skin so I think they can take it. Buy organic if you can. This will save you time cleaning off waxes and pesticides.

Prepping the Lemon Zest

Prepping the Lemon Zest

Zest the lemons avoiding the white, spongy pith beneat the surface. LQ prefers a microplane but I prefer a simple paring knife. Remove strips of lemon peel and then clean up any of the inevitable pith that tags along. Unless you know of a source of square lemons, it’s going to happen.

Mincing Zest

Mincing Zest

While I had no intention of reducing the zest to dust, I do believe if giving the alcohol ample surface area to harvest the cirtus oils from. Once cleaned of all pith I reduced the strips to small matchsticks. I briefly considered freezing the zest strips before slicing them up, going back to my recent observation about ice and zest, and I suppose you could shave off a week or two that way but for this go round I figured we could do it the long way to start.

Lemon, Meet Alcohol

Lemon, Meet Alcohol

I used 8 large lemons for the single 750 mL bottle of 151 Everclear (grain alcohol). Some folks think Vodka is a good base alcohol, others prefer a cleaner grain alcohol. Inside a 2 qt “cracker jar” I picked up at Wal-Mart that morning the lemon zest and the alcohol had their first handshake. The lid seemed fairly tight but it did have a cardboard insert rather than metal or plastic so I placed a piece of plastic wrap over the opening before screwing on the lid.

A Good Beginning

A Good Beginning

It’s going to be cozy for 45 days, give or take, before we add a quart of sugar syrup and let it sit for another 45 days. But for this first week we’re going to be swirling and shaking it around several times a day. We were surprised that within minutes the Everclear had taken on a yellow hue, certainly a positive sign!

Over the next 3 months I’ll be doing a check-in with the limoncello-to-be and post a photo every week so we can see how things develop over time. Once we get closer to the end (early October) and it’s time to start straining and tasting, I’ll do a quickie batch and Todd & I will taste the two and compare.

If you decide to play along and make a batch of limoncello alongside Todd & I, let us know in the comments.

And, in the mean time, turn those now-naked lemons into lemonade! 8 lemons yeilded a smidge over 1.5 cups of juice, a perfect amount to combine with a sugar syrup of 3/4 c sugar and 2 1/4 cups water, making a quart of lemonade concentrate to be combined with equal parts water, sparkling water, soda or (as we prefer) strongly brewed Earl Grey Tea.

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