Limoncello, Phase One
- Choose 24 medium size lemons or 12 large lemons. When I say large, I mean huge. The ones from my tree are the size of grapefruit. Use organic lemons, since the alcohol is going to suck out every bit of oil (and pesticide, if it’s there) from the zest.
- Peel the zest from the lemons. Make sure not to get any pith, since it will make the liqueur bitter. I’ve heard that a microplane works well, but since I don’t have one, I used a serrated vegetable peeler.
- Put the skins in a jar and dump in two 750 ml bottles of 150 proof Everclear (see photo below). Leave in the jar in a cool, dark place for approximately three weeks. You’re ready to move on when the zest has turned white and the alcohol is yellow.
Limoncello, Phase Two
- Strain the zest from the alcohol. Squeeze any oil, if possible, from the zest and add to the alcohol.
- Mix the lemony alcohol with a simple syrup of 12 cups water and 5 cups sugar for a mix that won’t kill you, and 9 cups water and 4 ½ cups sugar for a mix that will merely burn your eyelashes off. Liquid should turn slightly cloudy.
- Put the jar back in its cool, dark place for three more weeks.
Limoncello, Phase Three
- Pour into bottles.
- Make labels.Tie a recipe for limoncello biscotti around the neck of the bottle, and you have the perfect spring gift for friends.
A note on alcohol:
You will find recipes that call for vodka instead of grain alcohol. Don't do it, unless you want to make a glorified lemondrop martini. I've tested this recipe various ways, and my friends have taste-tested those various batches, and the recipe that I have come up with here is considered the best, especially by all those who had their first sips while traveling in Italy.
(top photo by Julie Fay)