Today I will diverge from my Holiday theme because I was able to taste my homemade Limoncello.
Il Limoncello di Capri
It is still up for debate where this lemon liqueur originated between Sorrento, Amalfi and Capri. The liqueur first appeared in 1900, but only in 1988 Massimo Canale registered the first trademark “Limoncello”. Still, at that time only a few restaurateurs on the Amalfi coast, Sorrento and Capri were producing it. However, it was often only reserved for special guests (ospiti).
The first time I tried the lemon liqueur was in 1986. I was with my recently married husband in a little family owned osteria in Tramonti, a small town in the Amalfi coast area sitting at the foot of the Lattari Mountains. At the end of what I recall as a delicious lunch (pranzo), the host, feeling cheerful in the presence of this happily newlywed couple, offered a taste of his precious homemade lemon liqueur. Oh . . . it was special! The aroma of the lemon alone was exhilarating!
A few years went by before I saw this liqueur Limoncello, on the shelves of restaurants and markets. Today the Limoncello is everywhere in Italy and abroad. Does it all taste good? I don’t believe so. At first, the recipes were passed on from mother to daughter, but now they are all over the internet. There are many variations, such as the use of grain alcohol or Vodka, how long the peels have to steep in the liquid, and so on.
I personally only trust my Zia (aunt) Anna’s recipe. She makes the best homemade Limoncello! However, there is a catch! She tells me ”the only lemons you can use are the ones handpicked from Sorrento” It’s easy for her to say, she lives ten minutes from Sorrento!
Well . . . I live on the other side of the Ocean. So I had to give up the idea of making my own Limoncello and, I did. Until two months ago, when one of my clients from my cooking classes asked me if I would teach her how to make Limoncello. I couldn’t say no.
Four weeks ago Mary Anne and I met to start the long process of making Limoncello. Earlier that morning I had been to the local organic market in search of the perfect lemons (limoni). And, lucky me! I found these beautiful lemons, medium size and with still a tiny hint of green, just what I needed! Most of all they had a wonderful aroma, I was all set!
Mary Anne and I peeled the lemons to perfection with no trace of the bitter pith on the rinds.
We transferred the rinds into two glass jugs, added the alcohol, sealed the jugs and wrapped them in kitchen towels.
For four weeks the jugs sat in my kitchen (cucina) cabinet. Finally, yesterday I added the water-sugar solution and let it rest overnight. This morning Mary Anne and I finally strained and bottled the liqueur.
The bottled Limoncello should have rested in the refrigerator for at least four hours before the first taste, needless to say . . . we couldn’t wait!
Here it was, the moment of truth! And then Mary Anne said “Oh my . . . it smells so good! and . . . it is yummy!”
This Limoncello surely will be under someone’s Christmas Tree!
Dear Zia Anna, thank you for the recipe. The lemons are not from Sorrento, but I think you would be proud. Cin cin!
And you . . . have you ever had Limoncello? Do you like it? Where did you have the best one? Do you make your own? Tell me!
I know what you are thinking . . . and here it is, Zia Anna’s Limoncello recipe (ricetta).
Limoncello di Zia Anna
10 medium organic lemons
5 cups granulated sugar
1 qt filtered water
1 qt Everclear (190-prof) grain alcohol
Make sure you use organic lemons. DO NOT WASH THE LEMONS, just rub them with a clean damp kitchen towel.
If you cannot find organic lemons, wash them in warm water and brush them, then dry them completely.
Using a vegetable peeler (Y peeler works best), remove the peel from the lemons in long strips.
My suggestion: reserve the lemons for another use such as scaloppine al limone or tagliolini al limone.
Using a small sharp knife, trim away any residual white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith.
Place the lemon rind in a glass jar (3-qt jar with wide opening and with lid).
Pour the alcohol over the rind and seal the jar.
Cover the jar with a large kitchen towel and let the lemon rind steep, in a dark place for one month.
After one month, stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over low heat until the sugar completely dissolves, about 10 minutes.
Cool completely. Pour the syrup over the alcohol/ rind mixture.
Seal the jar and allow to rest overnight.
The next day, strain the limoncello into a large pouring bowl, by lining a strainer with heavy-duty cheesecloth to make sure that no rinds or residuals get into the limoncello. You might have to do this in batches.
My suggestion: save the rinds in a Tupperware in the refrigerator and wait for my next blog!
You are now ready to bottle. Use sterilized bottles. Line a funnel with cheesecloth and fill the bottles, seal and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours.
Transfer the bottles in the freezer.
Alway serve ice-cold. Enjoy!