When life gives you lemons, make limoncello! Or more importantly when Mac’s work colleague (the lovely Loz) gives him lemons, then I was definitely making a batch of limoncello.
I already had a recipe on how to make limoncello in my very large ‘not yet made’ recipe collection. I have had this recipe for 19 years, and have wanted to make limoncello for just as long.
The recipe was given to me by the lovely Leo and Lidia, who I haven’t seen in probably 19 years as well. Leo was also a work colleague of Mac’s many years ago. I met them when we were living in Italy for a while. Josh was four, and I was working casually in the hospitality industry. When the opportunity came up to go with Mac to Italy for a while, I quite happily dropped everything and Bologna bound we were.
It seemed that everybody’s father had a good stash of home made grappa, straight up, but also various flavours. Flavour wise it was as vast as the imagination, coffee, various fruits and my favourite, lemon or limoncello.
Below, for your amusement, are some photos of Josh and I 19 years ago in Bologna. Wasn’t he just the cutest kid! Oh, and yes, I had dark hair. I had this idea that my ass wouldn’t get pinched as much in Italy if I went from blonde to brunette. How wrong was I. In fact it seems that Italian men are quite happy to, well, be Italian men, even when you are walking down the street holding the hand of your four year old son.
The grappa I used for making the limoncello added beautifully to the synergy of the whole story. An Italian company I still work with to this day gave this particular grappa to me, over 20 years ago. Grappa straight up isn’t a particularly pleasant tipple, reminds me a little of paint stripper. A clear, high in alcohol content, potent drink made from the bits of the grapes leftover from the process of making wine.
If you can’t find grappa, a grain alcohol is your next best bet, but if that seems all too hard, you can use vodka. Please try and not use vodka, there are so many recipes out there that do, and well, that’s just not how you make limoncello. After all it is an Italian drink not Russian.
The lemon part of the limoncello is very important. Avoid lemons from the supermarket as they are waxed and the recipe wont work as well. If you don’t grown your own, or have a lovely neighbour or work colleague, maybe try your local farmers’ market.
- 6 lemons non waxed
- 1 L grappa or grain alcohol – 90% alcohol
- 1 kg sugar
- 1.25 L water
- Peel lemons and use only the yellow skin, avoid as much of the pith (white part) as you can.
- Put the lemon peel in a container with the grappa for 20 days. A couple of bottles with lids work very well. Store the bottled with the grappa and lemon in a cool dark place and shake them every couple of days.
- On the 20th day place water and sugar in a large pot and stir until sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and then leave to cool completely.
- Once cool, strain grappa from the lemon peel and add the lemon infused grappa to the sugar syrup.
- Mix well and distribute the limoncello to bottles.
- Limoncello is best served from the freezer. Make sure you don’t over fill your bottles and the liquid will expand, but not freeze, in your freezer.
- Recipe makes 3L of limoncello.
There you go my friends, that’s how to make limoncello. In the end my grappa was left to infuse with the lemon peel for just over a month. You don’t have to be strict about the 20 days, but I definitely wouldn’t leave it for any less than that.
How does it taste? Absolutely wonderful, for many reasons. There is some happy personal history behind my limoncello and I have used locally grown Aussie lemons. Plus I do believe when you have put the effort in and invested time in making something from scratch, that fact alone makes it even more delicious.
Now you know I am a complete recipe hoarder, and I have recipes going back 19 years (there are older ones, sigh). Do tell me, what’s the longest time you have kept a recipe before making it? Would love to know if you can break my record.
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