Back at the start of December I decided to make some Limoncello for Alberto as a Christmas present. He loves it and between us we’d just finished a bottle so it seemed like a good idea. I trawled around on the internet and found a variety of different recipes, which were all broadly speaking the same but with slight variations and so I cobbled this recipe together from the best of them. The end result was, if I do say so myself, delicious and certainly got Alberto’s seal of approval. The recipe I’ll detail here makes about a litre and a quarter of Limoncello and is fairly easy to do. In fact, I took a small sample to Devon for Christmas and Mum and Dad liked it so much they’re making some for themselves right now.
I shall certainly make some more in the near future – it’s not quick – it does take at least a couple of weeks, and could be left for even longer if you fancy it, and you’re patient enough! The day before it was ready I met someone at party who says that she always uses Lemongrass for her Limoncello – useful advice but far too late! Maybe something to think about for next time.
You need a few bits of equipment as well as the actual ingredients but they can be reused time and time again. Here’s what I used and how I did it:
1 litre Kilner jar
1 litre Kilner bottle
1 pack of coffee filters
1 lemon zester
18 unwaxed lemons (If you can’t get unwaxed lemons them you’ll have to wash the wax off ‘em. You don’t want wax in your Limoncello!)
1 litre of vodka (I opted for Smirnoff. The vodka was 39% – by the time you’ve diluted it a bit with some sugar syrup it’ll be about 30%)
250ml of water
200g of caster sugar
Zest 10 lemons directly into the Kilner jar.
You need to be very careful with this – you don’t want to accidentally get any of the white pith in the mixture as it would make the resulting mixture bitter. I use a lemon zester as it makes it easier to get the zest off in long, thin strips without any risk of pith. Actually the zester I used was bought for me as a Christmas present by Alberto last year. It all comes full circle!
I zested the lemons over the Kilner jar so that any of the lemon oil from the skin that were released during the zesting ended up in the jar.
Once the zest is in the jar, pour over the vodka. Stir the liquid gently.
I then sealed the jar and popped it under my bed, so that Alberto wouldn’t accidentally see it. If you’re not making it as a surprise then just keep it somewhere cool and darkish. (out of direct sunlight)
You need to agitate the mixture every day to swill the lemon zest around. By the start of the second day the vodka had already started to turn yellow.
I left it under the bed, agitating daily, for 8 days. You can leave it for longer if you have more time but I was working to a tight schedule!
After the zest had been steeping in the vodka for 8 days I filtered it to remove the zest.
This is a bit fiddly as the Kilner jar doesn’t have a lip for easy pouring. I popped a tray underneath the jar, and a jug that I used, in order to catch any spillages.
I used a coffee filter in a funnel to filter the vodka into an empty 1 litre bottle. The coffee filter gets the strips of lemon zest out and allows the vodka through. The vodka should, by now, be a lovely lemon yellow colour.
Then zest 8 more unwaxed lemons into the now empty Kilner jar, pour the vodka back into the jar and then leave it for another week, agitating daily.
After another week filter the vodka through a coffee filter and a funnel for a final time. I made sure that it ended up back in the Kilner jar – cleaned out of all lemon zest, of course – as it would be easier to stir in the syrup in the jar. If you’ve used a litre of vodka and have a litre Kilner jar then, obviously, don’t fill it right back up or there will be no room for the syrup!
Once this is done set the vodka to one side and set about making the sugar syrup.
Put the water in a saucepan, heat until almost boiling and then add the sugar, stirring continually until the sugar is completely dissolved.
Leave the syrup to cool.
Once the syrup is cold, add it, a bit at a time, to the lemon-flavoured vodka, stirring well with each addition. You’ll need to taste it as you go along – just a little – to make sure that the Limoncello has the right flavour and consistency. The sweetness shouldn’t overpower the lemonyness, you want that citrusy bite – and the resultant liqueur should be syrupy but not too thick. If, like I was, you’re making this at 10am before you’ve had breakfast, then tasting it on an empty stomach might send you a little tipsy so only tiny tasting sips!
Once the mixture has the right flavour and consistency then funnel it back into the bottle and it’s ready to drink.
It’s best served chilled so pop it in the fridge, or in the freezer if you want it really cold. Delicious!!