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Wednesday, February 5, 2014

Limoncello: What To Do When You Have Too Many Lemons

Years ago I had a parent of one of my students bring me a gift. It was in a tall, skinny bag. She told me that I probably wouldn't want to open it at school, which meant that it was a great gift. It was a bottle of homemade limoncello. For those of you who don't know what limoncello is, it's like adult lemonade. It's like liquid sunshine in a glass. It is fabulous. So if you happen to read this article, Tammy, this one's for you.

Here's what you need:

-16ish organic lemons (you use the rinds, so it is very important that the lemons are organic. The trees in your yard or the neighbor's yard are probably perfect)

-a bottle of vodka (if you can find 100 proof vodka, that is preferred. If not, choose your favorite. I like Skyy vodka because the blue bottles are great for storing the limoncello)

-Three cups of sugar

- Two cups of water


Here's what you do:

1) Wash the lemons.

2) Using a potato peeler, peel the yellow part of the lemon rind off of the lemons (this is the only part of the lemon you will be using, so you can juice the rest of the lemons to make regular lemonade. Or, you can juice the lemons, put the lemon juice in ice cube trays, freeze, and you have a single serving of lemon juice for the future).

3) Soak the lemon rind in the vodka for two weeks. If you're in a hurry, one week is sufficient, but I find that the longer it soaks, the better it is.

4) When the vodka mixture is ready, heat 2 cups of water and add the sugar until it dissolves. Let cool, and add the syrup to the vodka.

5) Strain and add to bottles. I find that small bottles make wonderful gifts. They make even better gifts when they have homemade limoncello in them.

Note: You can adjust the sugar to make the final product more or less sweet according to your taste.

Please also note that limoncello is typically an end-of-the-meal, sipping beverage. It should be served in small glasses and enjoyed with friends.

If you don't have a lemon tree, this is the perfect time of year to get free lemons. People with lemon trees typically have superfluous lemons and are more than happy to share. A small thank you bottle of limoncello will probably ensure that you get free lemons for life. 

A couple of additional anecdotes. When my wife and I went to Italy years ago, we took a pasta making class in a 15th century Tuscany villa. Yeah, it was as awesome as it sounds. We made pasta, and then ate what I still hold is the best meal I have ever had. At the end of this two hour meal, our host brought us each a small glass of limoncello. She said, "For the digestion!" So according to the Italians, limoncello is a very important part of the meal.

I made a batch upon our return from Italy, and shortly thereafter purchased a somewhat pricey bottle. By comparison, this recipe was significantly better than the purchased bottle, and was on par with what we had in Italy.

Buon appetito!

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