If there’s one flavor that comes to mind when I reminisce on the holidays I’ve spent in Italy, its lemons. Not the flaking crust of a wood-fired pizza, nor the spice of cacio e pepe spaghetti. Its the sweet and bitter zest of limoncello, refreshingly cool after a warm Italian afternoon
We first tried limoncello while traveling the scenic Amalfi coast. We tasted our way through vendors in Positano, and escaped the midday sun by strolling through the shade of a Sorrento lemon grove where the lemons grow twice as large as usual. These lemons – known as “Sfusato Amalfitano” – grow special in this region, and are perfect for making limoncello because of their thick rinds.
“Knowest thou the land where the lemon trees bloom (with fruit as big as your head?)” – Johann Wolfgan von Goethe (probably)
While wandering through the alleys of Positano, we stopped by a shop to taste their homemade limoncello, and they offered the recipe. A souvenir as much as a memory, my family and I returned home with the recipe. We make batches of limoncello every year, and have found that they make wonderful, albeit thoughtfully homemade and sentimental, gifts for the holidays, housewarming, or any other occasion. And when there’s call for celebration, we bring out the shot glasses bought in the storefronts along Corso Italia in Sorrento, decorated with hand-painted lemons, and break out the limoncello.
Here’s the recipe that we brought back from Positano – you’ll find its incredibly simple to make but tastes amazing!
Yields: 2.5 liters
Prep time: 20 minutes
Total time: 8 days
1 Liter Everclear Alcohol
10 Medium to Large Lemons*
1.5 Liters Water (6 1/3 cups)
3 Pounds Granulated Sugar (6 1/2 Cups)
*Choose thick-skinned lemons because they are easier to zest.
Using a potato peeler, take all the lemon rinds off the lemons so there is no white pith on the peel. Place the rind-peelings in a large container with the Everclear alcohol. Cover the container and let it sit for seven days.
On the eighth day, strain the peels from the alcohol and discard the peels. In a large saucepan, make a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar. Let it simmer for 15 minutes, then let the simple syrup cool to room temperature. Add to the alcohol and pour yourself a shot!