Before the pandemic I’d been making so many mental plans of the places I wanted to visit. During lockdown I didn’t let myself think about travel and now I’m hopeful that I will be able to go on at least one trip next year. But this is ok, because I would rather have those experiences when it feels like a much better and safer time.
But in the meantime what better way to explore places than through food and drink! It’s a great excuse to delve a little further into recipe books and try new things.
This thought fits in with some glasses that I bought recently, a box of small, stemmed shot sized glasses – probably for sherry. I was going to save these for Christmas, thinking that they would look so inviting on a tray to hand out to friends – ready for a dash of a little something. But then my friend suggested they would be ideal for Limoncello! Check them out here.
What a perfect way to start my travels – in Italy! So this is what I found out about limoncello…
Limoncello is an Italian lemon flavoured liqueur traditionally served after dinner – chilled, not just out of the cupboard. It is produced mainly in southern Italy, especially around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrento, the Amalfi coast, and islands of Procida, Ischia, and Capri – I’d like to visit them all! The lemons that grow here have thick skins that are rich in oils, perfect for creating the best flavour.
Limoncello has been around for over 100 years and it is said that it was given by the wealthiest families in Sorrento to their guests, although there are several different stories about its origin. Today it is still one of Italy’s most famous exports and widely offered in Italian restaurants at the end of a meal.
I’ve found out that you can make limoncello yourself quite easily. You need lemons (of course), but they must be really good ones – Amalfi lemons ideally or the large unwaxed variety you might find in a premium supermarket or from a good grocer.
For truly authentic limoncello you also need 95% proof grain alcohol, which feels like a bit of a challenge. Luckily many recipes however just stipulate vodka, so while we might not be able to be totally authentic – we can have fun trying!
You can find lots of recipes online, but I found some really great instructions with videos here at Great Italian Chefs Recipe as follows.
8 lemons, organic and unwaxed
450g of sugar
- Peel the zest from the lemons with a sharp peeler or small knife.
- Remove any white pith from the lemon peel, as this will give the limoncello a bitter flavour.
- Place the de-pithed lemon peel in a large clean jar and pour over the vodka, ensuring the peels are completely submerged. Seal and leave in a cool dark place to steep for 10–14 days.
- Strain the vodka through a muslin cloth and discard the peel. The liquid will have turned a nice bright yellow.
- Make a sugar syrup by boiling 500ml water with the sugar until the sugar has dissolved.
- Take off the heat and add the remaining 500ml of cold water to cool the mixture down.
- Once completely cooled, add the sugar syrup to the lemony vodka.
- Transfer the limoncello to sterilised bottles.
- Store in the fridge. The liqueur should last for up to a year.
Just as soon as I come across some lovely looking lemons, I’ll be sure to try it and report back!