Limoncello is an Italian lemon liquer made from lemon zest, alcohol, water and sugar. It's a lovely bright yellow colour with a sweet lemony flavour, but lacks that tart, sour tang since it contains no lemon juice. It's typically served chilled as a soothing after-dinner drink to aid digestion. Nora had made some and it piqued my interest, so after sifting through some recipes, I thought I'd give it a whirl - read on...
- 750 ml bottle of vodka, 50% alcohol (100 proof) or as close to it as possible
- Lemons (I used Yen Ben lemons - they have a good oily skin and the folk at Lemon Z use them!)
- 1 Lime
- Zester (or a microplane, you lucky swine) or a paring knife
- Jar with screw-top lid (make sure it's airtight)
Grate/zest your lime and lemons, then place in the jar. If you don't have a zester, a paring knife is fine; just keep clear of the pith as you're peeling.
Pour all your vodka into the jar with the zest and then replace the jar lid. The alcohol will leach the flavour and colour from the zest over the next few weeks. Unfortunately, because I'm using a (relatively) low alcohol vodka, it will take a little longer to do its job - ordinarily, it's a couple of weeks.
Just as an aside, I had a hell of a time finding vodka with 50% alcohol, with most hovering between 38 to 40%. Smirnoff triple distilled was the highest i could find, sitting at 43% - if anyone knows why this is the case in NZ, leave a message in the comments below.
By the way, if you don't have a jar you could use stainless steel or even a plastic container - it just has to be air-tight. If things go well, the liquid in a few weeks time will be a bright yellow colour with a distinct lemon smell, with the zest being drained of colour.
And that's it for now! I'll be posting regular updates on its progress - the next step in the process will be filtering the liquor and the addition of a sugar syrup, finishing with a settling period.
Quick explanation of "proof" versus "alcohol level": basically, the proof figure you see on a bottle label is the alcohol percentage figure multiplied by two, so 100 proof vodka has a 50% alcohol volume, gin with 42% alcohol is 84 proof, and so on.
Addendum: apparently, I could have used grappa (cheers, Denise), or indeed a whole host of clear, high alcohol spirits and not just vodka. They would however, add a slight twist to the resulting flavour of the limoncello.
Finally, what to do with the left-over, denuded lemons?
- 2 1/2 cups water
- 1 1/4 cup sugar
- 1/2 teaspoon finely shredded lemon zest
- 1 1/4 cup lemon juice
Add lemon zest and lemon juice to the sugar syrup. Pour into a covered jar and chill. For a glass of lemonade, stir together 1/2 a cup of the lemonade base and 1/2 cup of cold water. Add ice cubes and serve (for fizzy lemonade, clicky). I'm not sure how long the base will keep for in the fridge, but the batch I made barely saw out the week so it probably won't be an issue.
A big thanks to Nora at Life's Smorgasbord for her inspiration (did you know her man has a BBQ called "Stallion" - respect!).
Here's a couple of sites with limoncello recipes: here and this two-parter, one and two.