homemade limoncello

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how to make limoncello

infusing lemon zest in alcohol

LEMON LIQUEUR. Already for or a long time, liqueurs have been considered beneficial to one’s health, in moderate amounts of course.

Since the Middle Age medicines have been prepared by alchemists and monks by infusing fruits, flowers, herbs and even woods in alcohol and subsequently sweetened. Some of these preparations were believed to be not only invigorating but also aphrodisiac. By the Renaissance the recreational use of liqueurs had become widespread in Europe, a fashion apparently started by  Catherine de’ Medici and her court.

Making liqueurs with locally available fruits and herbs is still popular all over Italy, and not only by monks. Limoncello is traditionally made in the Amalfi area using the intensely aromatic zest of Sorrento lemons. However it can be made anywhere as long as one has access to fresh unwaxed organic lemons.

Recipe

  • zest of 1 kg (2 pounds) organic lemons
  • 1 litre (1 quart) 95 % alcohol (you can use use grain alcohol)
  • 1 litre (1 quart) water
  • 800 gr.  (4 cups) sugar

Peel the lemons making sure to remove only the yellow part of the zest, transfer in a jar, add alcohol, close and keep in a cool dark place for 2 weeks. Filter and discard the zest. Transfer the infusion in a bottle.
Prepare the sugar syrup. Bring the water and sugar to a low boil until the sugar dissolves completely. Cool. Add syrup to the lemony alcohol. Stopper the bottle and keep in a cool dark place at least 2 months before using.

16 thoughts on “homemade limoncello

  1. I do love limoncello and I know from first-hand experience how good your recipe is!

    I think I’ll have to give this a try! For the sake of good health, of course.

  2. I am about to do part 2 of making my ‘creme de mure’ … I think I will give your recipe a try at the same time. Actually the recipe for making creme de mure and limoncello is much the same (besides the fruit of course lol) … the only difference is leaving the blackberries in alcohol for 6 months beforer adding the sugar syrup.

  3. maria testa

    Thank you so much for this recipe- we love limoncello & can no longer get the one we used to drink – Primi Frutti Limone. They are no longer shipping this to the US & our supply is almost at it’s end. So we are forced to make it ourselves, which will be fun. I am very excited to try yours. Grazia….

    • Dear Maria, thank you for yoru comment. You’ll see making limoncello is easy and brings better results than store bought products! You just have to be patient and wait a few months until teh flavor of the limoncello softens a bit. One year old limoncello is much better than fresh one. Only once I have managed to keep one bottle for 5 years and that was wonderful. And don’t forget to check out my recipe for using the peeled lemons http://madonnadelpiatto.com/2010/03/14/the-limoncello-factory-leftovers/

      • maria testa

        Well I did it! I made my Limoncello last night & I am doing a little experiment. I made three – one with Meyer lemons & grappa, one with Meyer lemons & everclear liquor & one with regular lemons & everclear. Im excited to see which one will be the best. Now with all these naked lemons Im making your lemon jam & once that’s done it’s on to the crostata. All your recipes look fantastic. Thank you very much Letizia! By the way I dont think I mentioned we are thinking of travelling to Tuscany this summer. If it does work out maybe we can schedule a cooking class with you…Ciao!

  4. Ashley

    Hi, I made a batch of Limoncello about 2 months ago, but the non-traditional way (boiled lemon juice and zent in sugar syrup before adding to alcohol – smelled amazing). I then went onto do the same with limes and oranges too, all seperate.

    Anyway, I want to try the traditional way in your recipe so I can compare the differences, except that we can only really get Premium 40% Vodka in the UK, Not grain alcohol of 95% ABV. Vodka is the closest I can get and worked really well with the first batch I made.

    Obviously alcohol at less strength will need less water (and possibly sugar too). Do you have any guidelines on how I should attempt this in terms of quantities?

    • Hi Ashley, yours is an interesting method, I’d love to know the results of your comparison eventually. There’s a few factors to consider though. For a good limoncello you need realy fresh, fragrant lemons. If you think the zest does snot smell strongly of citrus you better don’t use them or double the amount of zest in my recipe. As for the Vodka, I have calculated that my limoncello is about 30-35 %. So you want to decrease the Vodka of about 10 %. My guess is that you need to add about 200 ml syrup to 1 lt Vodka. The limoncello might be not sweet enough so you will need to taste it and add more sugar dissolved in the smallest amount of water you can manage. Don’t forget to cool off the syrup and to measure the water so you will know it for next time!

  5. Ashley

    *zest, not zent

    I also wanted to congratulate you on a great food blog – I’ll have a lot of lemons to use up after this so I might try your leftovers recipe too!

  6. Ashley

    Absolutely, they are. And thanks for the tips on strength and the water/sugar ratios etc. Is there a recommended amount of sugar to go for? Or does that depend on the strength of the lemon infusion to begin with? In which should I just go by taste?

    My slightly more traditional limncello has been infusing for about 10 days now. I was limited with the lemons I could use so I’m hoping for the best with this.

    I’ve noticed that the previous non-trad. batch is starting to mellow out quite a lot and is much nice than before (even though it was already good). I didn’t filter it so it has ‘bits’ in but I kinda like that too. Filtering it took about 10 mins just to get a couple of millilitres so I gave up on that. By the way I used this recipe in case you are interested: http://www.thriftyhousehold.co.uk/2011/11/thrifty-limoncello.html

    I’ll keep you posted :)

    Thanks again.

  7. Hi Ashley, I’d make the syrup 1 part water 1 part sugar, sweeter than that described in my recipes. I agree that the limoncello imrpves with time. Actually I never use it until is at least a month old but I try to use it a year later. For you it’s difficult as you are at the beginning but if you make it every year at a certain point you will have extra to age. Once I had limoncello which was 5 years odl, it was divine!

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