The limoncello factory leftovers

if life gives you lemons….

My mom has always produced industrial quantities of limoncello.  A set of tiny crystal tumblers and a lovely bohemian bottle full of the golden liqueur  was a permanent installation in her living room. She did not make it for herself, she hardly ever consumed alcoholic drinks, but proudly offered it to all guests at all times of the day. Ok almost, a guest was allowed a cup of espresso if it was earlier than 11:00 a.m.
Of course I also make it for my own guests. This is the right time of the year as  the best quality lemons, juicy and aromatic are available. It’s an end-of winter tradition: every year I zest, infuse and bottle. Then, I am left with lots of peeled lemons  I don’t know what to do with. They sit there, naked in the fridge and eventually they go to waste.
There is only so much lemon juice one can use in March  in rural Umbria. It’ is not really granita time, we’ve had snow 3 days ago. After several experiments however, I have created this naked lemons jam which is delicious on toast but also on vanilla ice cream, crostata and pannacotta


  • Bring to the boil a pan of water large enough to hold all the lemons under water. Add 1 tablespoon salt per litre/quart
  • Drop the whole peeled lemons in the salted water and let them boil 15 min. This will remove the bitter taste from the pith
  • Strain and refresh under cold water.
  • [UPDATE] Another method to remove the bitter taste is to soak the lemons in water for three days like I do for oranges. However note that because the lemons have no peel, there is obviously no need to score it. This method is a bit more work than salt-boiling but the jam is a less sharp.
  • Place lemons over a cutting board and cut into small dice, pulp, pith and all. Discard seeds. Place a saucer in the freezer.
  • Transfer lemons and their juice in a tall pan, add equal weight of sugar and slowly bring to the boil stirring from time to time.
  • After about 30 min test for setting point. To do this, place 1/2 tsp jam on the cold saucer. If after half a minute a skin has formed, and it wrinkles, the jam is ready
  • Pour the boiling hot jam into warm, sterilized jars. Seal immediately with lids and place the jars upside down on a table until cold. You can actually eat it after a couple of days but it can be stored for a year.
…..make lemon jam


  1. Great idea for the Limoncello left overs. We are producing fresh local organic “Limoncello di Sonoma” in CA. We are looking for great ideas like these for all the left overs. Last month we had over 2800 lemons. We juiced most for a local market and donated others to a food bank. We will try out this great recipe. Nice photos too.

    • Hi Fred
      that’s an amount of lemons you have! I am sure the jelly would make a great combination with the limoncello together with some recipe suggestions. Let me know if it works out at your scale.

  2. I’m going to have to try this — I love anything with lemons, and lemon jam sounds fantastic.
    Your mom’s limoncello must have been wonderful.

  3. I had the opportunity to taste this a few days ago, and can attest to the fact that it was amazingly yummy with plain old butter and crackers! Great idea, Letizia….

    • great day cooking together R! You know I have a soft spot for you when you tell me you like something. If now you can just find a few more of those fresh lemons…..

  4. Ah, what an excellent way of using them up! I ended up chopping mine into quarters and popping them all in the freezer this year, but then I didn’t make much limoncello, so only had 4 lemons to get rid of after the zesting. I did also roast some whole lemons, and preserve them in sugar syrup, though, and you could probably do the same with the nekkid ones.

  5. Wonderful!
    I’m here via italytutto, and I’m so happy I stopped by.
    I hate having to waste so many lemons after making limoncello, so I tried making marmellata, but always ended up with a bitter result. Your boiling tip is brilliant!
    I notice you don’t use pectin at all as a setting agent. Lovely!

    • Ciao Eleonora
      you have a wonderful blog. The salt trick in boiling water really makes it, I also have gone through several batches of rather bitter jam. You need to rinse the lemons well though. Actually I now need to find other uses for the lemon peel because the batch of jam I made last week is almost finished!

  6. Amy, I did make it with blood Oranges too but I kept the skin because I did not use it for anything else. I boiled the whole oranges in salt and added about 30 % lemon. The lemon contributes dept to the flavor, it’s fantastic.

  7. Leticia,
    We used to receive a large box of lemons every spring from my Uncle in sunny California. After so many lemon pies we had many leftover lemons and didn’t know what to do with them. We had an idea to squeeze the juice into ice cube trays and put in the freezer. Once frozen, we transferred the cubes to a zip lock bag and kept in the freezer. Then we had fresh lemon juice all year and all we had to do was thaw as many cubes as we needed. I will try the naked lemon sometime.

    • I Cindy, this is a wonderful tip. How I wish to have an abundant supply of fresh lemons! When I went to Sicily on holidays as a kid we used to eat them out of the tree, with a sprinkle of salt, fantastic.

  8. I always squeezed the lemons for their juice or made limonade, but I love your approach. I was wondering if you need to water bath can the jars after the jam is finished. I did the recipe few nights ago and the jam was absolutely delicious. I left them upside down, tightly sealed and the lids are not popped. Is that all I need to do? I am worried about spoilage.
    Thank you.

    • Hi Paolo,
      any health inspector will tell you that you need to water bath the cans anyway. However with that level of acidity and % of sugar, if the cans are tightly sealed there is really hardy any chance of spoilage.

  9. I’m really excited to try this recipe, having just made my very first batch of limoncello. I am unclear what “equal amounts of sugar” means? & to that end do I use the cold water I put the lemons in after boiling them?
    Sorry I’m not very good at cooking, or making anything really, but I love trying!

    • Hi Maggie,
      you need to boil the lemons in salted water, then you rinse them in cold tap water to get read of the salt. After that you chop them reserving the liquid and discarding the seeds. Then you need to weight the chopped lemon with their juice and add an equal weight of sugar. So e.g. one pound of sugar per pound of lemons.

  10. Thank you! I was looking for some other ways to use up the lemons. I made limoncino with my landlady i nearly December, and she gave me some of the naked lemons…most went to waste.
    Just by the by, have you heard of making limoncello with green/not yet ripe lemons and using the foglie? (Hope I’m not giving away their family secrets.) Her limoncello is amazing. I now think this is what makes it different. I just haven’t seen this anywhere else and am curious. I missed the green lemons – can I go ahead and make some limoncello? (Wanted to practice on my own.)

    • Hi Sandra, I have never heard of making limoncello with leaves but I have heard of a special type of lemons that are green and used to make a liqueur similar to limoncello but more aromatic. There’s no citrus trees in Umbria but in Sicily people has all sorts of varieties to try, I wish I could!

  11. HI do you recommend only white sugar? or do you think i could use raw sugar??

    • Hi Robyn, you probabaly could use raw sugar but the limoncello will have a funny color (brown-yellow) and a deeper taste as raw sugar has a quite an intense taste. May be make a small batch too see if you like it.

      • thanks for your reply but i meant to say can i use raw sugar for the Jam?
        also Ive read quite a few recipes for limoncello and Im not sure of the correct ratio of lemons to alcohol, due to the varying size and variety of lemons, so ive used the peel of 1 doz average sized lemons to 750 ml of alcohol hoping this be ok.
        thanks again

  12. Hi Robyn, silly me, of course I think raw sugar for the jam should be no problem. You might want to check it closely to prevent it from becoming too dark as it does caramelize quickly. I’d love to know your results!

  13. Wow as a jam and preserve maker this naked lemon jam is a brilliant way to use the lemons that I stockpile in freezer after having peeled them for my limoncello, I will be thawing a load out and making a batch of the jam later this weekend and will report on results.
    thank you for a brilliant idea.

    • wonderful David, thank you so much, I’d love to know if you are happy with the result. The naked lemons jam is great on a crostata if you want to try that.

  14. hi there, made the lemon jam yesterday, as someone with a real sweet tooth this was a bit sharp for me, maybe I could have adjusted the sugar quantities to suit my palate but can imagine it being great on toast in the morning as a substitute for marmalade, which i also find a bit sharp!!
    I have a bunch of friends that I use as my tasters so will pass them a jar each see what they think.
    thanks and have a great Christmas

  15. Thank you David. Lemons are a bit tricky to handle. It could be that your lemons are sharper than usual in wich case you might need to use a bit more salt in the blanching water. It will mellow a but if you let it resta couple of months. I prefer this jam on a crostata rather than on toast. And I use it to make lemony sauces by warming it up and then adding some brandy to it. A wonderful combination wich goes great on icecream and pannacotta.

  16. Good use; probably the best. I often use excess zested lemons to make ‘spa water’ and simply cram them into salvaged juice bottles, which I discard once the water is gone. It goes quicker than lemonade and keeps me hydrated. I’m considering making preserved lemons for Moroccan dishes; but uncertain as to whether the lack of zest should result in too much flavor loss.

  17. Oh, but this sounds magnificent. What wonderful flavor! I can imagine the heady scent of all the lemons condensed into a few jars. I love lemons, and this recipe rocks! Thanks!

  18. Well, where to begin. We made our first batch of lemoncello about four months ago. Then moved on to your suggestion to make lemon marmalade with our naked lemon. In the process we didn’t have the heart to toss the now lemoncello infused bits of rind so through caution to the wind and tossed it into the marmalade mixture. It was unbelievably superb. So much so that we now have ( thanks to your naked lemon recipe) a Naked Lemoncello Marmalade to add to our Christmas gift baskets with the equally fine Lemoncello.

  19. Hi, like everyone else I’ve just made a batch of Limoncello (I do mine in two hours using a sous vide – see recipe
    @ So now I have 8 peeled lemons left over and I would like to make this jam – but I’ve never made jam before so I have a couple of questions if you don’t mind helping me out.
    So first question, do I sterilise the jars by just putting boiling water in them for a few minutes then tip the jam in as soon as I have emptied them? Do the jars have to be dried after the boiling water is tipped out or does the jam just go straight in? (I’ll google this as well.) Just not sure what the exact procedure is to ensure I’m not introducing bacteria into the jars.
    Second question, given people (and even yourself) mention this can be a very sharp jam, is there some other fruit I could add in to soften the sharpness? I’d like to make it using as little sugar as I can get away with but not sure what else I could put in except a couple of oranges but I’m not even sure they would work…. any ideas?

    • Hi Mike and thanks for your message. To sterlize jars I actually boil them in a large pan for 10 min, then drain and place them upside down on a clean cotton towel. When my jam is ready I line the jars on a sink and ladle the hot jam into them. Then I seal and turn upside down to obtain vacuum. You will easily find how to do this on video which is probably the quickest way to learn.
      This jam is fantastic as it is but only for people who actually like lemons. Sharp is no problem if you eat it on a buttered toast or you use to make sweets (e.g. my crostata) or if you use it in moderation on greek yogurt or other soft cheese. However, there is no way you can reduce the amount of sugar without changing the recipe in a radical way. A little orange will not do much to change the flavor but you can check out my marmalade recipe if needed. I have made several experiments to obtain a really good preserve from peeled lemons, so I recommend making a few jars as it is and then figure out if you really need to change it. I hope you enjoy it!

  20. Thank you for this lovely and simple recipe. I am almost finished setting the lemon jam and wonder how I should store the jars before they are opened for the first time. Refrigerator, freezer, pantry?

  21. I have no way to weigh my leftover naked lemons. Can you giv e me sugar amount for 10 lemons approximately?

  22. 31/2” long and about 7” diameter. Also I’m soaking my lemons for 3 days, do I change the water twice a day like you did for your oranges. For the jam only sugar and chopped lemons, no water?

  23. Hi Karen, I estimate about 150 g per lemon, so you should need about 1.5 kg sugar, which is about 3 lbs. No water needed for the lemons as there is no peel, so it’s Ok to cook them faster. With oranges you need more time to cook the peels. I suggest to taste the jam when is almost ready and add a few additional tablespoons of sugar if you think it’s too sharp. This also depends on the quality of the lemons. I love this jam as it is but it’s different from others. It’s wonderful with creamy things like custard and gelato but also it makes great jam tarts!

  24. What a great recipe! So simple and the results were delicious. My daughter loved the jam and we gave some away as gifts. Thanks for sharing.

  25. Thank you for this recipe! Made it yesterday and couldn’t stop tasting 😉 I also followed a temptation to add a bit of chilli by the end, and now a few experimental jars are waiting for the brave…

  26. I make a lemon cordial that I serve with soda with my “naked lemons” but am going to make naked marmalade this arvo…love the idea

  27. Amazing idea! I have a couple of questions

    Once you’ve peeled the lemons do you throw away that pith? Or do you chop it up with the rest of the lemons? Other recipes I’ve seen soak the pith in the jam to release the pectin.

    Also how small do you dice the lemons?

    Can’t wait to try tonight!

    • hello and welcome! As per the recipe “Drop the whole peeled lemons in the salted water and let them boil 15 min. This will remove the bitter taste from the pith” so there is no need to remove it afterwards.

      Dice the lemons in cubes with a side of about 1/2 inch. I hope you will enjoy the results!

  28. Hi there, thank you for this recipe. I made the jam and it was a big hit, although I think it started to burn a bit. While searching for this months ago, I remember finding a recipe for using the leftover rinds after the limoncello is done to make a lemon marmalade, and I thought it was in these comments but now don’t see it, and I couldn’t find it online. Any thoughts? It would be lovely to not waste any of the lemon in the end.

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