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Sunday, February 5, 2012

When Life Gives You Lemons Make Limoncello

I landed today in Naples, Italy for a winter escape to the nearby Amalfi Coast.  Italy is the world’s largest producers of lemons and the glorious Amalfi Coast is home to Italy’s most famous lemons, the Limone di Sorrento.  Protected by stringent laws, this varietal can only be grown along this stretch of Mediterranean coastline, including the neighboring island of Capri.  These grapefruit sized lemons, the Mazzerati of citrus in Italy, are used to make Italy’s most prized lemon liqueur, limoncello.

Limoncello is a neon-yellow infusion of high octane vodka and the cherished Sorrento lemons.  It’s served super-chilled in tiny shot-like-glasses after dinner---as it is thought to help with digestion.  Italian families for centuries have been making limoncello from recipes that have been passed down through generations.  Interestingly, it was not produced commercially until after World War II.

Recently imported to the US, limoncello has become fashionable in America.  At a party this summer I was presented with a wonderful concoction of limoncello mixed with tonic water.  At another gathering, limoncello was served as an accompaniment to a gorgeous citrus sorbet.
Limoncello is easy to make.  The following recipe was given to me several years ago by a Tuscan friend from her family’s annals:

·        14 lemons
·        1 litre (1000 cc or 4 cups) of 190 proof Everclear alcohol (can be purchased in Liquor stores).  High proof, good quality Vodka can be substituted.
·        4 ½ cups sugar
·        5 cups water

Wash a large glass jar with lid (1-gallon size is best) with hot, soapy water. Rinse well and dry.  Scrub the lemons.  Peel the outer layer of the lemons being careful to avoid the white part inside (bitter).  Put the skins in a jar with the alcohol and place it in a dark area for 15-20 days.  Then, prepare a syrup of a sugar and water (boil together for about 10 minutes and then allow to cool).  Remove the lemon peels from the alcohol, add syrup and refrigerate. 

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