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Thirsty Thursday: It’s Time to Start Brewing Limoncello

When life gives you lemons, what do you do with them? Do you go to the old stand-by and make a fresh batch of lemonade? That’s a great idea! But wait. Might I suggest making your own homemade Italian lemon liqueur instead? Think of it as an adult version of lemonade.

Start brewing up batches of limoncello, a clean, sweet and beloved lemon-based digestivo from Southern Italy. Brewing your own limoncello will take six weeks, so some patience is required. But as soon as the weather starts to warm up, you’ll have a cool, refreshing drink that showcases the bright, lush flavor of lemons.

And since limoncello requires only a few simple ingredients, make sure they are the best you can find. Though Sorrento Oval lemons are standard, any bright yellow and juicy lemon will do. And for the best results, be sure to use a grain alcohol (not vodka!) to extract the concentrated flavor from the lemon peels.

Though traditionally limoncello is good to sip cold and neat after dinner, it’s becoming increasingly popular in mixed drinks like this Limoncello Spritzer. So get your lemons assembled and start your brewing, because every sip will be worth the wait.

Bottoms up, folks.

Limoncello

Recipe courtesy Gabriele Corcos and Debi Mazar

Ingredients:

  • 6 1/3 cups /1.5 liters 75-percent volume alcohol (recommended: 2 bottles Everclear Grain Alcohol)
  • 14 lemons
  • 6 1/3 cups /1.5 liters water
  • 2 1/3 pounds/1050 grams sugar

Directions:

This recipe occurs in 2 different stages: first the macerating of the lemon peels in alcohol, and then the actual brewing with the rest of the ingredients.

First stage: 
Peel the lemons, making sure to only separate the yellow part of the peel from the fruit, and not go too deep. 

A potato peeler does the trick, even if it behaves sketchy in the hand. You can try with a small blade, like a paring knife, but you will probably end up cutting too deep. 

Place the peels in glass jars with the alcohol, possibly big enough to accommodate all the ingredients in the recipe, seal tight and let rest for two weeks. Find a dark corner in your house, even a basement or a cellar where to let your Limoncello rest, absolutely do not leave it exposed to sunlight… also, try to resist the temptation of opening your jars and sniffing it. It is called “resting” for a reason, be respectful, you will be rewarded later!

Second stage: 
After macerating for two weeks, the alcohol is now ready to be drained and mixed with the water and sugar. 

Heat the water in the pan and mix the sugar, then let cool off for about 1 hour, stirring every now and then to make sure that the sugar collected on the bottom of the pan “stays in the game”. 

Drain the lemon peels from the jars and mix in the sugar water. Be careful, this is a moment you have to keep an eye on your volumes: figure out how many jars you are working with and maintain the proportion of ingredients! To simplify your life you, can brew everything in a big enough pot to accommodate all ingredients and then bottle it back into the jars. 

And again, for the second time, you have to exercise control and patience. Sniff all you want, than close your jars tight and let rest for a whole month. You can shake the liquid gently when you start noticing some sugar deposited on the bottom of the jars. Where did you decide to let your Limoncello rest, in the basement on a kitchen shelf? Remember, no sunlight! 

After a month, it is time to bottle, and it is totally up to you, just make sure you can fit your bottles in the freezer. 

Brew responsibly!

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