So yesterday I posted about the stack of lemons I was lucky enough to receive. When in doubt, make a cake and that's exactly what I did.
But what to do with the rest of the lemons? Well to be completely honest, I had a plan for these lemons from the moment I got them. You see, their destiny was to meet the bottle of vodka sitting patiently at the back of my cuboard. And their inevitable introduction was to be cemented by the addition of a sugar syrup. Then they'll be left alone for 9-12 months to really get to know each other and mellow with time.
And with that I made the beginnings of limoncello, a wonderful Italian drink made from the gorgeous lemons in the Amalfi region. Several years ago, I was introduced to home made limoncello by an Italian family friend. I had never tried it before and the taste of the sweet, smooth and aromatic drink won me over forever.
So it is that each year I make a batch of limoncello to be consumed the following year. My tip is to always use the freshest lemons which must be unwaxed. Patience is required with limoncello. While lemons, alcohol and sugar are the three key ingredients, time is the fourth. Time will allow the flavours to develop and turn what can be quite a harsh tasting drink to start with, into syrupy, lemony, mellowed goodness.
Limoncello is great with desserts, poured over vanilla ice cream or just with coffee after a meal. I've also given it away as gifts by pouring into small bottles and accompanying it with some home made biscotti.
While there are many different ways to make limoncello (and I've tried a few), this is how I like to make it.
7 unwaxed lemons
700 ml vodka
2 ½ cups sugar
1 ½ cups water
1. Make the sugar syrup by combining the sugar and water in a pan over medium heat. Allow to come to a simmer. Simmer on low for about 5 minutes until the sugar has fully dissolved and the syrup has thickened. Allow to cool completely.
2. Peel the lemons using a vegetable peeler. Use a light action so as to avoid getting too much pith as it’s the zest that is required for the flavour.
3. Place the lemon peels into a 2L glass jug or bowl. Add the vodka and stir well.
4. Once the sugar syrup has cooled, add it to the vodka and lemon mixture. Stir well.
5. Cover the jug or bowl with several layers of plastic wrap to seal well. Place the jug in a dark, cool place like back of a cupboard.
6. This mixture will need to sit for about 7-8 weeks. Stir the mixture every week or so ensuring it is sealed well and returned to its cool, dark location. During this time, the flavour from the lemons will be extracted and the lemon peels will turn soft.
7. After this time, strain the limoncello several times to remove the lemon peels and any impurities.
8. Pour into a glass bottle and seal well. Allow the limoncello to mellow for at least 6 months, but 9-12 is better.