Originally published July 15, 2012
Now that the 4th of July is behind us, summer can really start going by quickly. Before the leaves start turning colors, I thought I would share one of my favorite summer recipes with you. Some time ago I found myself with a lot of lemons and luckily this limoncello recipe found me. Follow along with me while I make this year’s batch and a pitcher of lemonade with the leftover lemon juice.
First of all, this recipe takes 5 days to make. Please, don’t leave! All good things take time. Most of the work comes at the end when you strain the limoncello through coffee filters. The rest is easier than baking a cake. My guess is this will take less than 3 hours of your time, maybe even two hours total investment. If you like a lemon drop, you will love this beverage.
Secondly, if you are going to do it, I recommend doubling the recipe. Since you are making the effort, it will pay off and you will have more to share with friends and family.
So mise en place:
Limoncello (Single recipe)
2 lbs. lemons
1 quart (4 c.) vodka
6 c. purified water
2 1/2 c. cane or granulated sugar*
or if you do it my way…
Limoncello (Double recipe)
4 lbs. lemons (I recommend a big bag from Costco)
2 quarts (8 c.) vodka (I also use Kirkland Vodka, made by Gray Goose but half of the GG price)
12 c. purified water
5 c. cane or granulated sugar*
*The recipe I am using recommends cane sugar. However, I have found that the limoncello takes on a slightly brownish color which is somewhat unappetizing. So, I now use fine granulated sugar.
That’s easy right? Now, get a very fine grater, a microplane grater, and zest the freshly washed lemons. Just the yellow – no white!
Add the zest to the vodka (use a funnel – I made mine with a piece of plastic cutting board),
seal tightly and store in a dark and cool place for 5 days.
As you can see, I have accumulated a few vodka bottles over the years. I save them for this very reason. When you add the simple syrup later, you will need the extra room, so it makes sense now to use only half of the bottle’s space.
Now, take the lemons that have been zested, cut them in half
and use a juicer to extract all the lemon juice.
Pour the lemon juice in a pitcher, add sugar and water. In my case, since I doubled the recipe, I ended up with 2 cups of lemon juice. So I took 1 1/2 cups of lemon juice (set the other 1/2 cup to the side), add 1 to 1 1/2 cups of sugar (depending on how sweet you like it) and 3 cups of water. Stir and refrigerate. The lemonade is done.
Now, take the extra 1/2 cup lemon juice and if you have a tiny ice-cube tray, pour the lemon juice into each little cube. Mine is about 1 Tablespoon per cube.
Freeze these until frozen, then pop out and store in a plastic freezer bag and keep them in the freezer. You now have fresh lemon juice by the tablespoon whenever needed. If you only have a regular ice-cube tray, then measure out 1 Tablespoon per cube. They will be smaller cubes but better than having a 2 or 3 Tablespoon cube, which might be too big.
Back to the limoncello. Every day, take the bottles out and shake them vigorously. Do this two times a day, such as breakfast and dinner time.
After 5 days, your vodka should be sufficiently flavored. Now strain the zest through a fine sieve.
Discard the zest and set the flavored vodka aside. Rinse out your bottles to remove any remaining zest.
Now it is time to make the simple syrup. Put 6 cups of water in a pan over low heat and add the sugar listed in the single batch recipe. If you are doubling the recipe, put 12 cups of water in the pan with the appropriate amount of sugar. Heat until the sugar dissolves and the syrup is clear. Cool it to room temperature and mix it with the lemon vodka. This can be tricky depending on what kind of container you are using. I use a large pan.
Here’s where the real work comes in: strain the sweetened vodka through coffee filters. You will need to change them often. Plan on using 10-20 coffee filters, at least. I put the coffee filter in a sieve which is put over a pitcher or bowl. You are almost done so hang in there. This will take 20 minutes and maybe up to an hour depending on your filters. I usually end up forcing the vodka through the filters by closing them up at the top and squeezing when it stops dripping through.
Now, it is time to pour the vodka back into the bottles, recork them and put them in the refrigerator. You are ready to enjoy some limoncello.
I recommend serving it over ice. Be careful, it is smooth and tasty but potent. Cheers!
I am a photographer who lives in Minnesota. I blog about Minnesota, photography, music, food and miscellaneous topics.