In this day and age where 30-minute recipes rule, will anyone be interested in one that takes 3 months to make? What if I promised you that it would only take about 15 minutes of actual hands-on time?
Yes, there are a lot of limoncello recipes out there that are faster to make. I’ve tried a lot of them and they are about as close to the original as a Honda Accord is to a Maserati. Yes it’s lemony, yes it’s sweet, but like the Accord, it lacks a certain amount of refinement and smoothness. You can only achieve that through aging, and we’re talking weeks if not months (or years). In fact, I have a couple of bottles I made over a year ago that are tucked away just getting better and better.
Since limoncello is made solely from the skin of the lemons the end result is surprisingly sweet with a strong lemon flavor. Traditionally made with lemons, you’ll find almost any citrus fruit will work. My personal favorite is pink grapefruit, but oranges, tangerines and especially blood oranges make exceptional variations. When I tried a lime version I found it a little too bitter on it’s own but fantastic added to cocktails, like mojitos or vodka tonics.
151 proof alcohol is sometimes difficult to find but ask your local liquor store owner. The two stores in my neighborhood carry it but don’t have it out on the shelves. The first time I asked for it I was questioned why I wanted something so strong. In order to buy it I ended up promising a sample when it was done. 3 months later I got the seal of approval from the shop owner.
18 large organic lemons
1 (750 ml) bottle 151 proof alcohol, such as Everclear
1 (750 ml) bottle 80 proof vodka
4 cups organic sugar
3 cups water
Wash and dry the lemons. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the yellow skin, taking care to not include any white pith, as this will make it bitter. Place lemon skins in a glass gallon-size jar and add the 151 proof alcohol and vodka. Cover tightly and place in a cool, dark place. Gently stir every 7 days. After 5 weeks remove one of the peels and bend it; if it snaps in two then proceed with the recipe. If it still bends without breaking, continue aging for a week or more until the peel does snap in two.
In a large saucepan, combine sugar and water and cook over medium-high heat just until the sugar dissolves. Do not allow mixture to boil. Remove from heat and allow to cool to room temperature.
Gently remove the peels from the alcohol with a slotted spoon or a pair of tongs, trying to keep pieces intact; discard peels. Pour mixture through three layers of cheesecloth into a clean bowl. Then strain mixture through coffee filters. This will take a fair amount of time to strain the entire mixture and you’ll need a number of filters.
After straining, combine the alcohol and sugar solution and stir to combine. Cover and place mixture in a cool, dark location for at least 6 weeks, but preferably longer.
Filter mixture once more through fine-textured coffee filters before pouring into smaller bottles. Seal completely and continue to store in a cool, dark place until ready to serve.