12 November 2012

Lemons: Limoncello

Everywhere you look at the moment there are bags of golden lemons going cheap. On a recent drive in the countryside we stopped at a roadside stall and picked up several bags of Eureka and 'Improved Meyer' lemons. I like having lemons in a huge bowl on the table for easy use and decoration and use them a lot in my cooking. That said, I now have an awful lot of lemons to get through so I am putting some away for another day... and this weekend I got to work making limoncello, an Italian digestivo usually served icy cold in small glasses at the end of meal.

Limoncello is easy to make but takes a long time to infuse (approximately 40 days), so if you make it now you can hide is somewhere cool and dark, then forget about it until Christmas when it will be the ideal end to overindulgent meals on hot days with friends.

Of my lemons I am using the Eureka lemons for limoncello as they are thin skinned and very lemony. Eureka's are a 'true lemon' (Citrus limon) while the Meyer is a hybrid of unknown origin, most likely a cross between a true lemon and a mandarin. Meyer's have a more mellow, sweeter flavour while the Eureka has the zesty kick needed for limoncello.
  • zest of 10 lemons
  • 1 litre vodka
  • 1 1/2 cups sugar
  • 1 1/2 cups water
  1. peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler, removing only the yellow zest. If you get any of the white pith remove it before chopping
  2. finely chop the pile of zest, the more finely chopped, the more surface area, the more surface area, the more flavour exchange
  3. sterilise a large glass jar with an airtight seal airtight (see sterilising instructions below**)
  4. once cool, add lemon zest and vodka and seal (if your container is not airtight the alcohol will evaporate)
  5. store in a cool, dark place (like the back of a cupboard) for 2 - 6 weeks, the longer you leave it the more the flavour will infuse
  6. after 6 weeks (if you can wait that long), heat sugar and water over a medium flame for approximately 7 minutes until the sugar dissolves and it comes to a boil
  7. add syrup to vodka/ zest and put back in the cool, dark place for 1 - 2 weeks
  8. strain liquid into a sterilised bottle to remove all of the zest (if you strain in through cheesecloth in a sieve you will get nice clear yellow liquid)
  9. place bottle in the freezer and enjoy
  10. if the limoncello is too strong for your taste, repeat from step 6 and add more sugar & water; otherwise you can drizzle it over ice cream or add it to traditional lemonade to dilute

** To sterilise jars:

Wash jars and lids in warm soapy water and rinse well. Place in boiling water for 10 minutes then into a preheated oven (150 °C) for 20 minutes. Remove from oven and allow to cool before adding lemon zest and alcohol (if you were making jam you can add it immediately to the hot jar). Do not dry with a dish cloth or touch the mouth of the jar.

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