Limoncello (Lemoncello) the Italian way

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Got back from the south of Italy a couple of months ago. Have been making my own Lemoncello for a number of years using vodka and it has been OK. Using juice and skin plus different combo's of water, sugar, etc. While on vacation there called in a small pizza place near the toe of Italy one night. The place was empty. Early November. Got taking to the owner and his wife about olive oil and lemoncello. Turned out they produced their own olive oil so we got a couple of liters. Then tried their home made lemoncello. It was the best I have ever had. The wife told me the recipe and, of course, it turned out to be much easier than everthing I had tried.
Here it is.
10 lemons - peal skin only, no white
1 liter pure spirit (95%)- You could use vodka but would need to use about 3 pints and cut down on water later.
Put lemon peel in spirit in non-reactive container. Leave for at least three weeks moving occasionally.
After three or more weeks- Take 3 pints of warm water and dissolve two and a half pounds of sugar until clear. Allow to cool and then mix with lemon peel and spirit. Leave for two weeks. Strain out peel and bottle. Put bottle in freezer for a few hours. It should come out like a syrup when pouring. Great after a meal. I like it when I have coffee. It is supposed to settle your tum after food but is so easy to drink that my wife and myself have been known to finish the whole bottle. By the way a good use for the lemons if you don't want to make juice. Cut off the ends and cut down middle then half the sides. Carefully put in freezer bags so that it is skin to flesh. Freeze. You now have lemon for you drink that acts like an ice cube but doesn't dilute your drink. HOPE YOU ENJOY.
 

JRPfeff

TVWBB Guru
Mike,

Thank you for sharing. I've had the commercial stuff and have enjoyed it. I will give your recipe a try.

Did I miss the volume of water in your recipe?

Jim
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Dumb me. It should have said 3 pints of warm water stir with sugar until clear. I will go back and edit the original. Thanks Jim
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Hi Jim,
The pure spirit I got in Italy is 95% by volume. You are then adding roughly just over two liters of water and sugar so you should be about 30% by volume. I am not sure what that would be proof but 70% proof sounds about right. I do know that it can be a little exciting if you don't watch it when you are drinking it because it goes down to easily. You are right it does come out at the same as the commercial products which in EU are usually about the 30% by volume mark.
Mike
 

JRPfeff

TVWBB Guru
Mike,

I'm going to start a batch of your liqueur, although my wife has convinced me to try it using tangerines. I am unclear on whether you add the lemon juice to your pure spirit. The reason I ask is that my commercial bottle of Lemoncello says on the label that lemon juice is mixed with the spirit.

Jim
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Hi Jim,
I know that some recipes do include the lemon juice but the one above came from an italian family who ran their own pizza place in southern Italy. After trying their lemoncello and finding it better than all the recipes I tried before I have stuck with it. I only use the top layer of the skin, using a veg. peeler to take off the layer, while trying to avoid the white, which can cause bitterness. I have tried many different combo's including- orange, orange and lemon, orange lemon and lime, kumquat, and a few others. Have never tried tangerine because of the skin problem (not using the white). The best combo's have been (to my taste)- Lemon, Lemon and Lime, and a new one I have just finished with Kumquat (spelling is prob. wrong). I have always gone back to the sharper flavors which, for me, seem to work much better, especially when you put it in the freezer before use. Hope this is of some help.
Mike
 

K Kruger

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I'm making this right now. I have always used vodka and juice with some zest. I really like the idea of the grain alcohol and zest only. I'm looking forward to it and I'll let you know how it comes out a couple months from today.
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Kevin,
Hope you have success. The lemons here are very juicy with a quite thin skin. Even when you plant a non-maltese variety they very quickly (because of the climate here) develop the same nature as the local ones. Of course the lemons are not waxed. Hope you can get something similar. We have also just got a lime, a gratefruit, and a kumquat bushes which we are trying in our courtyard. I made up a batch of kumquatcello a couple of weeks ago. It is quite good but of a different nature to the lemoncello even though I followed the same method. It is quite a sweet drink that would work with someone who finds the lemoncello to sharp. Keep in touch and let me know how it works out.
 

JRPfeff

TVWBB Guru
Mike in Malta - You got me started, now no citrus fruit is safe.



These are half-batches of Meyer lemon, grapefruit, key lime, and tangerine. I'll post my results when complete.

Jim
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Hi Jim,
They look good. The only other citrus fruits I have had success with are lime and kumquat. Also, I have only kept them in the dark at a constant temp. I don't know how they will mature in the light. Please let me know how they turn out. We now have a grapefruit bush and I have never tried that yet. I am off to Sicily at the end of May for a vacation with my wife (it is mainly to pick up more pure spirit as far as I am concerned with a few other things which are hard to get in Malta) Look forward to hearing your results.
 

JRPfeff

TVWBB Guru
Mike,

I just completed my last two varieties and sampled them. Here are my observations.

Grapefruit - This one really kicks butt. I serve it diluted with a half portion of sweet & sour mix and it tastes like grapefruit juice. Addicting.

Tangerine - Similar to the commercial Orangecello I purchased. Very good.

Key Lime - Tart, refreshing. This is a winner.

Meyer Lemon - Very medicinal, tastes like a cough drop. I won't make this again.

I just compared my store bought Lemoncello with these. Three out of four of mine are better.

That is a fantastic recipe, I am pleased with the results. Thanks again for sharing.

Jim
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Hi Jim,
Glad you enjoyed it. Even though I have liked the results with other fruits I still come back to lemons as my favorite. As I said, I cannot get pure spirit here and will have to wait until I get over to Italy again. I am now on my last batch of lemoncello. So I suppose I will have to make it last. Good to hear it worked out for you.
 

K Kruger

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
My lemon version still awaits my attention for the second phase of the recipe (the sugar addition) but I've been gone much longer than planned. Great you got yours done, Jim. My Key lime crop was spent when I started this but I'll definitely do that one the next go around--not a fan of the Mexican commercial ones that are available in the stores here--picked too young.

I'd like to try a calamondin as well. Gotta get the first one done though!
 

K Kruger

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
The last batch I made I did a bit differently--well, everything the same, as written above, but I cut the soak time for the zest dramatically. Two things had occurred to me prior to making that batch: One, that the essences that make up the lemon flavor and its color that the zest contains are just in the zest alone (not the pith) and, being so thin, should not take long at all to be extracted by the alcohol; and two, that the higher the alcohol content the quicker extraction takes place. Thus, I decided to soak the zest till the color had migrated from it to the alcohol, reasoning that the flavor volatiles would have migrated as well. This took just under 4 days. At that point the zest was very pale and the alcohol had taken on the zest's original color.

I strained out the zest, made the syrup, cooled it, mixed the two, and allowed to mellow two weeks. It was delcious and, imo, no less flavored than when I first made it. Though additional time after blending will mellow it a bit more it was ready to chill and consume at that point. Start-to-finish: 2 weeks, 4 days. Try it and see what you think.

I have just picked a 1/2 bu of Key limes. They are beautiful this year, larger than I often get. Grapefruits are ripening now so I'll be making that soon too.

This approach to limoncello is MUCH better than my old way of vodka with juice and a little zest. So glad you posted it, Mike.
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Hi Kevin,
Glad you have enjoyed it. I am now on my last bottle and won't be able to get any more pure spirit until the spring when we go to Sicily. They just don't sell it here in Malta so I will bring back a good supply then. Your idea on time steeping looks very interesting. I will try it when I get my supplies. Keep in touch.
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Hi Kevin,
Have just managed to get some pure spirit on Malta at last. A friend who owns a rest. in one of the fishing villages here makes his own grappa. He has his own distillary and produces good, safe pure spirit. So after a long search I have a source at last. Have already put down the first batch and am trying your shorter version. Will let you know how it turns out. The lemon season has just started here. Organic, in most cases, and some of the best lemons we have ever had. Should turn out well.
 

Mike Marlow

TVWBB Fan
Hi Kevin and all,
Just tried the latest batch. Turned out well, but there is something different from my last batch. Maybe it is the new spirit. I don't know yet. It still tastes very good, but I am still going to Italy later this spring so will get more spirit there and make a batch to compare with the lemoncello made with the local spirit. The difference might even be the lemons at a different time of the year. How did yours turn out. I put in a new batch and have left that in for three weeks. When I finish I will let you know how that compares.
 

K Kruger

TVWBB 1-Star Olympian
I recently made Key lime since my tree had abundant fruit. (Should have made 3-4 batches!) The zest took 2.5 days to lose its color then I strained it and continued. What a winner! Just like Jim notes above. I'm hoping I still have grapefruits on the trees when I'm next home.
 

Michael Stella

TVWBB Member
Originally posted by Mike Marlow:
Got back from the south of Italy a couple of months ago. Have been making my own Lemoncello for a number of years using vodka and it has been OK. Using juice and skin plus different combo's of water, sugar, etc. While on vacation there called in a small pizza place near the toe of Italy one night. The place was empty. Early November. Got taking to the owner and his wife about olive oil and lemoncello. Turned out they produced their own olive oil so we got a couple of liters. Then tried their home made lemoncello. It was the best I have ever had. The wife told me the recipe and, of course, it turned out to be much easier than everthing I had tried.
Here it is.
10 lemons - peal skin only, no white
1 liter pure spirit (95%)- You could use vodka but would need to use about 3 pints and cut down on water later.
Put lemon peel in spirit in non-reactive container. Leave for at least three weeks moving occasionally.
After three or more weeks- Take 3 pints of warm water and dissolve two and a half pounds of sugar until clear. Allow to cool and then mix with lemon peel and spirit. Leave for two weeks. Strain out peel and bottle. Put bottle in freezer for a few hours. It should come out like a syrup when pouring. Great after a meal. I like it when I have coffee. It is supposed to settle your tum after food but is so easy to drink that my wife and myself have been known to finish the whole bottle. By the way a good use for the lemons if you don't want to make juice. Cut off the ends and cut down middle then half the sides. Carefully put in freezer bags so that it is skin to flesh. Freeze. You now have lemon for you drink that acts like an ice cube but doesn't dilute your drink. HOPE YOU ENJOY.
What is pure spirit?

Thanks,
Michael
 

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