Limoncello (Lemoncello) the Italian way

Well, many thanks Mr.B for the detail. You are in my files now, my friend. I am pretty much on path with your approach and might have to find some castor sugar. I have about the same cloudiness as you and it is fine with me. The final adjustments are the key to consistency for the cello style one wants. I look forward to my neighbor's rhubarb. I will be trying to measure the amount of liquid increase from the stalks and then adjust the H2O in the syrup to my taste. I prefer the lighter sugar add and hope the rhubarb can be done in the same style. Thanks , again for your impressive assist.
Hey David - if you do a search of Rhubarb (thread search drop down, upper right corner) you should find some good detail on Rhubarb cello.

For castor sugar - at your local big box just buy Diamond extra fine. It's sold in 1 lb hard boxes in the same aisle as the regular sugar products.

It's called Castor elsewhere as in Whole Foods, etc.

Hi Bill,
Its been 5 years since that first batch of rabarbacello! Have you been making it with any regularity? I am about to make a batch as my 2 rhubarb plants are really producing.

I wanted to let you know that I was rooting around in one of my cupboards and found an unopened bottle from that first batch I did in 2009. I had to try it. It is gooooooooooddddddddddddd! I might have to have my wife hide a bottle from this batch.

After years of watching this thread, I finally got a batch started last night. Sadly, the sale of Everclear is outlawed here in VA, but my sister in MD is only an hour away and was more than happy to pick up a couple bottles for me. After only 24 hours, the Everclear is already quite yellow and the zest is looking pale. I'll start an orange cello next.
Well, I got it sweetened and bottled last night. Interestingly, the lemon extract was clear and the simple syrup was clear. But when I mixed them together, it clouded up. I used caster sugar and it dissolved very nicely. That stuff is expensive though. The limoncello looks nice, but just cloudy. I did a side by side taste test, comparing to a bottle of store bought cello I had in the freezer. This one is better already (though not as clear), but with a bit of a bite. I got 3, 500ml bottles out of the batch, one of which will go to my sister this weekend since she was nice enough to pick up the Everclear for me. I may have to ask her to get more before she heads over tomorrow. ;)

Orangecello is up next!
Hi, the rhubarbacello is on its way. I checked the amount of H2o that came from the rhubarb and it is almost equal to the 1 litre of EC I used with the 4 lbs of Rhu. And I could swear that the Rhu added some sweetness to the extraction as well. Thinking I must be careful when I add the syrup....very interesting, this new challenge. Thanks for all your assist. Dave
Dave yes good notes. IMHO it's best in any of the recipes to halve the syrup until you have a taste, and then add more water sugar to taste. Frankly for lemon I start around 3/4 of the original recipe for syrup. Then add castor and water to taste. The rind or fruit can change from batch to batch in terms of the flavor it adds. So you temper accordingly. Have to be honest and say I haven't tried any other style than lemon.

I have never been able to get a perfectly clear batch regardless of type of sugar used, but the least cloudy has been with castor. Using organic cane - it does add some nice additional notes but it is brownish in color understandably. I'm pretty much sold on using castor for now, but have no aversion to using regular sugar and can live with the extra cloudiness. The added notes from using cane is not that significant to me personally.

Don't know how the commercial versions prevent that reaction with the alcohol but not that concerned. There were plenty that I had when I was in Italy that were made by the restaurant owners that were not perfectly clear. The taste/flavor trumps that for me.

Using Rhubarb I would expect that plant to add water so interesting point to get to the end result you want. But still think you would be safe starting with half the syrup and adding castor/sugar and water to taste to get to where you want. When bringing the final recipe to taste the castor wil melt more readily though so if you want to save overall on cost of sugar (not important to me) one could use regular sugar for the syrup base then switch to castor/extra fine and sugar to true things up. Castor/Extra Fine is used in baking and bartending precisely because it melts more readily than "regular" sugar. Plus for drinks it doesn't have the additive in it that regular sugar does to keep it from lumping.
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This post has been "asleep" for awhile. As I was dumping in rind from 30 lemons and 3 litres of 95% grain today to start macerating I though I might post something interesting along to anyone still interested in this thread.

There's a company in Brooklyn - Industry City Distillery that's producing and interesting "full spirit" that is structurally different from grain alcohol. Different to the point that it can macerate in minutes rather than weeks and has less water. More spendy than 95% grain from corn like Everclear but definitely worth investigating for creating extracts. They have an example of making somewhat "instant" limoncello in their recipes section. I got some to play with for making other extracts like mint, vanilla, as well as lemon.

Have fun!
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Just a simple update. I've presently gone back to the exact original post/recipe. I use plain old Domino sugar, distilled water. 35-40 grams of lemon rind per recipe.

The cloudiness that you get at the end of it all is due to the water and alcohol ratio.

Once you get past a certain percentage of water to alcholol it's going to cloud up using whatever spirit you are using.

You can avoid it and stay totally clear - but you'll probably have a stronger alcohol/proof that you would temper out as you use the cello anyway.

I still play with adding lemon juice but only while serving - not in the recipe itself.

If I want it more sweet I adjust it later per drink/bottle with a squirt or so of liquid sweetener of choice.

Stick with Kevin's suggestions in terms of maceration time. Month's of maceration is simply not required.

It won't hurt but not necessary. Once the zest turns white - it's done.

Technical Reserve is spendy and I'm going to play with it but not for big batches.

I plan to mess with TR for quick experiments with other types of zest - and other general maceration experiments. It has a very
short maceration time that I like in that regard.
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Using standard/basic recipe from first post. I did a triple blind test with 4 different subjects.

I used Villa Massa brand Limoncello as the benchmark as that seems to be the typical favorite over
time with the folks I know who cook with, drink, or make their own Limonchello. It's also the one I
go to if my pantry is out. Several of them have also had limoncello while visiting Italy. The house made
in the restaurants I visited there are still the best IMHO. I think that's due to the type of lemons/rind native
to Italy.

I'm using the standard type of lemons found in the supermarkets, organic or non organic. I always clean the
lemons before zesting.

In all of them they chose this standard recipe. They found the Massa a little to sharp, lemon oil centered, and less smooth.
I felt the same and I really like Massa, so it's a subtle difference.

Only clarification is that I standardized at 50 grams of zest per liter of 95% grain (corn) alcohol for making the
base. One week is typically enough for maceration. But I will leave it in the grain for longer periods until I'm ready to
mix a final batch. I typically make 2-3 liters of of base at a time.

I save my lemon zest in the freezer as I use lemon juice etc through out a given period
until I decide I have enough to or want to make a batch of base. I always use a microplane
for zesting. It's very consistent and doesn't require any skill to avoid cutting into the pith.

I freeze the zest and store in zip lock typically so I can have access easily for other recipes and build up a standard amount,
say 50 gram or more.

I have vac sealed zest as well but frankly doesn't make much difference IMHO in this case. I.E. - just wanting the
essential oils which don't seem to deteriorate that fast to absolutely require VAC Seal for storage.

I get a nice opaque yellow color as well as using 95% grain and the original amount of water prevent's the blend from
getting too cloudy. The cloudiness comes from percentage of alcohol to water. Buy staying with 95% grain in the base
you have more control over water to alcohol ratio.
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Hi, RAY.....long time....I see above you have increased zest to 50 from 40 or so. Correct ? I went to 12 lemons from 10....... but I am going to my new gram scale to be consistent. Good to hear you about. Remember my trying Rhubarbacello....Everyone loved it and it does improve with age. It is too much work though as when I pressed the pulp to get all the liquid, there was so much particulate I had a devil of a time getting it filtered enough for me. If I could improve here I probably would continue, as it is a nice change, indeed and the women loved the blush ( I mean the color of the drink ).Dave
Hi, RAY.....long time....I see above you have increased zest to 50 from 40 or so. Correct ? I went to 12 lemons from 10....... but I am going to my new gram scale to be consistent. Good to hear you about. Remember my trying Rhubarbacello....Everyone loved it and it does improve with age. It is too much work though as when I pressed the pulp to get all the liquid, there was so much particulate I had a devil of a time getting it filtered enough for me. If I could improve here I probably would continue, as it is a nice change, indeed and the women loved the blush ( I mean the color of the drink ).Dave

Hi David! Yes I tried the Rhubarb and definitely a fan. But as you said a bit of work. I made it a couple times and liked it.

Yes I did move to 50 grams last run. But I would say 40-50 grams now is my choice. It's just a little deeper and a bit more mellow and closer to the benchmark I use. Again we are talking grams, so really not that critical. The amount of zest from a given lemon will vary - typically for me it's 3.5 to 5 grams each. So I would say moving to 12 lemons worth is safe enough as a start. I actually use zest that I keep in the freezer over time as I am using lemons. Once I have 40-50 grams of zest saved now, I just make the base and keep that stored. Then once I need to bottle a batch I grab the bottle of base and finish to the final stage. Good luck!

The original recipe though remains fine as it is.
Just as an example for those looking to measure lemon rind by weight. I use an average, but I use weight in grams. There's no way that one can hit any accuracy (assuming one wants to) by using a count of pieces of fruit.

For example I have one bag of rind from 3 lemons at 24G and another of 7 lemons at 36 grams. :)

This is why I have gone to weight measurement for lemon rind in my Limoncello.

I just started by marking given bags of fruit count/rind weight in grams and reached an average.

So in this case I have "10 lemons of rind" weighing 60 grams, an average of 10 grams per lemon in this case. I've found over time that if I keep the total of rind for the recipe in the range of 40-50 grams I hit my benchmark.

Your performance may vary.

IMHO a recipe that is just saying "rind from 10 lemons" doesn't really cut it, if you are trying to hit consistency. But then I guess a variance of up to 10 grams total weight won't make a difference. I'll shoot for 50-60 gram for this recipe.
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A special thanks goes out to the member who posted earlier to use a potato peeler for zesting the lemons. Today I used one for the first time in zesting and in less than fifteen minutes I produced 50g of zest without pith. YEAH YEAH YEAH!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! The last time I zested using sharp paring knife it took me and a buddy at least one hour to produce the same amount of zest and our hands were screaming in pain from the experience.

Onward and upward.
Well, I see there was a dry spell for Dave, but I am returning as I need a recipe for a correct Sambuca. I have all the ingredients ( anise seeds to mortar and pestel ) etc. I had a neighbor in and he said he liked coffee with a douse of Sambuca. He liked my limoncello a lot so I figured a good excuse here to go the mile for a great neighbor. But I cannot find a recipe for the purist. HELP ME, WANDA ! Hope all the limoncelloists are holding up with a New Year close . Best to all DAVE