Sunday, December 21, 2014

Homemade Limoncello

If you were to ask what the most exciting thing I have made and tasted this year it would be this-heavenly, liquid gold. Lemony, sweet, alcoholic, utterly refreshing and served ice cold straight from the freezer, this home made limoncello is definitely a case of saving the best till last. It's a recipe with history, passed around Italy. I nabbed it from the glorious hardcover Italian cookbook Limoncello and Linenwater by Tessa Kiros, and she writes

 "This recipe is from Massimo, Giovani's friend, and he got it from his Sicilian friend's grandmother." 

Don't you just love recipes that have been passed on through numerous people and generations? You just know there's something special about it, something coveted. It just adds to the flavour.
This drink really is a labour of love. But food and drink always does taste better with lashings of passion and love poured into it, I am certain of it. I had blisters on my hands after spending hours peeling the lemon yellow off the pith with a potato peeler-but it was so worth it. I can not stress how worth it it was. Thankfully we made a double batch of this lovely drink, so that we could gift it to friends and family this Christmas. It's the ultimate homemade Christmas gift for anyone who enjoys a good drop and is a foodie lover.
We had been saving interesting liqueur bottles over the years for this very moment-after weeks of soaking the peel and waiting for it to settle, we finally got to bottle our very own home brewed limoncello. The feeling of satisfaction was beyond what I expected, especially after we had chilled it in the freezer and taken our first sips. Ahhhhhhhhhh! The perfect beverage to have on a hot summer's day.
Just to test how good our limoncello was, we poured a comparative shot glass of limoncello we had purchased from a well known boutique liqueur store in the Sunshine Coast hinterland. Theirs is a clear pure colourless liquid scattered with gold leaf and set in a cello shaped bottle. Fancy!
Ours is a clear, lemon coloured liquid, brilliant to the eye. In comparison, ours smells and tastes much more lemony, sweeter, with an alcoholic warmth at the end. The store bought one is less aromatic, and perhaps more alcoholically potent. The first impression is "Wow, strong alcohol! Mmmh, lemon."
It's the exact reverse for the home made limoncello.
I'm pretty biased, but I prefer our batch, as does my husband. That dash of love sure is a tasty addition. We hope to carry on our home made liqueur tradition to many future Christmases.And you may ask, what am I going to do with all those peeled lemons? Make old fashioned cloudy pink lemonade of course!

HOMEMADE LIMONCELLO (From Limoncello and Linenwater, by Tessa Kiros. pg. 17)

8 lemons
1 litre (4 cups) pure alcohol
1 kg sugar
1 litre (4 cups) water

Wash and scrub the lemons very well.
Pare them with a potato peeler, removing only the yellow of the skins (any white pith will make the limoncello bitter, so just skim off the yellow). Put the yellow skins in a wide mouthed glass carafe  with about a 3 litre capacity.
Pour the alcohol over the top and seal. Keep covered for one week, shaking occasionally to make sure all the peel is soaking.
Put the sugar in a saucepan with the water and stir until the sugar has dissolved. Bring to the boil and simmer for just under 10 minutes. Remove from the heat. Using a fine strainer or sieve, filter the alcohol into a jug and discard the lemon peel.
Slowly pour the strained alcohol into the hot sugar syrup and stir to combine thoroughly.
Cool completely.
Pour back into the carafe. Cover again and leave for 10-15 days.
Serve well chilled. You can even keep it in the freezer.

NOTES: We used vodka as the alcohol in this recipe. Most pure alcohols are between 96-98%. Makes about 2.25 litres. We made a double batch, and spent about $100 on vodka, sugar and lemons, and got about 4.5 litres of pure Italian bliss. (8 varied sized bottles!) You can store this in the freezer permanently for a super chilled drink-the alcohol cannot freeze.

The process in pictures:

 Just to show you how thinly you need to peel the rind from the lemon, the first slice I took out of the first lemon looked like the above. The peel had lots of white on the bottom, so skim lightly and peel like the rest of the lemon pictured above.

 Your peel should look like this. In the beginning, until I got the knack of peeling well, some of my peel had white on it. This makes the limoncello bitter, so try to avoid it. My small dose of white didn't seem to affect the flavour noticeably.

 All the peel place in glass container.

 Vodka is added to the peel.

 Bottle is sealed and left to sit for a week. Careful when you go to inhale from the bottle, it will burn your nostils!

After that the lemon is removed and water and sugar is boiled together to create a hot sugar syrup. This is added to the vodka. It then sits for 10-15 days before bottling.

 Hubby bottling the limoncello.

Voila! Chill and serve.

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