Homemade limoncello – Where have all the grandmas and grandpas gone?
I started to make Limoncello some years ago and the response from Italians took me a little bit by surprise as it seems that not many people make their own any more. I lived in Italy for four and a half years and in that time only came across a handful of people who do so. This is really a pity and it seems that Limoncello, like many Italian culinary treats, is something which has left the homestead and turned into a shop-bought commodity. Apparently it is something that grandmas and grandpas make, particularly in the South of Italy, but the grandmas and grandpas won’t be around forever so with this post I hope to encourage you get your peelers out and take back Limoncello as a homemade treat!
HOMEMADE LIMONCELLO – WHERE HAVE ALL THE GRANDMAS AND GRANDPAS GONE?
The key to good Limoncello is, as you may guess, in the quality of the lemons. ONLY use organic lemons. The “bucce” or peels of the lemon is all that you use so if you use non-organic lemons you will end up drinking pesticides and nobody wants that!
The peels of 10 regular sized organic lemons (with as little of the white pith as possible)
1 litre of alcohol (96%) Use ethanol and NOT methanol which can be poisonous
550 grams sugar
2 litres water
Peel your lemons, and add to a large jar (ideally at least 3 litres). In peeling, keep as little of the white pith as possible as this makes the final product more bitter.
Add the alcohol and close the jar
Shake well and hold up to the light and you will almost immediately start to notice some of the oil leaving the peels and colouring the liquid.
Leave to rest in a cool dark cupboard for 1 month, shaking well every couple of days or once a week – you will notice the liquid darkening in colour slightly each time.
After a month, filter the liquid through a sieve and leave the peels to one side. They will have hardened as all of the oils have soaked out of them.
Next, filter the liquid a second time through a muslin cloth or cheese cloth
Meanwhile, heat 2 litres of water until boiling and add the sugar, lowering the heat slightly and stirring for a few minutes until fully dissolved.
Cool the liquid for at least half an hour, mix with the alcohol solution and stir well.
Bottle and when fully cool store in the freezer – it won’t freeze due to the alcohol content
You should juice the lemons after using them and save the juice in the fridge as without their peels they will harden and become difficult to use.
Once you strain the liquid from the alcohol, you can use the hardened lemon peels to create a tasty boozy desert by dipping them in melted chocolate and then leaving them to dry.
This July, I visited Lorenza in Rome. Early one morning, we set off to the oldest fishmonger in Ostiense: a neighborhood known for its street art and old industrial buildings. We were on a mission to stock up for that evening’s seafood dinner. It was a hot summer day filled with urban noise and a humid breeze from the Thyrrhenian Sea. The fish monger shop was straight out of a story book. It clearly hadn’t aged well and there were no windows inside.
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