Limoncello is a great way to use lemons from an overproducing tree and make friends because there is a lot of limoncello to share when it’s complete. It’s also a great way to test out a potential suitor. Zesting the lemons takes time and patience, plus it’s a three month process to reach the final stage when you can actually taste the finished product. In my case I tried it out on my “then suitor” for our third date (it was not really my plan, it just happened to work out that way). I knew he was a keeper when he spent 45 minutes carefully zesting the lemons then cleaned up the dishes after. Even better was that we were still together three months later to enjoy the finished project (and still are!).
2 bottles (750 ml) 100-proof vodka
4 cups sugar
5 cups water
Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any reside of pesticides or wax; pat the lemons dry.
Over a piece of wax paper, carefully zest the lemons with a microplane zester. Only zest the yellow rind, not the white pith. The pith is too bitter and will spoil your limoncello. Discard the lemons or make lemonade!
In a large glass jar, add both bottles of vodka and the lemon zest. That’s it! Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature in a cool dark place for at least 6 weeks. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. (There is no need to stir – all you have to do is wait.) As the limoncello sits, the vodka slowly take on the flavor and rich yellow color of the lemon zest.
In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water; cook until thickened, approximately 5 to 7 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the Limoncello mixture. Put it back into it cool dark place to rest for another 6 weeks.
After the rest period, strain and bottle: discarding the lemon zest. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve.
A note about straining- if you want really smooth and pure limoncello, you will need to strain the mixture about three times. How long will this take, you ask? A long time. But it’s worth it! After you initially strain the zest from the mixture (a cheese cloth works well), I set up a funnel with a coffee filter over the bottles I was storing the limoncello in. Pour a little at a time, wait, pour a little more, wait and keep repeating. Replace the coffee filter when it gets clogged. I used about 10 coffee filters.
I found this site (limoncellquest.com) very helpful the first time I made this recipe. Since it’s such a long process it makes sense to do it right the first time.