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Summer is here and the local stores are carrying some great lemons right now. So, I wanted to share with you my recipe for homemade Limoncello. Limoncello is a classic Italian sipping liquor, traditionally served after dinner as a digestif. But I make batches of the stuff and drink it any time, take it with other mixers and even use it in my baking.
I base my recipe off of Giada De Laurentiis. Giada uses vodka. Another Italian chef, Michael Chiarello suggests rum. I use grappa. Grappa is a strong, clear, distilled grape-based liquor made from leftovers in the winemaking process. I think it's fantastic with the lemons. Because the grappa can be strong, I like a sweeter simple syrup, which you will see below. Here's my recipe:
- 6 large, good-skinned lemons
- 1 cup of grappa
- 4 cups filtered water
- 3 cups sugar (make sure it's white sugar, not turbinado or demerara sugar)
- Y-shaped vegetable peeler (it's easier)
- Paring knife, if necessary
- Wooden Spoon with long handle
- Brita Pitcher (or similar) with dedicated Brita Filter OR Coffee Filter
- Clear empty wine bottle with stopper OR Swing bottle
Using your vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (top to bottom, not side around) avoiding the white pith. If necessary, use a paring knife to trim away any leftover pith from the lemon peels and discard. Juice the lemons for a later use. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the grappa through the Brita Pitcher or coffee filter until all the liquor comes through. Pour the filtered grappa over the lemon peels and push them down with the handle of your wooden spoon to release those oils. Cover with a double layer of plastic wrap. Set aside on the counter. Steep for 3-4 days at room temperature.
On day 3 or 4, dissolve the sugar into the water in a large saucepan over medium heat for just over 5 minutes. Make sure to cool completely. Pour the syrup over the grappa and lemon peels in the pitcher. Cover and let stand for 24 hours at room temperature. Strain the limoncello and discard the peels. Using a funnel, transfer the limoncello into your bottle of choice. Seal and refrigerate for at least 2 hours. Always serve cold. The limoncello keeps up to a month.
Other uses: If you are going to a cook out, think about using limoncello to sprinkle over fruit salad. I use limoncello in my buttercream icing for cupcakes (look for the lemon version at the end of the page and sub the limoncello for the lemon jucie). It is awesome. But remember, anything spiked is for grownups only.
Limoncello can be made many different ways with a variety of citruses. I always mean to do an orange version and a key lime version. But, so far, I keep coming back to lemons. The other week, I had some lemons with incredible oil in the skins, which came through nicely in the final product. I slice my peeled lemons in half and juice immediately to save for baking, homemade granita or lemonade.
So, what will you do with your homemade limoncello?
**For 21 years of age and over. Please drink responsibly.
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