Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Homemade Limoncello

I got fascinated with limoncello a few months ago after sampling the housemade versions at local restaurants like McCrady's, Mercato, and Cuoco Pazzo. Of course, it's really a summer drink, but it takes months of steeping to make correctly, so my first batch is just now ready for consumption.

To get started, I surfed the web for a good recipe, and landed on the one provided by Not Knowing Trusting which, for some reason, seemed more reliable than the other options.

Since South Carolina is an Everclear-friendly state, I started with that rather than vodka, though I did dilute it out with water to be closer to the proof used in the recipe and also to avoid danger from fire in case a bottle got dropped.

Here's the saga:

1. Zest the lemons (15 of them, in my case) and put the peel in big Mason jars along with the (diluted) Everclear

2. Sock it all away on a shelf somewhere (the pantry in my case) and try to avoid the sinking feeling that, "this is going to take forever." Before you know it months will have gone by and you'll be thinking, "I really need to finish up that stuff." See the real recipe for better time guidelines. But, hey. It's a thin line between patient and lazy.

3. Mix up a simple syrup (again, follow a real recipe for actual amounts), mix with the lemon-booze brew, and put it back in the jars to sit.

4. After a few more weeks (or months, if you're really apathetic), strain through coffee filters and pour into old, sterilized bottles (though snooty instructions might tell you to go buy special bottles with decorative stoppers, the Everclear bottle you started with and a few other spent liquor bottles work just fine.)

5. Put it in your freezer and let it sit somemore--several more weeks for it to get at its best.

Now, you're ready to remove from the freezer at a moments notice for a nice apertif.

The recipes tell you to freeze and let sit for at least a week before serving. I found that even after a week the limoncello seemed to have a harsh, industrial alcohol edge to it that I attributed to the Everclear, thinking maybe if I'd started with good vodka it wouldn't be so rough. But, after another two weeks or so of finishing in the freezer, it has mellowed out nicely, and it's every bit as delightfully sweet, lemony, and smooth as the local restaurants' housemade stuff.


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