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When we bought our house, with its two lemon trees on property, my first thought was homemade limoncello. When Mr. BFT and I were honeymooning in Italy, one of our favorite memories was eating and drinking lemon EVERYTHING, including limoncello, while visiting the Amalfi Coast. I loved it so much I even carefully transported back tiny sealed bottles of limoncello to give to my friends back home.
When Mr. BFT’s family was visiting a couple months ago, my mother-in-law and I set out to craft the perfect homemade limoncello recipe. She did a lot of Internet research and decided to follow a combination of two recipes found on What’s Cooking America and The Food Network. I also adapted these recipes to use less sugar. In general I always cook with less sugar than what is recommended, and I would say 9 times out of 10 I don’t miss the extra sugar. My limoncello came out pretty sweet even with the reduced sugar! It tastes wonderful and I can’t wait to send my mother-in-law a little sample to enjoy.
Homemade Limoncello Recipe
1 750ml bottle of vodka (use the cheap stuff)
2 cups sugar
3 cups water
Large pitcher/mason jars
Empty glass bottle with screw top or seal (this bottle from Amazon would work well and it also comes in yellow)
Frost spray paint (optional)
Printed label (optional – you can download mine at the end of the post)
Step 1 – Peel the lemon rinds using the vegetable peeler. Try to peel them off in long strips and make sure there’s no white pith attached to the rinds. Set aside the lemons for another use (lemonade, perhaps).
Step 2 – Place the peels in your pitcher or jars. While out vintage shopping with my mother-in-law, we came across these glass mason jars with lids and thought they would be perfect. We needed two, but if you are using a standard large pitcher you may only need one container.
Step 3 – Pour the vodka over the peels and seal the container. If you’re using a pitcher, use plastic wrap and a rubber band over the top to make sure you have a good seal. Let sit for 10-40 days. I let mine sit for 30 days. Allegedly, the longer you let it seep, the more flavorful your limoncello will be.
Step 4 – Create a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a sauce pan over low heat until the sugar dissolves. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature. Pour the sugar mixture over the vodka/lemons and seal. Let sit at room temperature for 10-40 days. I let mine sit for 20 days.
Step 5 – Strain or funnel the liquid (to separate from the peels) as you transfer it to a different container. I washed and saved a tall glass bottle from Trader Joe’s; I believe it was a sparkling orange drink. Seal tightly.
I found using a frosted or cloudy container is better for limoncello. Otherwise it will look like you are keeping a bottle of pee in your house. You can get frost spray paint at any craft store or on Amazon. I like the Krylon brand Frosted Glass Finish paint. Finish off the jar with a decorative label. I made this one using a stock graphic border and printing on a 2″x3″ blank label. Click here to open a downloadable .JPG of my limoncello label.
You will always want to serve your limoncello chilled, so it is recommended to keep it in the freezer. Serve straight or over ice. This is a sipping drink and it’s very strong (it’s basically just vodka!) so you don’t need much of it. In Italy, it is popular to drink a shot of limoncello in a chilled glass right after dinner as a digestive aide. One of the recipes I followed stated you can keep it for up to one month, but since it’s mostly vodka and sugar, I’m guessing it will taste yummy for much longer.
Other ways to enjoy limoncello:
- Over vanilla ice cream
- Mixed with champagne or red wine
- With a splash of club soda
- Spike your lemonade
- Freeze into ice cubes and serve with punch