Years ago, Lia Van Wormer shared her recipe for Limoncello with me. I’ve made it almost every Christmas since then, not just with lemons but with oranges (Arancello) and limes and, maybe this year, with grapefruit (Pompelmocello). It’s a fantastic dessert liqueur and a refreshing addition to sparkling water over ice in the summer. There are cream versions that are so decadent and, when made with the orange liqueur, taste like an old-fashioned, ice-cream-truck creamsicle with a kick. From Lia’s fabulous kitchen to my own, the cellos deliver a symphony of intoxicating aromas and flavors that are now ingrained in Helenthal tradition. Thanks, Lia!
A Classic Italian Lemon Liqueur
12 fresh lemons
scrubbed gently with a vegetable brush to remove wax from the skin.
A vegetable peeler
A glass jar
750 ml Grain alcohol
Using the vegetable peeler, remove the yellow skin, taking care not to include the bitter, white pith that’s between the skin and the flesh of the lemon.
Place all the skins in a clean glass jar, sufficient in size to allow immersion in 750 ml of alcohol.
If you don’t have access to 150+ proof grain alcohol, (Everclear is a common brand name) a good quality vodka can be used instead. I’ve found, though, that the higher proof grain alcohol more quickly extracts the lemon’s essential oils from the skin.
Cover the skins completely with alcohol, using a glass dish to weight them down, if necessary.
Tighten the lid on the jar.
Place in a cool, dark place for 7-10 days (longer if you’ve used Vodka). Gently shake the jar daily to circulate the alcohol through the lemon skins.
After allowing the alcohol to work its magic, extracting the lemon’s essential oils, the clear alcohol will become brightly colored.
A simple syrup is made by dissolving 500 grams of sugar in 1.5 liters of boiling water.
Cool the syrup. Then, combine with the alcohol and skins.
The mixture of peels, alcohol, and simple syrup is covered and allowed to rest for an hour.
The cloudy appearance is normal and will settle out after straining and refrigerating.
The mixture of peels, alcohol, and simple syrup are strained, bottled, and then placed, preferably, in the freezer, to chill to icy cold, citrusy perfection.