Thursday, 25 October 2012



When Aldo Di-Cesare from the Art of Produce in Grey Lynn offered to teach me how to make limoncello I gladly took him up on his offer. He is originally from the South of Italy and this is his family recipe. Many Italian families make their own limoncello at home.

On the Amalfi coast in Italy where limoncello originated it is traditionally served ice cold in little pottery cups or glasses as an after dinner drink. It can be served like this or mixed into a cocktail. It’s also delicious dribbled over ice-cream and fruit or in a trifle, or sorbet.
There are only four ingredients: lemon peel, vodka, sugar and water. And as it doesn’t contain any additives or preservatives like some brands of commercially produced limoncello it’s purer.
However it takes 80 days before the lemon peel has fully imparted its flavour to the vodka. If you make it now it will be ready in time for summer sipping and desserts.
The origins of limoncello are shrouded in history. Some believe that the first bottle of limoncello came from a monastery where the monks sipped it between saying their prayers. To this day many monasteries still produce it.Others think fishermen were the first to use it as an invigorating early morning drink. But it was not officially registered with a trademark until 1988 by Massimo Canale. From that time on it has become a very popular drink in Southern Italy and is also being exported worldwide.
Aldo’s instructions are to grate the lemon peel but as the home grown lemons I used were knobbly I found it easier to pare them with a small vegetable knife, taking care not to include the white pith which would have made the limoncello bitter.
The lemons were free but vodka is pricey so for my first attempt at limoncello I halved the recipe. While it matures I have stored it in a dark cupboard and will give it an occasional shake. When it is done it will be decanted into smaller bottles and one will go in the freezer.
Homegrown unsprayed thick skinned lemons give the best flavour. Avoid the smooth thin skinned variety available in the shops.

15 lemons
1500 ml of vodka
8 cups of sugar
First wash 15 large lemons. Then grate the zest (Do not use the juice and when doing the zest you do not use any of the white pith.)
Dissolve 4 cups of sugar in 5 cups of warm water.
Stir until the sugar dissolves.
Now mix the zest and the syrup with 750 ml of the best vodka you can afford (42 degrees zero is perfect.)
Pour into a large sterilized jar with a lid. Glass is good.
Leave with the lid on for 40 days. This will prevent the alcohol from evaporating.
After 40 days add another 750 ml of vodka. Again dissolve four cups of sugar in five cups of warm water and add to the jar and seal. Leave for another 40 days. Then strain the mixture slowly through muslin or a coffee filter and bottle your limoncello. You should finish up with 5x 750 ml bottles. Close them with screw caps.
Aldo keeps one in the freezer. It’s nicest served straight from there. The liquid should be golden and clear and it should have a tangy lemony flavour. From the freezer it should be a syrupy liquid. If it crystallizes, which can happen, use a little less warm water next time.

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