December 12, 2010

When Life Gives You Lemons---

I was cruising through the recipes on my website ( yes there are tons of recipes on my site) and was thinking of which ones would be great for the holidays.

I adore winter for the citrus and the lemons are lovely right now and that usually means making limoncello in my house.

Traditional Limoncello recipe

Soak the zest of 5 organic lemons in 2 cups of whole grain alcohol for 3 days.
Note- in Italy the lemons are large, about the size of your fist, so if you use smaller lemons, use more

The alcohol will extact the essence from the zest and become bright yellow or greenish yellow depending on your lemons.

When the infusion is ready, prepare a simple syrup.
Boil 4 cups of water with 3 cups of sugar.

Take off the heat and add the infusion with lemon zest to the simple syrup.

Let it cool and filter the zest from the limoncello.

It is now ready to drink.
Traditionally, the bottle is kept in the freezer ( where it will get thick but not freeze) and served after dinner in tiny glasses.

 In Italy we can buy the whole grain alcohol at the grocery store, in California I found it at Bev and More, but often it is at the pharmacy and you may need to know someone to buy it.

The whole grain I get is 95% alcohol which means 190 proof.
Which is why you only need to leave the lemon zest in infusion for 3 days.

The recipe above is using a ratio of 2 parts simple syrup to 1 part alcohol infusion- which divides the alcohol levels to 1/3. So the 95% alcohol of the whole grain is now  around 31%.

The whole grain I found at Bev and More was 75% alcohol, which is 151 proof, like a rum which is strong , but you can drink and not die.

When I use the 75% alcohol I can use an equal part of simple syrup and cut the percentage in half. So make 2 cups of simple syrup for 2 cups of the 75% whole grain and that gives you the same 32%.
What is important is the ratio of alcohol to sugar syrup to create a nice limoncello.

If you use Vodka, 100 proof is only 50% alcohol, most recipes you see say to leave the lemon zest in infusion for a month. That is because the lower the alcohol level the slower it removes the essence from the zest.



  1. Yes to limoncello! Thanks for giving the adjustments for US whole grain alcohol. My version will be Meyer Lemon limoncello and should be ready soon. Love the picture!

  2. I'd been looking for this recipe, thank you!

  3. I never knew limoncello was so easy to make! That sounds like fun:)

  4. Karen Epstein Roseth10:15 PM

    I'm still hoping for the limoncello cake recipe.

  5. Karen-- that was someone else that left the message on facebook I think!

  6. I have made limoncello and it came out very well first time. However, supermarket lemons - at least in the US - may have been treated with wax to reduce moisture loss. You don't want this. Seek out waxless lemons or scrape a very thin layer off the outside. The larger NH State Liquor stores have pure alcohol, although they keep it out back so the college kids won't kill themselves.

  7. no need to remove zest at all- wash in warm water to remove wax!!! thanks for mentioning.