The saying goes, “When life hands you lemons, make lemonade.” We say, “When you are handed lemons, make limoncello and lemonade.” It takes 15 lemons to make limoncello, and since only the peel is used, that leaves all the fruit to juice for a refreshingly large pitcher of homemade lemonade—that’s the beauty of making limoncello in the summer! In addition, since it takes 40 to 80 days for the mixture to infuse, if you make it over the summer you’ll have bottles of limoncello ready for holiday gift giving. Use the freshest, most blemish-free, most fully ripe lemons you can find. In addition, buy organic ones if possible. Since the limoncello is made from the lemon peel, you want to make sure they haven’t been coated or sprayed with pesticides.
Makes four (1-liter) bottles of limoncello
15 organic lemons
2 (750-milliliter) bottles 151- or 190-proof grain alcohol, such as Everclear
4 cups granulated sugar
9 1/2 cups water
1-gallon glass Jar, vegetable Peeler, Long Wooden Spoon, Measuring Cups, Large Saucepan, Four (1-Liter) glass Bottles, Fine-Mesh Strainer or Coffee Filter, Large Bowl, Narrow-Neck Funnel, Ladle
Wash a 1-gallon glass jar and lid in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the jar and lid through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.
Scrub the lemons in warm water and pat dry. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from each lemon in wide strips. Be careful not to remove the white pith, which will impart a bitter flavor to the limoncello.
Place the lemon peels in the prepared jar. Pour in 1 bottle of the alcohol, and push down the lemon peels with a wooden spoon to completely submerge them in the liquid. Tightly secure the lid, and set the jar in a cool, dark place to steep. Stirring is not necessary.
After 20 or 40 days, add the second bottle of alcohol to the mixture. Place the sugar and 7 1/2 cups of the water in a large saucepan and bring to a boil over high heat, stirring to dissolve the sugar. Decrease to a simmer and cook for 10 minutes to ensure that all the sugar is completely dissolved. Remove from the heat and cool.
When the sugar syrup is completely cool, add it to the lemon and alcohol mixture in the jar. Tightly secure the lid, and return the jar to a cool, dark place to steep for an additional 20 to 40 days. Over time, the liquid will absorb the flavor from the lemon peels and turn bright yellow in color.
To bottle, first wash the bottles in hot, soapy water and dry thoroughly. Alternatively, run the bottles through the regular cycle of your dishwasher.
Strain the liquid through a fine-mesh strainer, or coffee filter set in a strainer, into a large bowl. Add 12/3 cups of water to the limencello if you used 151-proof grain alcohol; add 2 cups of water if you used 190-proof. (Note: The addition of the water will turn the liquid cloudy and pale yellow in color. This is the desired outcome.) Let it rest for a moment so that any remaining sediment will fall to the bottom of the bowl.
Using a narrow-neck funnel, ladle the limoncello into the prepared bottles, leaving 1 inch headspace. Wipe the rims clean, secure the lids, and label.