I hope everyone had a nice day off yesterday, if you had one. I spent mine writing and making grape jam (yes, out of those grapes I stuffed in the freezer in August). Post to come! But I’m excited to get some of them out of the freezer, and also to finally share some of the pictures I took way back when we picked them.
Continuing with the lemon theme, I tried another new lemon project this year: limoncello!
I had never made limoncello, but I’ve had it, and I knew I didn’t want it too tart, or too sweet. I remembered reading a recipe for it from the Splendid Table, but after reading the comments, a few Italians chastised the author on her method. The Splendid Table puts the zest in with the simple syrup, strains it, then adds vodka. The Italians frown upon this method, apparently, so I kept searching. I finally ran across a new (to me) blog, The Italian Dish, with a seemingly legit limoncello recipe, which she claims to be “not overly sweet, but just right.” After further investigation, the recipe came from Mamma Agata: Traditional Italian Recipes of a Family That Cooks with Love and Passion in a Simple and Genuine Way (<– affiliate link!), which apparently is one of the most sought after Italian cook books on Earth. I don’t really expect you to click that Amazon link and actually buy it though. Just read the reviews. It has the best reviews I think I’ve ever seen on anything! To buy it new on Amazon is apparently $185?! Whoa. I ordered mine directly from the source – Mamma Agata herself.
Anyway, I was clearly sold on all things Mamma Agata and got to peeling Wheat’s Aunt Danna Sue’s gorgeous Meyer lemons.
Mind you, scrub your lemons first.
And also mind you: the better the lemons, the better the limoncello.
Limoncello recipes all call for lemon zest, not grated, but peeled, without any traces of pith on them. Let me tell you, this is easier said than done. Make sure you have a very sharp paring knife on hand for this task. And be careful, while you’re at it.
Homemade Italian Limoncello
recipe via The Italian Dish, via Mamma Agata: Traditional Italian Recipes of a Family That Cooks with Love and Passion in a Simple and Genuine Way
– zest of six or seven (I used 8, just to be sure) large organic lemons
– 1 litre or quart of pure grain alcohol or vodka (I used Tito’s Handmade Vodka)
– 5 cups (1250 mL) water
– 3 cups (700 grams) sugar
Peel the zest from the lemons with a sharp paring knife or vegetable peeler, carefully avoiding the bitter white pith, and place in a large glass jar. Add the alcohol to the jar with the lemon zest.
Cover the jar with plastic wrap and store in a cool place for a week.
After a week, boil the water and add the sugar, stirring until fully dissolved. Set the simple syrup aside for at least a few hours, or until it is cooled completely.
Strain the lemon peels from the alcohol and add the alcohol to the simple syrup, stirring well.
Serve chilled, from the refrigerator or freezer.
The limoncello will keep for up to two years when stored in a bottle, capped or corked, in a cool place. When ready to serve, chill in your refrigerator or freezer.
I wasn’t fully prepared with bottles for storage, and the recipe made quite a bit of limoncello. I used two glass half-gallon milk bottles to store most of it, plus a hodgepodge of other bottles I had saved. This eclectic mix actually included a bottle found in my mother-in-law’s kitchen cast offs, which looks an awful lot like a real limoncello bottle. I carved up a saved wine cork to cork it with, and I was very pleased indeed with my hoarding.
“It’s not hoarding if you actually use it!” shouted the crazy lady.
Now I will anxiously await Mamma Agata’s arrival in my kitchen so I can further pretend I am really an Italian and continue to mentally plan
my our dream trip to Italy.