Today’s Guest Blogger is Ross, from Christchurch, NZ.
I did the first part of this at the same time as I made up some lemonade. This was a small test batch but will scale up directly.
- A half bottle of vodka (375ml) – not flavoured, you want something as pure and tasteless as you can find.
- 8 lemons (zest only). Go for lemons with thick peels if you can, to maximise the amount of zest.
Sterilise a large sealable jar. This is the same as for making jam – a careful clean, rinse well, then dry in a slow oven.
Scrub and dry the lemons, make sure you’ve removed any wax. Now zest them; be very careful not to take any pith or you will spoil the result.
While the jar was cooling, I juiced the lemons to make the lemonade.
Put the zest into the jar and add the vodka. Make sure all the zest is covered, then seal it up and stash in a cool dark place for a while. I found a number of different recipes suggesting anything from 2 to 45 days; I left it for two weeks.
… time passes …
Make sure your bottles are clean and dry. You’ll end up with slightly more by volume than just the vodka.
Prepare a simple sugar syrup, and let it cool.
The amount of syrup you need is whatever will dilute your starting liquid to the desired strength (traditional limoncello is 30-32% ABV). In my case (375ml of 37.5% ABV vodka) this calls for 80ml of syrup.
Combine the infused alcohol with the syrup. Stir well. Optionally, say some recipes, let it rest for a few more weeks (I didn’t).
Now filter carefully; for best results filter more than once. I started out with a sieve, then switched to coffee filters. I filtered it four times, which might be excessive; I set up a little production line (pictured). The filtering was slow, and the setup easy to knock over; I found myself longing for some clamp-stands like I used in chemistry class in high school. Unsurprisingly, the filters clogged quite readily; I got through several of them.
Bottle directly from the last filtration; the liqueur should be clear but coloured. At this point the product is very sweet and sharp. Let it mature in the bottle for at least a week; both the sharpness and the cloying sweetness melt away. Serve cold (direct from the fridge, or even the freezer). It’s dynamite-strong; take care!
This wasn’t real limoncello; apparently the genuine stuff is made with grain alcohol which pulls more flavour out of the lemon. (Grain alcohol as in 95% ABV – yes, almost pure ethanol – 190 proof in old money. It’s difficult to find on the shelves, but here in New Zealand it’s legal to distill spirits for personal use. There might be another blog post in here along those lines, but that’s a project for another day…)
Ross is an expat thirtysomething Brit who went to the Shakey Isles in search of adventure. Works in technology, enjoys creating, has a love-hate relationship with his kitchen.
Coming soon, more lemon glut-busting recipes from Ross – lemon sorbet, and lemon pickle. Watch this space!
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Do you remove the wax by srubbing – does it come off?
I’m not entirely sure as my lemons are direct from the tree! I would try scrubbing under hot water, that should help the wax melt off. Some people talk about using a little lemon juice or white vinegar in the wash, though I’m not sure what effect that has.
Personally if I’m cooking with waxed lemons – sometimes you don’t have much choice! – I find a good lather up in hot water and dish detergent, and then a good rinse, works better than anything else. Agree I can’t really see what vinegar would add to the exercise, other than it seems to be thrown around everywhere as a ‘natural cleaner’ these days!
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