Limoncello making party

To celebrate the completion of the first week of classes, we had the faculty members and their families over to make a big batch of limoncello for all to share. For those of you unfamiliar with limoncello, it is a powerful, super-tasty, Italian lemon liqueur. I have been making it for several years now. In fact, I like to think that the teachers in the Florence program get along with each other exceptionally well because I introduce limoncello into their lives early in the process. Everything is just much more cheerful with limoncello.

Everyone brought 6 lemons, a little cash to cover the cost of the alcohol, and an appetizer to share. We made a double batch. After the lemons have steeped in the alcohol for 3 weeks, we will have 4 liters of limoncello – one liter for each family.

Here is the recipe for limoncello:

  • 12 lemons
  • 1 litre grain alcohol, such as Everclear (available at Bottle Barn in Santa Rosa, CA)
  • 4 cups sugar
  • 4 cups water

Zest the 12 lemons and put the zest into a clean, 1 liter glass bottle with a lid. Be careful not to get any of the white part of the peel of the lemon as it is bitter. When zesting the lemons, you want to only take the color off the outside. You can use a microplane grater, a vegetable peeler, or a citrus zester. Add the alcohol. Stir or shake it a bit to mix and leave it to steep for 3 weeks.

At the end of 3 weeks, the lemon zest will have given up all its flavor and color. Your alcohol will be yellow and the lemon zest will be pale, almost white. Strain the alcohol and throw away the zest. Combine 4 cups sugar and 4 cups water in a large saucepan on the stove. Heat until the sugar is completely dissolved. (This mixture is called simple syrup.) Let the syrup cool completely. Measure to make sure you have 1 liter of simple syrup. If you need more, it only takes a few minutes to make. Just use one part sugar to one part water.

Combine 1 liter lemon-steeped alcohol with 1 liter simple syrup. Pour into clean bottles. Serve very cold. Can be kept in the freezer or refrigerator. Because the alcohol content is so high, it doesn’t need to be refrigerated, but should be stored in a cool, dark place. They say it keeps for a very long time, but I wouldn’t know. Ours never lasts that long.

Here, Calla and I demonstrate zesting lemons:

While the adults zested lemons, the kids helped juice the lemons and we made lemonade. Calla is a champion lemon juicer. She juiced about half of the lemons (12) by herself.  In addition to the lemonade we made, everyone got to take home lemon juice for making lemon bars or lemon granita (an Italian frozen lemon dessert.) We ate bruschetta, olives, cheese, chocolate covered panetone, and heavenly chocolate mousse (made by Maria), with prosecco (sparkling wine) or lemonade to wash it down. It was an “eclectic” mix of foods, but everyone had a great time. Just look at this happy bunch.

We realized at the end of the evening that there was an olive pit floating in one of the two jars of lemon zest soaking in alcohol. We blame it on the two year old.

We figured the alcohol would easily kill all the germs, so it wasn’t a big deal. We also decided we would have to have a limoncello TASTING party to see if we could tell the difference in the two batches.


7 thoughts on “Limoncello making party

  1. (From experience) Myer lemons, though great for lemonade, are not the best choice for limoncello. Too sweet. Perhaps because they are not a true lemon but a lemon/orange mix.

  2. Lois,
    Thank you so much for the recipe. I remember you saying you were going to try making Limoncello with Meyer Lemons. We have a bush-full right now. Did you do so? Did it work out? Should we skip the Meyers and go directly to Eurekas?

    • Eureka lemons do work better, although I still make limoncello with Meyers just because I have so many in the back yard. I imagine that you have a bunch of Meyers that you need to use, right? Why don’t you try half a batch with Meyers and half a batch with Eurekas and see what you think. That way you only have to go buy 6 eurekas. If you’re doing two half-batches, then quart sized mason jars would work great for you.

      • That sounds like a great idea! But now I am thinking that maybe I should make a half and half batch as part of the mix.
        I came home to see two bottles of 750 ml Everclear on the kitchen counter. Greg is on it!

      • Way to go, Greg! You’re going to have 3 liters of limoncello when you’re done. Being the math whiz that you are, I know you can do the fractional math to accommodate your 750 ml bottles of liquor. Do you want the lemon granita recipe for all that lemon juice you’re going to have, or do you have other plans for the juice?

  3. It is a delightful country. Where else can you put four-year olds to work making blindingly potent Italian alcoholic beverages for the grown-ups. I am very much looking forward to partying down with our Florence colleagues again after the concoction is done brewing and belching fire on our kitchen shelf. I think I have fond memories of limoncello revelry with the professor-homeys in Florence, but I don’t seem to be able to remember.

  4. I am staring at our “Myers” and plan to try the half and half. We will celebrate in high lemony style after loisandgeorge return from il viaggio lungo. Now about to curl up in sun with laptop and catch all the blogs. Love you two who
    certainly know how to live, Wayne tells me, shopping in the snow and all, Lois.

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