Today is a rather momentous day: Michael is defending his thesis this afternoon! His parents and our good friend Botticus are descending into New Haven for the occasion, and the whole weekend is expected to be a celebration of fullerenes and food. While champagne (courtesy of his PI and our buddy V) will naturally be quaffed by all, we were inspired by Michael’s mother’s recent trip to Italy and decided that having homemade limoncello in the house would be a Very Good Thing; we are, after all, planning on a leisurely day of cooking on Saturday, and what would be nicer to wash it all down than with a lemon digestivo? The answer: not much. The tricky parts of making your own limoncello are timing and bottling, but this is where we come in–learn from our mistakes and you won’t be overwhelmed by too much sugar syrup or find yourself furiously cleaning out any old wine bottles in which to dump any excess lemon zest and liquid.
The equipment you’ll need is the following: bottles to put the finished product in (we used two 1-L bottles from IKEA that are elegant and inexpensive), a strainer, cheesecloth, a funnel, a box grater, and a big pitcher. As for the ingredients, we adapted Mario Batali’s recipe, which calls for 8-10 lemons per 4 cups vodka (which is just under a liter); for our 1.75 handler of vodka we ended up using 18 lemons. You have to zest them all–I suggest getting some parchment paper or foil, turning on your favorite weekend afternoon show, and zest away while avoiding the white pith at all costs. You will probably cut a finger at least once during this process–accept it, wrap it up, and keep going. It doesn’t take quite as long as you’d expect–I got through all eighteen within the span of a 30-minute cooking show with time to spare.
Once you have your zest, it’s time to mix it with the vodka. You’ll need a sizable, sealable container in which to keep them in order for them to steep, so if you have a big mason jar, now is the time to have it ready. You can certainly use the original container, but because you’re displacing the volume with the zest, you will not be able to contain it all within it, and once the simple syrup is added, you will really need extra containers on hand, so again, think big and sealable. The initial combination of zest and vodka needs to steep in a cool place for four days, and then the simple syrup is added and the whole mess steeps for yet another day. At that point, you’ll want to strain it all out with a wire strainer lined with a few layers of cheesecloth into a pitcher or similar, then pour it into the final bottles and shove them into the freezer as limoncello tastes the best when it’s ice-cold (especially when you’re experiencing sickening humidity like we have been this entire week). Serve in an aperitivo glass, or a generous-sized shot glass, sip, and enjoy!
Cin cin Michael! Love you. 🙂