Homemade limoncello

I love yellow.  I love sunshine.  I love lemons. 

And yes, I love limoncello, that glorious Italian digestif that transports me to the lemon groves of Sicily (where, actually I haven't yet ever been, although I definitely plan to and it's where my friend Valentina is from).

OK then, so it transports me to somewhere sunny (since I don't know Sicily) where I can smell citrus and trees and hot earth and salty breezes, and feel the sun soaking into my skin like pure life force. Somewhere like that.

Yet it's winter, in fact the first frost of winter today.  And that, dear friends, is the power of limoncello. 

It's delicious, it's bottled sunshine - and it's easy to make.  It needs three weeks from putting the vodka and lemon peel together until it's ready-to-drink, so if we start it now, it'll be ready in time for some Christmas parties and for giving as (very welcome) gifts.

You'll need:

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

6-8 (depending on size and how you feel that day) unwaxed, organic lemons

I am specifiying unwaxed and organic as due to the amount of time the peel steeps, any nasties in it will also transfer to your drink.  To be entirely honest, I once made it with the only lemons available and that definitely weren't organic, and I'm still here to tell the tale, but it's just common sense to get the most natural, beautiful ones you can find).

A bottle of vodka

Sugar for the sugar syrup - but we don't need that until two weeks' time, so I'll come back and add that bit and update the photos then.

For now, all you do is start by washing the lemons, rinsing them and drying them.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello lemons

Then using a vegetable peeler or small sharp knife (or both) peel off the rind as very very thinly as you can.  The white pith has a bitter flavour and whilst it's going to be impossible not to have any of it at all (so don't obsess), it is important to be as careful about avoiding it as you can.

So, very finely peel 6-8 lemons - I did seven - and pop the bits of peel into a jar or bottle.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello
Rachel Redlaw limoncello

Top almost to the top with vodka (we need room for a cup of sugar syrup in a couple of weeks), seal tightly and put away somewhere cool and dark for a couple of weeks or so.

Update: three weeks' later ...  although two weeks would have been enough. 

OK, so right at the very last stage I went a bit loopy and made this much much harder for myself than need be!

What SHOULD have happened is that I should have made a couple of cups of sugar syrup.  Two cups sugar and two cups water, brought together very slowly in a saucepan, simmered for 2-3 minutes and then left to cool.

You strain the peel from your liqueur then add about half the quantity of sugar syrup and taste, and add more as necessary until it's the right sweetness for you.  Easy!

But what I did, was assume I had enough sugar syrup in the fridge as I'd made vodka sours this week for a supperclub.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello
Rachel Redlaw limoncello

There was nowhere near enough and my drink was horribly bitter.

And then, to make it even harder, I decided I couldn't be bothered to make up 'proper' sugar syrup, so I just put boiling water into half a cup of sugar and stirred til dissolved.  

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

When cool, I added this to my lemon liqueur and ... it was still bitter.  So I made another cup of my 'cheat's syrup' and added half of it.  

My limoncello tastes absolutely fine, despite all this messing around, if not the very best version I've ever made!

Leave it for 24 hours to settle and then keep in the fridge until needed.

Rachel Redlaw limoncello

At least it looks pretty ... and I hope you make it the easy way, not the totally-round-the-houses-way and that you like it! 

Would love to see what you make - do share.