Contributed by Britta Johnson —
Twice a year my mom’s Meyer lemon tree blesses us with a bounty of sunny, fragrant, and sweet Meyer lemons from which we make a smooth and delicious sipping liqueur – homemade Limoncello! This recipe isn’t exact – get creative and play with the quantities of ingredients to your own tastes. Be an alchemist or artist.
What you’ll need:
6 pounds of lemons (or try oranges, tangerines, etc.)
14 cups of grain alcohol
4 cups sugar
4 cups water
Regardless if you are using homegrown organic Meyer lemons or store bought, wash them well.
Using a very sharp potato peeler, peel just the outer layer off the lemons – the part with color that looks like small pockets of oil. Avoid the white part of the peel (the pitch); too much of that will make the end result bitter.
Put the ribbons of zest in a clean glass jar that has a lid. Cover the peels in the jar completely with high proof grain alcohol – and then put the lid on tightly.
Grain alcohol options can include everclear or vodka. Note: higher-proof alcohol allows for a better extraction of the lemon flavor but if you have some leftover vodka in your cupboard from that anniversary party you threw for your parents five years ago, use that. Ensure the lid on the jar is tight.
After you’ve taken a photo of the beautiful color of the jar of lemon peels infusing in the alcohol, put the jar out of the way, not in direct sunlight for at least a week – and as long as a month (we let ours go a month – sometimes more). The longer you let the vodka infuse, the lemonier your Limoncello will be.
Once the lemon mixture is done steeping, then strain it. We do this in two steps: first with a fine mesh stainless strainer, then through a coffee filter on top of the strainer.
Then, make a simple syrup. The ratio is 1:1 sugar to water. Bring the water to a simmer, put in the sugar, and stir until the sugar has completely dissolved. Let the simple syrup cool.
Now you are ready to do your final mixing! Get creative with the ratios of infusion with the simple syrup. We lay out a variety of small “starter” mix ratios: 60-40, 25-75, 10-90. Taste test.
To diffuse the alcohol, just add water. We pick the one we like the most and then fine tune from there.
Finally, bottle your Limoncello. Ensure the bottles and caps/corks have been thoroughly cleaned. Once bottled, store the Limoncello in the fridge or freezer. The flavor will mellow over time. The liqueur keeps up to at least a month in the refrigerator or a year (or longer) when stored in the freezer. Sip it over ice, use it as a cocktail mixer.