Eating Local in Phoenix

August 22, 2011, 12:37 am
Filed under: drinks, recipe | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Published March 21, 2011
Torre a Mare, ItalyApril 13, 2010 found me in southern Italy, sipping homemade limoncello, oblivious to the imminent doom of Eyjafjallajökull. I could not know in that blissful moment that our flight home to France for the final two weeks of our English teaching stint was about to be canceled. I couldn’t know of the multiple trips to the airport, roadside conversation with the Carabinieri, the train trip that almost saw us abandoned somewhere in Italy or what can only be known as the bus ride from hell.

No, in that moment all I knew was the slightly sweet, full lemon flavor of the perfect post dinner digestive.

Lemon zestI had previously considered limoncello to be an overly sweet, highly alcoholic drink that I consistently avoided. Following that first sip, I was converted.

But my subsequent attempts to relive that moment left me sorely disappointed. I consistently found sugar-laden, neon yellow knockoffs that left the mouth dry and the palette overwhelmed. There was nothing of the refreshing drink I had enjoyed in the waning sun, the waves of the Adriatic Sea lapping in the distance.

Making limoncelloSo when I came into 16 lemons last week, conveniently left on a break room table, I knew it was time to recreate my Italian memories in a bottle.

It turns out there are as many recipes for limoncello as there are dialects in Italy (and probably more). Not wanting to disappoint myself, I did a little experimenting and – most importantly – contacted my Italian friend and creator of the magical liqueur. The following recipe, I’m delighted to report, comes pretty close to recreating that first sip. All I need now is an ocean breeze.


Recipe thanks to my friend Valerio (all inaccuracies in recipe are mine)

zest10 lemons
75 cl EverClear or, if not available in your state, a high proof Vodka
75 cl water
2 cups sugar, more or less as desired

1 large glass container, about 1 gallon, with a secure lid.
Several #4 coffee filters
2 75 cl glass bottles with replaceable lid
Wooden spoon

Using a vegetable peeler, remove the zest from the lemons in long strips being careful to avoid the white pith. Using a paring knife, scrap the pieces of zest to remove all remaining pith. (See image above right, you want the zest to look like the piece on the right.)

Add the zest to the glass jar. Cover with the EverClear and water. Add the sugar directly into the jar. Using a wooden spoon, gently stir the mixture until the sugar is swirling off the bottom.

Cover the jar with a piece of plastic wrap and lid. Keep the jar in a dark location and stir the contents once a day, until the sugar swirls off the bottom. Once the sugar is completely dissolved, the batch is done. This takes anywhere from 3 days to a week, depending on the temperature.

Using the coffee filters, strain the mixture into the glass bottles, discarding the peels. Place the bottles in the freezer where the mixture will continue to mature for another several days. Store in the freezer. Enjoy!