I promised you the Limoncello recipe, and here it is. I am totally amazed at how easy it is. First, I researched recipes on the internet and compared them. Almost everyone said to use the cheapest vodka available or Everclear which is 100% straight alcohol. I bought a bottle of cheap vodka and brought it home to start making the brew. My husband, Guy, looked at the bottle and asked, "What are you going to do with that 'rottka'?" He said he called it "rottka" because of its rotten quality and advised me to take it back to the liquor store and buy Smirnoff which is a mid-grade vodka. I did as I was told. The hardest part of the whole recipe is peeling the lemons, and that isn't so hard after all. The peeler I used is the one with the horizontal blade as above picture shows. First, you must scrub the lemons thoroughly in hot water to remove wax, etc. Also, cut out any blemishes or dark spots. Then, pointing the peeler down on the lemon and pulling up quickly and lightly, take off a small piece of peel. I've read posts that say to peel in a long strip and then take the pith (white part) off with a knife, but that sounds so time consuming. If you just pull the peel off in short pieces, no pith will come with it. I added an orange because the trend now is to make the Limoncello with Meyer lemons. Since we can't buy any Meyer lemons here in Eastern North Carolina, and we can't grow a Meyer lemon tree in our home (it's too dark), I thought adding an orange would give a similar result. (Meyer lemons are not true lemons -- they are actually a cross between a lemon and an orange. This is their main attraction -- they are milder than regular lemons. I wish we had a place to put one -- they are supposed to be easy to grow and are prolific producers, and they're not expensive -- about $40 will buy you a young Meyer lemon tree that will give you plenty of lemons within a year or two.) Any way, it must have worked. The combination of the Smirnoff and the orange mixed with the lemons and no pith on the peels produced luscious Limoncello. Too bad I don't drink because I could really enjoy this stuff! However, next batch I make is going to be with Everclear. I think if I just let it ferment longer it will be almost, if not as good as the Smirnoff. I am willing to chance it, but it will be later in the fall when I try it.
Here's the recipe as I made it.
10 lemons, scrubbed hard in hot water, blemishes and dark spots removed with knife
1 orange, scrubbed hard in hot water, blemishes and dark spots removed with knife
1 750-ml bottle Smirnoff vodka
3-1/2 cups water
2-1/2 cups sugar
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peels from the lemons, reserving the lemons for another use. If any pith remains on the peels, cut it away with a small sharp knife and discard. It is imperative that no pith be placed in the vodka because it will cause the Limoncello to turn bitter! Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher or other 2-quart glass container. (I used a large mason jar which was just under 2 quarts. It was fine for fermenting the peels but when I added the syrup, I needed more room. So be sure you start out with a container large enough to spare yourself the aggravation of having to find a large enough container later.) Pour the vodka over the peels, cover and set in a dark cool place somewhere in the house (but not in the fridge) for 2 weeks. Give the container a little shake at the end of one week. (Giada and Mario Batali both say to ferment for 4 days.)
At the end of 2 weeks, combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. The sugar water will look cloudy at first. You will know it is dissolved when it becomes clear again. But look carefully -- there may be some sugar crystals at the bottom. Stir and break them up and be sure your syrup is absolutely clear before you remove from stovetop. Cool syrup completely (probably several hours).
In the meantime, begin the filter process. Find a large pot or container, 2 quarts or larger. (I used a 3-quart pan with pour spouts. Place a strainer over the edge and pour the vodka mixture over the strainer into the pot so that the peels are caught in the strainer. Tiny pieces of lemon peel may go through, but don't worry you 'll get them in the next straining. Press down on the peels against the strainer so that you get as much vodka juice out of the peels as possible. Discard the peels. Remove the strainer and pour the vodka back into the first container. Place the strainer back over the pot and line it with a damp basket-style coffee filter. (Wet the coffee filter, then wring it out to make it damp.) Pour the vodka through the filtered strainer for a second time. Now the vodka should be clear. Check it. If not, repeat the process until you have a perfectly clear liquid. Now pour the cooled syrup into the vodka, stir and bottle. You can buy small bottles and use them to give Limoncello as hostess or Christmas gifts. I haven't done that yet. I reused the original Smirnoff bottle that I purchased to make the Limoncello as well as another larger bottle that Guy had just emptied. The photo above shows the Limoncello. It has a beautiful lemon yellow color and it's smooth and mellow. Definitely worth making. Like I said, I wish I drank! This would be great over ice cream. I will use it to bake with and for company and may give some as hostess gifts. The 750 liter (smaller) bottle in the photo above was placed in the freezer, (where it is supposed to be stored if you are going to drink it) and that's why it looks different.