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Deborah's Limoncello Recipe

Deborah Horn

Limoncello is a liqueur made from lemons. In Italy, it is usually served after dinner. You will find locally made Limoncello in Sorrento (near the Amalfi coast) and in Liguria. Both of these areas grow the lemons used to create the Limoncello. If you want to have the taste of Italy at home, try this recipe to make your own.

Please note that this is a very detailed recipe for those who have never tackled liqueur making before. Many Limoncello recipes are much simpler and faster.

Ingredients list

  • One Bottle (750 ml) Everclear (95% alcohol 190 Proof)
  • One Bottle (750 ml) good but not necessarily premium vodka (40% alcohol 80 Proof)
  • 15 large thick skinned bright yellow lemons (without scars or flaws in the skin if possible.)
  • 750 ml (about 3 cups) filtered tap water or distilled water (not mineral water)
  • 4 cups pure cane white sugar (this will give thin syrup consistency; if you prefer a thicker syrup, experiment with increasing your sugar by 1-2 cups)

Tools list

  • A very clean and dry gallon glass jar (the kind you make sun tea in is perfect)
  • Large supplies of unbleached cone coffee filters; half of them #2 size and half of them #4 size
  • 22 clean, 100 ml. bottles that seal tightly. I found mine at Cost Plus/World Market. They are clear glass with narrow necks. The ceramic looking white hard plastic stoppers have orange rubber gaskets and built in metal hasps to hold the stopper tight. They cost $1.99 each. If you would like to try to get the exact same bottle, the label says World Market "Spain" K1 and the UPC code is 2056 8498.)
  • One large gallon sized glass (pyrex style) pitcher
  • One cup sized metric measuring cup
  • One punch ladle
  • Two funnels with inch mouths. One should have a bowl capacity to fit the #4 coffee filter, the other to fit the #2 coffee filter.

Step One

Day 1

  • Pour the bottle of Everclear and the bottle of vodka into the gallon jar.
  • Try to use organic lemons or make sure that lemons are cleaned to remove all pesticides, dirt, and fertilizer chemicals. Dry the lemons. Use a potato peeler to peel just the yellow part of the skin off the lemons. Make sure you have NO white pith on the back of the peels, because this causes bitterness in the finished liqueur. Try to make the peel pieces as large as possible, because this will make the straining process easier.
  • Put the lemon peels in the gallon jar and stir gently.
  • Cover tightly and put away in a cool (not cold) dark place for alcohol to extract oils from peels, creating an infusion.

Days 8, 22, & 36

  • Gently stir lemon peels to refresh exposure to alcohol. Return to cool, dark place.

Day 43

  • Gently stir lemon peels.
  • Scoop out one of the larger peels and test flexibility. If peel breaks like a potato chip, you will move on to the next step. If peel is still flexible enough to bend without breaking, return to cool dark place and try again in another week.

Step Two

Day 1

  • Dissolve sugar in water and bring to boil over high heat. Boil for 5 minutes.
  • Set syrup aside to cool. It must be room temp before adding to infusion.
  • Use a slotted spoon to gently scoop lemon peels from the infusion and discard. To avoid creating small pieces that will make straining more difficult, try not to break peels as you remove them.
  • Using the larger funnel, the ladle, and #4 coffee filters, slowly strain infusion through filters into large pitcher. This is a messy process. The filters will clog quickly and you will use many of them.
  • Rinse and dry gallon jar.
  • Repeat straining process, transferring infusion from pitcher to original gallon jar by straining again through #4 coffee filters.
  • Return filtered infusion to jar and add COOLED syrup.
  • Return to cool dry place for 40 days to begin mellowing process that combines alcohol infusion with syrup to create Limoncello.

Day 40

Note: If you moisten the filters before the straining, you will not waste liqueur by soaking it into the filter.

  • Begin filtering Limoncello. Use punch ladle to pour a small amount into a filter-lined funnel held over the small measuring cup.
  • Fill measuring cup to an even ml level. (100, 200, 300, etc.)
  • Using smaller funnel and #2 sized filters, filter one last time into individual 100-ml bottles. You have now filtered the liqueur a total of 4 times.
  • Seal bottles VERY tightly. Remember, if you are using different bottles and are sealing them by corking -- corks breathe. So consider dipping the neck several times in melted wax after corking.
  • Label and/or tag bottles.
  • Return to cool dark place for storage.

Branding Your Limoncello

Your Limoncello is now ready to enjoy. However, the longer it sits and "ages" the smoother it becomes.

I start my batches in the spring/summer when the lemons are at their best. Then I give it as gifts at Christmas time. Since Limoncello is a favorite warm weather treat it will have aged an entire year by the time most people drink it. VERY smooth and delicious!

The 100ml size bottles make ideal gifts. You should label the bottles with some basic information and a disclaimer (You don't want to be arrested by ATF as a Bootlegger).

I label my bottles and add a decorative tag. The label I created for my bottles is printed on clear Avery shipping labels (#5165) and has a picture of our house in Umbria.

The Label

The label says:
Limoncello di Casa Piazzetta
A homemade Lemon Liqueur Gift To You From Deborah Horn

The Tag

Here is what I put on my tags:
Serving suggestion:
As an after dinner drink, serve one ounce in a small chilled aperitif glass.
As a refreshing dessert, pour an ounce over a large scoop of shaved ice and garnish with a lemon twist.
Limoncello is best when served directly from the freezer.
Ingredients: beverage alcohol; distilled water; pure cane sugar, & lemon oil infused from the peel of fresh lemons.
100 ml -- 45% alcohol by volume
This liqueur is homemade for private use only. Not intended to be sold or served commercially.


Deborah Horn runs the Petsburg website www.petsburg.com.

© Deborah Horn, 2002

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