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Wish I Knew: How Easy It Is to Make Homemade Limoncello (Yes, It’s Legal)

June 15th, 2012 · 2 Comments

Homemade limoncello - give it time to macerate and time to age. /photo by Jim Furci


Special to JanNorris.com

This week marked 40 days – the halfway point – for a limoncello I have had macerating in a dark cabinet. The macerating was step one in the simple, two-step process.

Macerating allow sthe alcohol to extract as many oils and as much color from the lemon peels packed in it as possible.

Jim Furci

Today, for step two, I filtered it and combined it with simple syrup in a gallon jug, where it will stay another 40 days in the freezer before I open it.

Forty days, you say? You want quicker results. Well, you could do a quick version of  it with two weeks macerating, and two weeks in the freezer. But I am Italian — and superstitious.

I wanted to make the Italian liqueur as tradition dictates. If an Italian tells you to keep it 80 days, I’m following the timeline to the letter – no exception. Old recipes call for keeping it at least this long before it’s opened.

Shorter macerating and storing terms produce inferior, albeit drinkable, results.

Limoncello from Amalfi

A little history: Limoncello (pronounced lemon-CHELL-oh) is believed to come from the Amalfi Coast of Italy, where it is produced from the peels of indigenous lemons (known as sfusato amalfitano, or Femminello St. Teresa lemons).

Real limoncello contains no preservatives or coloring or artificial ingredients. Most Italians will argue that the best limoncello is from the Amalfi Coast producers, since the lemons here grow in the perfect citrus-producing region in a warm climate and good soils.

Limoncello is a great drink all year round, but for some reason in the summertime, it is oh, so much better. Serve it before dinner or after, as a digestivo, in a liqueur glass, or as tradition dictates, a small ceramic shot-sized glass.

Jim Furci’s Limoncello

  • 20 lemons, washed, and peeled thinly – see note
  • ½ gallon (64 ounces) pure grain alcohol – 153-plus proof preferred
  • 1 1-gallon glass jar with sealable lid
  • Coffee filter
  • For simple syrup:
  • 6 cups water
  • 5 cups granulated (white) sugar
  • sealable glass bottles for decanting

Wash lemons well. Peel thinly  – see note. Place peels in bottom of clean, sealable glass jar. (Juice the lemons and freeze juice for another use.) Pour grain alcohol over all and stir. Seal with lid.

Set jar in a dark cabinet for 40 days to macerate lemon peel, stirring occasionally throughout the time period.

After 40 days, strain liquid through a coffee filter set in a strainer into a large bowl. S

Make simple syrup: Combine water and sugar in a medium saucepan. Cook over medium heat, stirring constantly, until mixture is smooth and clear and syrup-like. Cool to room temperature.

Pour sugar-syrup into bowl with lemon-infused alcohol. Stir very well to combine.

Pour mixture into bottles and seal well. Store in freezer for 40 days before serving, if you can wait that long.

The limoncello will keep indefinitely and tastes better as it ages.

Makes approximately 1 gallon (128 ounces) limoncello.

Note: Peel slowly with the goal of peeling just on top of the pith. Pith will make the mixture bitter.

How to serve limoncello

The liqueur is best served ice cold or in a chilled glass from room temperature bottles, as a digestif at the end of a meal. For an aperitif, it’s added to chilled Prosecco, or tonic water. Use limoncello as a dessert sauce or ice cream topping with candied lemon peels added for decoration.

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Jim Furci is an IT consultant from Lake Worth. His passion is experimenting in the kitchen with old and new recipes.

Tags: Recipes · Recipes: What's Cooking! · Sips: Drinkables · Spirits · Wish I Knew

2 responses so far ↓

  • 1 MLG // Feb 7, 2013 at 10:30 am

    Hi, I am making this right now, I was planning on using the lemon juice for the simple syrup. How lemony is this?

  • 2 Betty // Jun 18, 2015 at 7:48 pm

    Thank you for sharing this! <3

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