Limoncello Recipe in Pictures

by Jessica on August 21, 2007

by | August 21st, 2007  

After posting the Limoncello Recipe a couple months ago, I was inspired to make some for the members of my Italian conversation group. And I figured that while I was at it, I’d document the process for you, the Italy Logue reader! So take this post in tandem with the post about with the recipe for limoncello, so you can see how the stuff develops. (Or, since this post seems to be inordinantly more popular than the actual recipe post, I’ve pasted the recipe itself at the bottom here, under all the pictures!)

>> Want more Italian food? Be sure to look at these Italian classic recipes, too!

This is a photo of the ingredients necessary to make limoncello – a large jar with a tight-sealing lid, grain alcohol, a vegetable peeler and a pile of lemons. I made a double batch, so I had 16 big lemons in that bowl, all thoroughly washed.
L1

Here’s an example of some of the lemon peels – you want to get as little of the white stuff as possible on the peels, as that adds bitterness to your limoncello. With 16 lemons to peel, my hand was seriously cramped at the end of the process. You shouldn’t have the same painful experience with only eight or so.
L2

And after peeling for what seemed like forever (and getting increasingly lazy in my efforts to keep the white bits off the peels), I ended up with this – a bowl full of naked lemons and a bunch of peels in my jar. It should be noted that the lemons will go bad quickly if left out without their skins, so either chuck them in plastic bags and get them in the fridge right away (and plan to use them soon), or juice them and either use or freeze the juice immediately. I froze the juice, so I now have pre-measured juice all ready for a couple batches each of lemon sorbetto and chicken piccata!
L3

Then, into the big jar with all the lemon peels goes the two bottles of grain alcohol (again, this was a double batch). Thankfully, when I originally bought this jar a few years ago the first time I made limoncello, I got a container that was far too large for one single batch. This is one instance where my inability to accurately guess at volume came in handy, because as you can see there’s not only plenty of room for twice the number of lemons and alcohol, but there’s still room to shake the contents up. After dumping the alcohol into the jar, I put the jar in a dark cupboard.
L4

Already by the next day, you can see how much the alcohol has already sucked some of the color (and flavor) out of the lemon peels. The previous day’s clear liquid has turned yellow. The mixture gets shaken every day to help the process along, so if you squirrel yours away into a spot that you don’t access daily, make a note to yourself and stick it on your fridge or something so you don’t forget about it.
L5

Four days into the process the liquid is even more yellow, and more opaque. You can’t see it very well in this picture, but the lemon peels are growing more and more pale, as the liquid grows darker.
L6

Finally, it’s day seven and time to finish making the limoncello. When you strain the lemon peels out of the alcohol, you can really see how pale they are – remember how bright they were before? And what’s more, the peels are no longer soft and pliable – they are now crispy. I don’t know of anything to do with them except toss them, so if someone has a brilliant use for these, do let me know.
L7

The next step is the combining of the sugar and water. It’s not necessary to heat this mixture to even a simmer, as long as you keep an eye on it you can take it off the heat as soon as the sugar is no longer visible and it looks like a pot of clear water.
L8

This is easily my favorite part of the whole limoncello-making process – the alchemy, if you will. You begin this part with a clear liquid in one pot and a relatively translucent liquid in another. Sure, the yellow stuff isn’t as see-through as the clear stuff, but you can still see the bottom of the dish holding the lemon-flavored alcohol. Nothing special here, right?
L9

But the second the one hits the other, the clear yellow turns to a milky yellow color, creamy and opaque and fabulous. It’s like magic to me, and it’s when I know the limoncello is done. I have no idea what makes this particular combination of ingredients do this, and not every limonello recipe produces this same result – but I love it, and can’t imagine limoncello without it.
L10

And here we are with the finished product! Save those alcohol bottles, folks, they make excellent limoncello containers. I also used some sparkling French lemonade bottles this time, too, because they came with rubber stoppers. These bottles were given to friends, so I simply tied a yellow tag around the neck of each one and wrote “Limoncello 2007″ on each one. Keep these in the freezer and you’re all set. (The little glass in the picture has ice cubes in it because the limoncello was not yet cold, but ordinarily you wouldn’t put ice cubes in limoncello.)
L11

I do recommend not letting your limoncello sit for too long – I tried the last few sips of one made last summer and all the sweetness was gone. So, I’d say don’t save it for a special occasion, make every evening a special occasion!

Limoncello di Lucia

Ingredients:

  • 750 ml bottle of grain alcohol
  • 7 or 8 large lemons (make sure they’re organic and not sprayed, you’re using the peel!)
  • 5 cups water
  • 3 cups sugar

Directions:

  • Wash the lemons thoroughly – scrub them clean of all residue.
  • Using a peeler, take off the skins being careful not to get any of the white lemon “pith” onto your peelings or it will add bitterness to your limoncello.
  • Put the peels into a large, open-mouth jar with the alcohol and seal the lid tightly. Put the date on the bottle.
  • Put the jar in a cool, dry place for one week – once a day, shake the contents well to remix everything. You’ll notice the color of the liquid changing to yellow and the color of the lemon peels fading.
  • One week later, dissolve the sugar completely in water by heating it on the stove. Then cool the sugar-water mixture to room temperature.
  • Strain the lemon peels out of the alcohol and then mix the alcohol with the sugar-water. Usually the color of the alcohol changes from clear yellow to cloudy yellow when it’s combined with the sugar-water.
  • Pour the mixture into bottles which can be sealed tightly and store them in the freezer. If the limoncello is kept “frozen” until serving it becomes thick and syrupy.


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{ 60 comments }

viky August 22, 2007 at 5:01 am
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Yummy, Yummy…looks tasty!

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f August 22, 2007 at 3:41 pm
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mmmmmmmm

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Jason August 24, 2007 at 2:20 pm
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Jessica, thanks for the great post. I write a weekly bartender column for Houstonist and pointed folks to your limoncello recipe and this pictorial guide.

You can check it out here: http://houstonist.com/2007/08/24/houstonist_bart_36.php

Ciao ragazza.

JB

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Jimmy December 8, 2007 at 1:46 am
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How much water & sugar is needed to make the syrup? It does not state it in the recipe.
16 lemons
2 bottles everclear
? water
? sugar
Thanks,
Jimmy

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macs December 13, 2010 at 8:25 pm
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2 bottles of everclear
20 – 25 lemons (depends on the size)
Since I didn’t want it too sweet, I used 11 cups of water and 5 cups of sugar.

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Jessica December 9, 2007 at 11:01 am
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Jimmy, this was just the post with the pictures, not the actual recipe. You’ve got to go back to the recipe post for that:

http://www.italylogue.com/things-to-do/limoncello-recipe.html

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Michelle January 11, 2008 at 10:36 pm
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Where do you buy grain alcohol? My aunt in Italy (Basilicata) also said she used grain alcohol. But my mother insisted she meant vodka. Can you really buy grain alcohol?

I love the photos! Thanks. I need a recipe that makes that much because I love the stuff but hate the store bought kind.

My mother makes a candied lemon and candied orange peel. I wonder if you can use the peels for that? They must have all that good alcohol flavor in them.

Michelle

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Jessica January 14, 2008 at 10:50 am
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Hi, Michelle, and thanks for the comment. I have friends who prefer to use vodka, but the true recipe uses grain alcohol – in Oregon (where I am) you have to ask for it at the liquor stores. It’s behind the counter, and the one I’ve used is Everclear. Ask at your local liquor store, I’m sure they’ve got it, it’s just such a high proof that they keep it tucked away behind the counter.

As for the candied peels, I’m not sure that would work – there’s basically none of the citrus oils left in the peels by the time they’ve soaked in the alcohol for a week, and I think part of what makes those candied peels (which I adore) so great is that they’re chewy on the inside. These would be crisp like alcohol-laden crackers!! Perhaps not a bad thing, but not what I’m used to. :) If you try making the candied peels with them, though, let me know how they turn out – might be a great new treat!

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Liana February 9, 2008 at 7:18 am
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Use for the peels after infusion finished:

1) Fill a jar with them and cover with lemoncello. Take out and put in glass as garnish, especially good garnish for lemoncello martinis

2)candy them (candied lemoncello peels), use any candied citrus peel recipie.

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Bob December 6, 2008 at 8:08 pm
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Good recipe … I just hate the folks that post Limoncello recipes that use vodka … no, no, no

It’s kind of a ‘taste’ thing about how much water and sugar you add but you need to start with Ever Clear and lemon zest … I’m a 60 proof guy … if that’s you then it’s:

1.5 Liters of Ever Clear
Zest of 22 or so medium lemons
14 cups of water
3.5 cups of sugar

You know what to do

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mary jane October 24, 2010 at 11:42 am
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Can this same recipie be used with Limes?

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Jessica November 1, 2010 at 12:26 pm
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Yes, you can make a similar liqueur with limes, oranges, grapefruit – any citrus with a similar peel.

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Joey November 8, 2010 at 7:46 am
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Hey I followed your recipe exactly as written. The end result was a very lemony, sweet and thick liquid that I found had a very strong alcohol tatste. Is this normal? I’ve never had Limoncello before I thought it was supposed to be very sweet and refreshing, this had a kind of harsh aftertaste. Did I do something wrong? Perhaps it will be better if I let it age or add maybe less water so that the simple syrup is stronger?

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Jessica November 8, 2010 at 2:24 pm
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Hi, Joey:

Limoncello isn’t what I’d call refreshing – it’s thick and sweet, a dessert liqueur. You can use it in refreshing drinks, however, if you want to look up some limoncello cocktails. Maybe try mixing it with sparkling water to lighten it up a bit?

Ciao,
Jessica

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John Jones November 18, 2010 at 7:51 am
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I have been using your recipe for about 2 years now, my friends and family like it so much I had to make 50 bottles for christmas this year. Thank You for the great recipe, I tried 4 others and this is the ONE!

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Jessica November 22, 2010 at 5:10 pm
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Wow, John, 50 bottles? My hand is cramping up just thinking about that number of lemons to peel… But I’m glad the recipe works for you – I’ve had great luck with it so far. :)

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Marlene December 6, 2010 at 4:47 pm
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OK, I tried the Limoncello and two things did not happen;
1) the alcohol and the sugar water mixture did not turn creamy
2) when I froze the mixture; it did NOT freeze! I used 1.5 times the recipe; make exactly to specifications. Can you troubleshoot? I used 1.12 litre of Alcohol (Alkool) (Canadian eh!) 14 large lemons, 7.5 cups of water and 5.5 Cups of sugar. Made as exactly as you did. What went wrong? Can I save this?

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Jessica December 6, 2010 at 5:46 pm
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Oh, the limoncello isn’t supposed to freeze in the freezer – there’s far too much alcohol in it to let it freeze. Keeping it in the freezer is what gives it a slightly creamier texture.

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Anne December 9, 2010 at 9:36 am
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Could anyone tell me where I can get Fruit Alcohol 95proof in England? I hope so, as up till now I’ve had to get a friend to bring it back from Italy where it seems to be sold everywhere.

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Jessica December 9, 2010 at 1:34 pm
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Perhaps you could ask at a liquor store in England, to see what they’d recommend? I don’t know what the liquor import laws are there, whether they could order something special for you.

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Jewel Hacker December 20, 2010 at 4:12 pm
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Hi Jessica, Make your receipt and it too never turned creamy. I used the grain alcolhol in mine , however, when adding the sugar after cooling it is still pretty clear. Is that ok? should it be creamy or not? I brought it to a slight boil and then simmered for about 15 min. Thanks for the input , Jewel

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Jessica December 20, 2010 at 6:41 pm
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Again, the limoncello takes on a bit of a creamy/syrupy texture only when it’s been frozen – it doesn’t get creamy right when you mix the alcohol with the sugar water. Unless you mean the color? In my experience, the color does get cloudy with the alcohol and sugar water are mixed – and you shouldn’t boil the mixture once the alcohol’s been added. You might cook off all the alcohol. :)

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Luda December 27, 2010 at 4:12 am
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Unfortunately in the UK we can’t buy Everclear (no idea why not when we’re such a nation of boozers…) so I was wondering how much of a difference will it make using vodka for this recipe?

Will the result be not worth it, or still quite tasty do you know?

Thanks

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Jessica January 3, 2011 at 9:45 am
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I have friends here who prefer using vodka, and it does work – you might want to let the lemon peels steep a few more days (because the alcohol isn’t as strong), and it may not get as syrupy in the freezer, but when my friends have made limoncello with vodka using this recipe it tastes just fine.

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Luda January 14, 2011 at 3:13 am
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Thanks! just one more question – when you say don’t keep it too long, and that it the sweetness had gone from one you tried a little later – how long is generally ok do you think? I’m hoping to make some and give it as favours at my wedding in May but don’t want to make it all too early if it won’t taste good by then.

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Jessica January 14, 2011 at 2:56 pm
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I don’t know what the shelf life is, but when I tasted some I’d made the previous year it was no longer good – but that was after sitting in the freezer for 11+ months, I think. If you make it a month or so before your wedding, just make sure you include the date you made it on the tag or label, and to be on the safe side you could recommend people consume it within 6 months. If it’s in small enough containers, that shouldn’t be a problem.

:)

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Marie Browne January 21, 2011 at 7:23 pm
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Hi Love the look of your recipe I have only made linoncello once and it wasn’t like the ‘real’ thing will be trying yours soon cheers

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Giovanna January 25, 2011 at 10:48 am
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I live in Italy and your recipe is spot on. Only thing I would do different is age it. Here we soak the lemon zest in alcohol for up to 10 days. Then after we strain we store for 40 days. It must be stored in a cool dark place.

Also here we do not waste anything so we use the left over soaked zest in our baking. For example I made an angel cake and added some zest to the recipe.

Anyways hope this helps.

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tony January 30, 2011 at 5:25 pm
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hi use the lemon peels onto cakes ( baking )

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Lois Raimondi Munchel February 6, 2011 at 4:56 pm
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Hi I live alone, so making Limoncello would be great but too much just for me. I purchased a bottle, sorry, it is Danny Devit’os Limoncello. It has only 30% alcohol and doesn’t say what kind of alcolhol it is. Should I put the bottle in the freezer as you suggest for homemade? Won’t a frozen bottle explode in the freezer from expansion. I haven’t opened it yet, saving for an occasion to share with family.
Thanks for receipe.

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Jessica February 7, 2011 at 2:49 pm
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Next holiday season, consider making limoncello to give as gifts to friends – then you can keep just as much as you need for yourself!

My understanding is that limoncello – even the store-bought stuff – has a high enough alcohol content that it doesn’t freeze (so it doesn’t expand and explode the bottle), but I’m not a science person so I’d recommend that you go back to the liquor store where you bought the limoncello and ask them if it’s okay to store in the freezer.

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Kerry September 26, 2011 at 6:19 am
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or check the %alcohol against a bottle of vodka or gin. If your limoncello is about the same (35-40%-ish), then it should be fine in the freezer.

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Amy Cubre February 7, 2011 at 2:47 pm
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Hi there, I just finished scrubbing a gazilion lemons! My friend and I made 72 b0ttles a few years ago and are going to do a repeat performance tomorrow. We used vodka last time and are planning to use it this time. Similar recipe to yours, let it sit 40 days/ then 4o more for 2nd phase. I could not bear to throw away the zest, so I ran it through my food processor, pulsing until coarsly chopped. put it in a large pot with sugar and a little water…it crystalized. I keep it in the freezer and add it to cakes and cookies…prune cake, biscotti, cannoli, gelato, etc. I was actually attempting to make marmalade with the “biproduct” but could not get it to gel to save my soul. My guess is that all of the natural pectin was leached out in the Limoncello process. this time I may try some in the pot with more sugar, some chopped oranges and grapefruit for a citrus marmalade.
I am fairly popular in the neighborhood when I offer sparkling wine with a splash of Limoncello!

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Jessica February 7, 2011 at 2:50 pm
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Wow, 72 bottles? That’s incredible – and yes, I can imagine you’re quite popular! :)

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Amy Cubre February 8, 2011 at 9:36 pm
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Jessica,
Just reporting that we surpassed our quantity from the last go-around! We will both surely develop carpal tunnel syndrome after peeling that many lemons!

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Jessica February 9, 2011 at 3:39 pm
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Y’know, I’m happy to take any excess you have… ;)

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Bud February 15, 2011 at 6:31 am
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Based on the recipe above, using 190 proof grain alcohol, you will end up with a final product @ 80 proof (approximately 4 cups of grain alcohol and 5 cups of water). If someone follows the same recipe using 80 proof vodka, they will end up with @ 35 proof.

I made my first batch today and found that zesting the lemons made it easier to keep the white lemon ‘pith’ to a minimum. Not sure how that will effect the taste.

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Bud February 15, 2011 at 6:54 am
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Zesting the lemons will make it more difficult to strain, but using a finer mesh strainer or running it through a coffee filter should do the trick!

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John March 12, 2011 at 6:20 am
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We have just brought back to the UK two large boxes of Menton (in France but on the border with Liguria) lemons – untreated.
I am going to try your recipe but what do you do with the juice of the lemons after you have cut off the zest!
John

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Jessica March 14, 2011 at 8:44 am
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We generally juice our lemons right away and freeze the juice in baggies – the quantity in each baggie depends on what you’ll be doing with it later, but in our case there are two recipes we tend to make with lemon juice (a chicken dish and lemon meringue pie). We measure out a few baggies of each of those quantities, write the amount on the baggie and pop the juice in the freezer.

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John Ullyatt March 12, 2011 at 12:57 pm
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I make lemon syrup with the lemon juice. cup of water, cup of sugar, let it cool, add cup and half of lemon juice. Mix with soda water drink while thinking about your limoncello to come.

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jolanda June 24, 2011 at 5:06 am
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i am looking for the limoncello recipe that is made with lemons grains alcohol and white wine. I had seen it an Mario Batalis show many years ago, I use to make it but mnoving I lost the recipe. That was the best limoncello. Can somebody helpme

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Kerry August 29, 2011 at 5:02 am
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Jessica (and others who make big batches of limoncello), a handy hint to save your hands from cramping up when peeling/zesting the lemons….use a very fine grater (the type for chocolate or hard cheeses). I’ve got one of these – http://www.yourhomedepot.com.au/products/microplane/zester-grater-in-black-with-safety-cover-32cm/ – a damn expensive grater but worth every cent! It takes a fraction of the time to zest your lemons, with none of the pain.

The alcohol extracts the oils from the zest more quickly than from larger strips of peel so you don’t need to ‘soak’ the alcohol for as long, and I use coffee filter papers in a funnel to strain the zest from the alcohol before mixing with the sugar syrup. You go thru quite a lot of filter papers!! I’ve also seen cheesecloth suggested as a filter. dampen the filters with water first to reduce the amount of alcohol soaked up by the paper :)

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Jessica August 31, 2011 at 2:52 pm
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Thanks for the idea, Kerry!

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Sam September 4, 2011 at 1:41 am
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Hi,
I have my first lots of limoncello and arancello ‘sitting’ but have had to use vodka.
I live in Adelaide South Australia and had difficulty finding grain alcohol.
Does anyone in Australia have any suggestions as to where grain alcohol can be purchased or do we just have to get used to vodka based ‘cellos?

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Kerry September 26, 2011 at 6:15 am
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I wasnt able to find grain alcohol either, so I use a Polish spirit that you can get at Dan Murphys – 95% alcohol. Google “rectified spirit” and it should come up.

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Alfie September 23, 2011 at 2:32 pm
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I enjoy your website! Do you have a twitter or twitter page? I’d really like to get together and talk about a couple of things. Thanks for all your work.

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Jessica September 29, 2011 at 3:13 pm
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My Twitter profile is linked at the top of the website. :)
https://twitter.com/#!/italylogue

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Julie November 13, 2011 at 11:15 am
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Just made a single batch and it is fantastic!! Thank you for this great recipe!!

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Sandy Mitchell December 11, 2011 at 2:04 pm
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Going to Italy in April and want to try this as I have heard so much about it from friends. What do you mean by grain alcohol, rye, rum vodka or what?

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Jessica December 19, 2011 at 6:36 pm
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This is grain alcohol:
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Neutral_grain_spirit

I usually end up getting Everclear, but that’s a brand. In some places, it’s illegal so you won’t find it on liquor store shelves – in others, it may not be out on the shelf but may be behind the counter.

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Lori January 17, 2012 at 2:57 pm
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I take the rind and put it in a food processor until it’s finely chopped. Then I put them in a ziplock bag into the freezer. The rind never really freezes because of the alcohol content. Then I sprinkle it on grilled fish, chicken dishes and on most veggies. It makes a great twist on a lemon zest. :)

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Jessica January 17, 2012 at 6:00 pm
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What a clever trick! Thanks for sharing.

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Meredith Mann March 31, 2012 at 9:09 am
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I’ve just made another batch of limoncello using your recipe which I keep in my “favorites” in the computer to refer to. Once I tried orangecello and it was good but our folks preferred the limoncello.
The first time we ever had limoncello was in a lovley uphill garden in Italy under a canopy of vines (probably grape) with one of the ladies making mozarella off in the kitchen. A delightful experience. Thanks for your recipe, its so easy to follow and never fails,

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Jessica April 6, 2012 at 12:49 pm
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So glad to hear it!

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Chere Robbins March 31, 2012 at 10:43 am
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Referring to types of bottles to use for limoncello. Patron tequila bottles soaked in water, the labels peel off easily and the cork top adds class to use for any gift or to bring out for a party. Just ask your favorite bartender to save you the bottles.

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Tyler Khoun June 29, 2012 at 4:34 pm
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Some extremely logical details! I appreciate you penning this post as well as the rest of the blog is extremely wonderful also.

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Retivia de Villiers January 15, 2013 at 1:57 am
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I live in beautiful Cape Town, South Africa and thoroughly enjoyed your recipes and reading all the comments
I used my lemon zest after making the lemoncelloto make a wonderful “boozy” marmalade. I froze the fruit, then snippered the zest and boiled it all together for about half an hour before adding the sugar. I divided the mixture and added ginger powder to one half. I improvised since I did not have fresh ginger in my pantry!
The result is wonderful……my best yet

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valerie garcia January 22, 2013 at 9:23 am
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hi.i just made his using the 151 everclear.im storing it in plastic milk jugs.do you think that makes a difference from glass?love this stuff :)

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valerie garcia January 31, 2013 at 8:35 am
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nevermind its done lol.tastes just fine:)

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