DIY: Homemade Limoncello
A few months ago, my Chief Culinary Consultant and I stopped by my grandparents’ so he could bring them a few summer squash from his garden. We ended up staying for a few hours, playing some cards and eating snacks. I’m not sure how it came up, but my grandma started telling us about her neighbor who makes his own limoncello, and that he had recently brought them a bottle, which was in the refrigerator. My grandma had his recipe, but had never tried making it. Needless to say, I immediately asked for the recipe. My Chief Culinary Consultant and I thought it would be a fun project and would make great Christmas gifts!
You’ll notice in the photos below that there is a large amount of liquid and lemons; we decided to more than triple the recipe since we were taking the time to make it. If you make a single recipe, your quantities will be much smaller.
There are four primary steps to making limoncello:
Step #1: Infusing the alcohol with the lemon. The lemons are peeled, and the peels and alcohol are combined in a large glass container. Once it’s sealed, it’s left to sit for at least 10 days, or up to three weeks.
Step #2: Combining the steeped alcohol with a simple syrup. The alcohol mixture is strained in a colander, the peels discarded, and then combined with a simple syrup mixture that adds sweetness to the limoncello.
Step #3: First filtration. Once the alcohol has been combined with the simple syrup, the limoncello is filtered for the first time. The easiest way to do this is with a fine-mesh sieve and coffee filters.
Step #4: Second filtration and bottling. This time the filtering can be done directly into the bottle(s) that you’re planning to use to store the final limoncello. Using a funnel and coffee filters, the filtering is done in the exact same manner as in step #3. The limoncello is filtered a second time to ensure that there is no sediment in the drink.
We more than tripled the recipe and it made enough to fill twelve 16-ounce swing-top bottles, with enough leftover for probably two more bottles (I had only ordered a case of 12 bottles). I got my bottles from Northern Brewer (the price for a case of 12 was a steal!), but you can find tons of different bottles on Amazon, and if you’re looking for something other than swing-top bottles, Specialty Bottle offers a great variety.
This is a relatively simple (and fun!) project. The prep is easy and the hardest part is waiting for it to be finished steeping! The final drink is extremely smooth (yet strong!), sweet and full of lemon flavor. Keep the bottles in the freezer and break out the limoncello for after-dinner sipping. You could also use it in lemon-limoncello cupcakes (yum!), or create homemade labels and gift tags and give bottles as gifts – perfect for the holidays, birthdays, housewarming or even a hostess gift instead of a bottle of wine.
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- 1 liter grain alcohol (Everclear)*
- 10 lemons
- 5 cups water
- 4cups granulated sugar
- First, wash and dry your lemons. Since you’re going to be using the peel exclusively, you want to make sure they don’t have any residue on them. Next, peel your lemons (a vegetable peeler works perfectly for this job) – you don’t want to get too much of the white pith under the peel, so try to peel as thinly as possible. Put the peels into a large glass container. Add the alcohol, making sure that it completely covers the peels. Let the mixture steep for 10 days, or up to 3 weeks.
- Place a colander inside of a large bowl. Pour the alcohol mixture into the colander and drain, using a wooden spoon to press out any excess liquid from the peels. Discard the peels.
- In a large saucepan, combine the water and sugar over low heat, stirring occasionally, until the sugar is dissolved and the syrup is clear. Remove from heat and let cool to room temperature, then add the simple syrup to the alcohol mixture and stir to combine.
- Place a wire mesh strainer over a large, clean bowl and place a coffee filter inside the mesh strainer. Slowly pour the limoncello through the coffee filter. Once the amount of liquid straining through slows down considerably or stops, replace the coffee filter with a new one and continue until all of the limoncello has been filtered, replacing coffee filters as needed.
- Next, filter again and fill the bottles as follows: Place a funnel into the mouth of the bottle you’ll use for your finished limoncello. Place a coffee filter inside the funnel, and slowly pour the limoncello through the coffee filter to fill the bottle. Seal the bottle(s) and store in the freezer indefinitely.
*Note: If you can’t obtain grain alcohol where you live, you can substitute 100-proof vodka. Most vodkas are sold in 750mL bottles (versus the 1 liter of grain alcohol called for in the recipe). If this is the size you purchase, adjust the rest of your ingredients as follows: 8 lemons, 4 cups water and 3 cups sugar.