Living in the North End of Boston you can’t spit without hitting an old Italian person (not that I’m roaming around my neighborhood spitting on old people but you get the idea). These people represent the roots of the community as they methodically walk the narrow streets, greet each other in their native language and keep the influence of Italy ripe and prevalent.
It was these people who inspired my first batch of limoncello. My second batch, however, was inspired on a recent trip to California with the man friend and his mother. At one point during our adventure we decided I wasn’t quite awkward enough and it might be a good idea to put me on a horse named Buddy and see how I fared on a slow-paced jaunt through the wilderness. Of course we were a little loopy after a couple of hours of this so as we drove through a lemon grove on the way home, naturally we thought “Hey! Look at all those free lemons!!” Before I knew it we had pulled over and started stealing those lemons like we were knocking off a convenient store. We quickly formed an assembly line of plucking and tossing, accumulated a pile of lemons in the backseat of our car and peeled the heck outta there. Call us what you will… Rebels without a cause, thieves, incredibly good-looking fugitives… Those lemons came back to Boston with me and have since made a delicious batch of sweet, citrusy alcohol.
The thing about making limoncello is that it takes forevvvverrrrr. I have a hard time waiting for a commercial break to end so not dipping into a vat of sugary, lemon booze that is just sitting in my kitchen for 3+ months is next to impossible. It takes willpower folks. Be warned. This patience is really essential in this case though, and I promise it will be worth it.
12-15 lemons (preferably stolen from a California lemon tree)
1 large bottle of 100 proof vodka OR grain alcohol
1 teaspoon vanilla
3 cups sugar
2.5 cups water
Using a vegetable peeler, peel the zest off of each lemon (BE SURE TO AVOID THE WHITE PITH). Put the zest in an airtight container with the alcohol and vanilla. Let sit in a dark place for a LONG TIME. I try to wait at least three months but I’ve seen recipes that say as little as a few days is fine. The way I see it, the longer you wait, the more infused and better tasting the end product will be. I shake the mixture around every few days too although I’m not sure that actually does anything.
After you can’t wait any longer make a simple syrup with the sugar and water. Bring water to a boil and dissolve the sugar in it. Let simmer for 5 or so minutes, remove from heat and let cool completely. Once cooled, add simple syrup to the booze jar, reseal and let that sit for another LONG TIME… Anywhere from a couple of weeks to a couple of months.
When you’re ready, strain out all the lemon peel, bottle, and drink up!