Anywhere you go in Campania, you’ll see Limoncello. And after having spent a month in Italy with my extended family, my love of the digestif led me to seek it out upon returning to NYC. While my Italian comprehension skills were quite bad back then, and I’d already consumed a number of glasses of the 32% alcohol, I seem to remember my cousin, Donato, telling me it was a family tradition to make their own. It’s the second most popular liqueur in Italy and infused rampantly throughout the Amalfi Coast—where my family original settled.
So, naturally, I thought it’d be fun to make my own. As I had no recipe from Donato, I sought out another Italian, Giada De Laurentiis, who recommends the following:
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.
Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.
One thing to note is that I was told that I should be using Meyer Lemons, which are tiny Chinese hybrids of lemons and mandarin oranges. Though, when I was in Italy, everyone was telling me to use these grapefruit-sized citrus lemons (called Femminello St. Teresa or Sorrento lemons) from the southern coast of Italy. In the end, I just used standard lemons, as my local Shop Rite doesn’t import fruit from Amafi.
The photos below show the various stages of the recipe, following Giada’s instructions to the letter. In the end, I was very pleased with the limoncello and excited to be sharing in a family tradition.