Tonight I began my next batch of limoncino. The first batch, made 2 or 3 years ago, has finally been consumed. The recipe that I use is from my husband's mother's cousin Roberto, an engaging, enthusiastic octogenarian who is the self-appointed welcoming committee for his village. Visiting his home is a culinary adventure - we always leave with recipes and full stomachs.
Among many wonderful things, he creates limoncino, and another version with orange peels instead of lemon peels. Also an interesting rose-petal liqueur. The ingredients (except for the alcohol) come from his lovely garden.
Here is Roberto's Limoncino di Casa Magnani (with modifications by me)
Day 1, Phase 1:
1 liter Everclear (grain alcohol 190 proof)
1 liter vodka (good but not necessarily premium)
15 lemons - quantity negotiable and dependant on how thick the skin is. The thicker the skin, the fewer lemons required. If possible use organic lemons with very thick skins.
Pour the alcohol into a clean, dry gallon jar. Carefully peel the lemons so that all you have is the yellow part of the skin. Stop frequently to smell the wonderful perfume of lemon oil on your hands. (My husband takes the now naked lemons and macerates them with sugar, to make a puckery and delightful dessert.) Put the lemon peels in the alcohol, swirl a little and admire how pretty they are in the light, and then put into a dark, cool cupboard for 8 days.
Day 8, 22, and 36:
Gently stir the lemon peels and put back in the cupboard.
Stir the lemon peels, and test flexibility. If the peel breaks like a potato chip, move on to the next step. If not and the peel just bends, put the jar back in the cupboard for another week.
The beauty of this recipe is that there is very little work to do for the first 6 weeks or so. Buy, pour, peel, and swirl.
Once your peels are brittle, you proceed to the next stage.
Day 1, Phase 2:
Dissolve 4 cups of white sugar in 3 cups of tap or distilled water (not mineral water). If you want a thicker syrup, use a little more sugar. Bring to a boil over high heat and boil for 5 minutes. Set aside to cool to room temperature. Use a clean slotted spoon to remove the lemon peels from the infusion and discard. Using a large funnel and paper coffee filters, slowly (this may take quite a while) strain the infusion through the filters into a large pitcher. You will use lots of filters and probably make a mess. Rinse and dry the same gallon jar that you used in Phase 1. Repeat the straining process, this time back into the gallon jar. Add the cooled syrup. Return to a cool dry cupboard for 40 days to mellow.
Day 40, Phase 2:
Begin filtering the limoncino again, this time into a measuring cup. Then filter one more time into the bottles you will store the liquor in. You have now filtered the liqueur a total of four times, and it should be a lovely lemon yellow color, with a slightly thick feel to it. Seal the bottles very tightly. If you use cork be sure to dip the neck into melted wax. You don't want the alcohol to evaporate out through the cork!!!
The limoncino is now ready to use. But it gets smoother and more mellow the longer you let it sit. The batch that is now 2 or 3 years old is really excellent.
We keep ours in the freezer. It won't freeze, and the icy cold liqueur is wonderful on a hot summer day, or after a heavy meal. Also lovely on vanilla ice cream (Blue Bell, or Blue Bunny if you are in the US).