Thursday, May 16, 2013

Making Limoncello Memories...

Do you have a limoncello memory?
Lemons on my tree

Another day of rain, wind and gray skies in Veneto makes this the dampest spring I can remember. But yesterday was warm and beautiful, and at the end of an afternoon of trimming, cutting and nurturing my garden I snapped a few photographs of how it’s reacting to May.

One plant that’s stealing center stage is a lemon tree I received on my birthday 16 years ago. Over the years, I’ve transferred the tree three times into a larger pot to accommodate its growth. Now I need a stepping stool to trim the top, and it requires two people—one is always my husband and the other is sometimes me—and a steel trolley to move it from place to place.  Our lovely tree has endured many icy Northeastern Italian winters, one of which was so cold that we were certain the tree had been lost to frost. However, tender loving care, patience and two years without expecting it to bear fruit, brought back spring buds, blossoming flowers and hearty crops of lemons. And we learned
May in the Garden
a lesson. Now, after we’ve carted it to the shed for the winter, we wrap its shiny dark green leaves, yellow fruit and sturdy branches in TNT tessuto non tessuto—a gauzy material that acts like a warm blanket; so far it’s done the job. Last year’s abundant crop provided dozens of fat fresh lemons through late September. This year I’m letting these yellow gems plump up before picking them, and then I’m making Limoncello.

Internet is crawling with Limoncello recipes. I’ve chosen one from Praiano—a quaint town just south of Positano on the Amalfi Coast. I vacationed in Praiano with my husband and children a few years back. After five wonderful days in the sea, under the sun, cruising the coast by boat and swimming its deep blue coves, shopping for hand painted ceramics, and eating very well, we discovered Il Gusto della Costa, a limoncello distillery where, through a store front window, we watched lemons bob and float in steel vats of water on their way to become the Amalfi Coast’s famous liqueur. We stepped inside, watched the small stainless steel assembly line work its magic on the lemons, and ordered two cases of the best limoncello that’s ever washed across my lips. We shared this liquid ray of sunshine with family and friends, many who were very happy to receive a bottle of their own, and soon finished the supply. I still can’t sip or smell the sweet citrus drink without remembering what it's like to sit on a terrace high above the Mediterranean Sea, a warm salty breeze caressing my face, and watch Positano light up in the distance while the sun sets along the Amalfi coast.

Praiano-photo by 
Here's the recipe. But, while we’re waiting for the lemons to ripen, why not leave a comment below and share your Amalfi or Limoncello memory, too.

Limoncello from Praiano, Amalfi Coast
Ingredients for 2 liters

7 or 8 large lemons (organic lemons or Amalfi Coast type if available)
1 liter of alcohol or your favorite Vodka
750 grams white sugar
1 liter of water

Wash lemons well. Remove yellow peel using a vegetable peeler or sharp knife; be careful not to cut into the white skin or fruit.

Place the lemon peels in a large glass jar that can be sealed tight; pour the alcohol over the lemon peels and stir. Close the jar tight, and let the mixture infuse in a dark place for 10 days.

After 10 days, prepare the water and sugar syrup: In a deep pot add sugar and water together, heat over a low flame until the sugar dissolves. Remove from the flame and let cool at room temperature.

Add the sugar-syrup to the lemon peel alcohol mixture. Stir well, and transfer the liqueur—filtering it through a gauze-lined funnel or paper filter—into a second jar. Then, still using the filtered funnel, pour the liqueur into two one-liter bottles. Close the bottles well and store for at least another 10 days.

Chill—the purest say Limoncello should be cool, not cold, but I prefer to keep the finished product in the freezer—and enjoy!








  1. I do have a limoncello memory—it involves my very first taste of that amazing liqueur, in Italy of course. I'll bet yours is delicious!

    1. Hello, Alexa.
      Good to see you here.
      I think the best limoncello memories involve sipping it in Italy. I'm still letting the lemons plump up on the tree--we've had an unusually cool, wet spring so far. But, I will let you know how my limoncello turns out.
      A presto,