Limoncello 2010: a bottle could be yours…

Way back in 2008, I attempted my first batch of limoncello…and boy, was it bad.  I used Everclear as the extracting alcohol, and even after dilution and two years’ mellowing, it still has an awful, harsh bite.  Sampling homemade limoncello along the Amalfi Coast in early 2010 gave me a clear flavor goal for all repeat attempts:  a smooth, slightly sweet, intensely lemony drink, with no harsh overtones.

Of course, missing is the most important raw ingredient essential to the gorgeous Amalfi flavor–the large, intensely aromatic sfusato lemons of the feminnello variety, grown on rocky soil within sight of the Tyrhennian Sea.  (But I do have beaucoup Meyer lemons, grown in heavy alluvial soil and warmed by the south Louisiana sun.)

So in late November ’10, I pared the zest from a dozen large Meyer lemons and set them to soaking in Stolichnaya vodka.  (My ’08 experiences taught me that Everclear should not be drunk by anyone, under any circumstances.)  After six weeks, the Stoli turned the color of a bad urine sample (pictured, far right), the peels had faded to pale ivory, and the concoction was ready for dilution.  One problem:  the plain, infused vodka wasn’t intensely lemon flavored–it conveyed just a pale shadow of the Meyer’s aromatic bouquet.  The slightly floral, distinctly orangey flavor of the Meyer lemons needed a boost.

After drinking a few sips of Amalfi limoncello for inspiration, it hit me–flavored simple syrup to the rescue!  Instead of making sugar syrup with plain water, I used half lemon juice and half water, as well as a strip of peel added to the pot as the mixture heated.  Once diluted with the lemony simple syrup (see above, on the left), the new limoncello revealed itself to be soft and friendly, capturing the Meyer lemons’ delicacy and gentleness.

A comparative tasting of Amalfi limoncello and my Meyer-based cordial wasn’t a one-sided contest this year.  The Amalfi ‘cello is still an intense, focused drink, with a pronounced mineral tang I never even noticed until it was revealed alongside the Meyer ‘cello’s warm, orangey, flowery notes.

So….(drumroll here)….I’ve never given anything away on this blog, but that’s about to change.

In celebration of a *drinkable* homemade limoncello, I’m giving a bottle of it to TWO randomly selected people who reply to this post between now (1/4/11) and next week (12 midnight on 1/11/11).   Bonus karma points to posters who make suggestions for 2011 blog content….make sure you enter a valid email address (it won’t be displayed) so I know where to find you.

Happy 2011!

44 thoughts on “Limoncello 2010: a bottle could be yours…

  1. My former neighbor Sarah Corey whom I believe you know used to make it from her Meyer lemons and I believe she used ever clear. Any way it was great. It came up this past new year when some of the neighbors gathered.

    • I don’t think we ever used the Meyers for this purpose — we use a thicker skinned lemon when we make limoncello. We do use Everclear, but top it off with maybe 1/3 vodka. After it’s diluted with the light simple syrup and allowed to mellow for a few weeks it comes out fine. We leave the zest in the alcohol for only a week to 10 days.

      I suspect that either you need to use thicker skinned lemons or perhaps use more of the Meyer lemon zest. Ours comes out a beautiful yellow.

      • I do need to plant another lemon tree, but I’m trying to find the “feminnello” or “St. Teresita” varieties from southern Italy, closest to the Amalfi coast lemons. No luck so far.

      • I think you didn’t dilute the Everclear batch enough. A few years back, I made some limoncello with Meyer lemons and it turned out well. Pretty sure that Domenica uses Everclear for their various liqueurs, and the results are incredible.

        How much water did add to the Everclear? To bring the proof in line with commercial limoncello you should have added 1.5 liter of water for ever 750 ml of Everclear (191 proof to roughly 60 proof).

        Everclear is just a Neutral Grain Spirit. Most vodkas are made from industrial NGS diluted with water. The Stoli you used is distilled to 96.4% ABV (almost the same as Everclear) before being watered down for bottling.

        • Thanks for the feedback. On the first go-round, you’re right: I didn’t dilute the Everclear enough. So after a few months of looking at the ’08 bottles, I cut it again, and it still had a very harsh aftertaste. I put it away (’cause NO-body would drink it) and forgot about it ’til Oct ’10, when I decided to dilute it again and re-bottle it. The results were slightly better, but it retained a bitter, acrid edge. Now, that might have been the particular lemons, rather than the Everclear….but as someone once said to me, “It’s not the fault of the lemon.”

  2. Congrats on the limoncello! One suggestion I have for 2011 is seeing if you can figure out why Camellia beans work better than other brands for red beans. They’re just dried beans, right? Still when I try using Goya or some other brand of kidney beans they just don’t cook up as creamy.

    • I think the Camellia beans are just “fresher” (less dried) than other beans…maybe due to higher turnover in stores? I can’t say that I’ve ever noticed a difference in the way Camellia red beans cook compared to other brands, but I swear the Camellia black beans cook faster & better than the cheaper beans.

  3. Are there any acceptable culinary uses for Everclear (apart from limoncello recipes)? Maybe searching for some would make for good content.

    My favorite posts of yours are Big Green Egg stuff (still saving up for one), no-knead baking stuff, and Vietnamese cooking stuff. I also like hearing about your garden and your trips to Italy, for inspiration. Maybe you could write more about your planting schedule and what all you cultivate?

  4. No knead bread baking stuff! Or anything yummy with whole grains. Is there a good whole grain pasta? All current attempts are severly disappointing. Purely selfish, but ever attempted anything in the baby food arena?

    The limoncello would be a perfect celebration come June!

    • What in the h*ll do you think I know about making baby food? Beyond smushing up whatever it is that you’re eating, I’m at a loss. If I had to feed a baby, it would have to eat massamun curry, pho, greek yogurt, and pizza margherita! RE: wholegrain pasta, I like the Barilla Plus stuff–it’s multigrain, not just whole wheat, so it contains chickpea/legume flours, etc.

  5. Love this post!
    Perhaps in addition to using lemon for flavoring the simple syrup- you could add some Lemon Balm ( Mellissa officinalis) which might add more lemon flavor
    and would make sense to use for a tonic if fresh lemons were not as readily available.
    Here is at least two links to recipes with the herb used as an addition:

    Also you might consider using Lemon grass (Cymbopogon citratus)
    sure works for adding fresh lemony flavors to Crawfish boils! ; )

    • I have loads of lemon balm in my backyard–it has a very “weedy” growth habit. I’ve used it in tisanes, but an infused sugar syrup is a great idea.

  6. I always appreciate when you post about local products. For instance, you introduced me to the deliciousness that is Wayne Jacobs andouille. Also really enjoy updates about what sort of things you are growing in your garden. It helps to inspire my (admittedly pathetic) home garden. Thanks!

  7. As a follow up for my extra bonus points..
    I would love to see you blog about
    road trip cuisine in out of the way places in Louisiana-
    We love your blog and would be interested in knowing
    about unusual and interesting food destinations
    outside of the greater New Orleans area
    that would be worth the trip..
    ie-I have a good idea about where to eat in Breaux Bridge ( Cafe des Amis for sure!)
    but I never know where to eat when we go to Baton Rouge
    ( I know, BR- it is sooo out of the way), but not sure about Lafayette, New Iberia, Carencro, Jennings, Gonzales, Pontchatoula, Hammond, Houma, etc.. even Destrehan.. Where does one get the best meat pies in Nachotiches?
    So for those of us with an adventurous spirit… and a full tank of gas or two ; )
    Maybe a few places that we can take our taste buds for a weekend ride would be fun!?!

    • I second the suggestion about interesting ‘road trip cuisine.’ Especially in this economy of “stay-cations”…and with Louisiana, etc being such a culturally/food rich area…

  8. I really like reading about your small finds: hand carved spoons, broccoli rabe seeds, and cookbooks. I love the recipes also.

  9. Since Fen told us about the “diesel” Lemoncello story at lunch in Dec, I think I definitely need to try the new & improved batch!
    Perhaps BYOB to Domenica & we’ll finally meet there once – seems like y’all are there on the opposite days that we are there!

    • Yes, diesel is a good description of the ’08 vintage…have you seen the lemon-hanging-in-a-jar technique of making limoncello at Domenica?

  10. Oh wow, limoncello, count me in the running!

    Hm, content suggestions… that’s tougher since I have a hard enough time with my own, but perhaps some ideas for good things to make when you are entertaining, since that’s my goal this year… to entertain more. Also love the weekend getaway suggestion ideas request.

  11. Your recipe looks great. I’m up for a bottle. Some friends shared a bit of their last batch and we’ve been mixing it with a touch of cranberry juice to make holiday cocktails. Kinda like a Cosmo, kinda not ;).

  12. Our favorite Lemoncello that comes close to the Almafi lemoncello we had on the A coast is Sogno di Sorrento Lemoncello from Sorrento. We get it at Dorignacs (not always there) Two local resturants that make a good homemade Lemo are Vincents and Domenica’s. I bow at the feet of those in pursuit of the pure.
    Drop us a line, we’d be happy to share our Sogno w you (for professional purposes of course) I can down 1/2 bottle by myself in one sitting w/o realizing it!
    cao cao

  13. I would love to hear more along what this post is about…what you’re growing and sourcing locally as well as your successes and travails using products from your backyard and others in our area.

    • Figs. Sigh. If my sorry little tree would produce more than a handful, I’d be doing all sort of things with figs. Maybe this year, finally. I’ve been driving around, looking for japanese plum/american loquat/mispelouse trees to “scavenge”, as the trees aren’t nearly as popular as they used to be. Should you see a likely one…..I think they’d make good sorbet, as the fruit has high pectin content.

  14. I have been a lurker on your blog for about a year now. I have to say I thoroughly enjoy reading it!!! I am in for a contest!!! As far as blog content for 2011 I would love to see recipes and would love to see more restaurant reccomendations anywhere in the area. I live in Slidell and don’t always know where to go anywhere other then here on the Northshore.

  15. My last day in Sicily, while visiting family, I had to visit no less than 11 homes and one hardware store opening. I was forced to eat cookies and drink limoncello at each stop and I didn’t complain once! Yours sounds wonderful!

    • Aw, yeah: a farewell ‘cello & biscotti tour….dreamy! I’m a sucker for all of those nut-intensive, Sicilian-style cookies.

  16. I lived in Tuscany last summer–never made it to the Amalfi coast ….but I can’t wait to go! Your limoncello sounds better than a cello does.keep the creole/cajun recipes coming…my great great great uncle was Tony Chachere so I like reading ideas inspired by the same people he might have been influenced by.

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