Everything’s Coming Up Lemons

10 Jan

Anyone out there keeping score on my lemon-growing prowess? Back in November I showed you my lemon tree in its quest towards eventual liberation as the Italian after-dinner drink limoncello. That was then.

This is now:

We’re getting close, folks! Soon we’ll be picking these to make limoncello. Limoncello is a lemon-flavored liqueur sipped in a small shot glass after dinner, typicial of the Campania region (Tracie B., you must be an expert!). Last year we tried making it for the first time and it took us about a month and a half, since it’s an infusion so it has to sit to soak up the lemon flavor. Alessandro did it without any recipe (sometimes it seems to me that many Italians are born pre-programmed with a cookbook in their heads) and it came out great, but I found a very detailed recipe in English here, from Deborah Horn at Slow Travel. So, in case you have lemons in your garden or even if not, and you just want to try your hand at this, take a look. Deborah’s recipe indicates about 40 days, but there are many recipes and many variations online if you decide to search around. Some take as few as six days, but I suggest you go for the long-haul recipe because the flavor will come out better in the end. It’s not difficult to make, just takes a bit of time.

The most important ingredient, obviously, is the lemons. Best if you have a tree that you pick them from so you can use them immediately, but if not, just try to get the freshest lemons possible. One recipe I saw suggested they be used just after they turn yellow, even with some green spots remaining. Sometimes limoncello is made with vanilla and cream and becomes crema di limoncello, a thicker liqueur with a softer flavor.

Have you ever made limoncello or tried it? Do you have a favorite brand or variation?


20 Responses to “Everything’s Coming Up Lemons”

  1. gracie January 10, 2007 at 10:01 am #

    Limoncello(or limoncino) is my favourite after dinner drink!!!

  2. ginkers January 10, 2007 at 12:43 pm #

    As you no doubt know, grappa is my favourite after dinner tipple. This is closely followed by a severely chilled fruit vodka or a very good malt whisky.However, I have been known to try a limoncello or two. It’s always nice to think you are eating some fruit while getting drunk!

  3. EnthusiasticallyHuman January 10, 2007 at 2:34 pm #

    love limoncello–but on ice cream. i have the feeling that isn’t traditional.

  4. sognatrice January 10, 2007 at 3:07 pm #

    I love limoncello but have never made it. The OH doesn’t like anything remotely sweet, including liqueur, so it hasn’t occurred to me to do it. But we do have a lemon tree, so maybe…btw, I took a pic of a lemon tree (not ours) today that I was going to post later on, but maybe I’ll wait 😉

  5. Kelli January 10, 2007 at 8:53 pm #

    Holy moly. I have more lemons than I know what to do with. Now I know what to do! I’ll let you know how it goes. 🙂 Thanks Shell!

  6. Ms Adventures in Italy January 10, 2007 at 10:23 pm #

    I consider myself a big aficionado!! I was lucky because in the States I had a lemon tree so I could make some but you can’t buy grain alcohol in California and I think this is an important ingredient. I made a batch of cream limoncello too, but I’d love to have another go at it. My MIL makes her own as well. A few notes to people, make sure you make them with lemons that weren’t grown commercially (and therefore possibly sprayed with chemicals) as you need a chemical-free skin!I have a bottle of crema di limoncello from Sorrento unopened which I’ll open when I get the next bottle (have to keep one on reserve!)Can’t wait to hear how yours comes out!

  7. FinnyKnits January 11, 2007 at 12:16 am #

    I have a big gallon jar steeping my limoncello right now. It looks like spooky moonshine. I just hope it doesn’t taste like ass. I am pretty sure I used the same recipe you have here and so am hoping it doesn’t let me down.Whatever kind you sent me from Italy is the best – and you know I never turn it down while I’m visiting – it’s the best way to end an excellent Italian meal.

  8. Preya January 11, 2007 at 1:02 am #

    I would give anything to be able to grow lemons! Not possible in Colorado:(

  9. Rose in Cali January 11, 2007 at 2:18 am #

    Limoncello is pure heaven! On ice cream sounds divine as well. I saw it being mixed with prosecco, which I haven’t yet tried. Love, love, love your blog, by the way!

  10. Donna January 11, 2007 at 2:24 am #

    Beautiful fruit! I just learned of limoncello recently in the news, as it was said to be the culprit in Danny DeVito showing up schnockered to an interview (I’m so cultured!)It sounds like a wonderful drink.

  11. Moon Martini January 11, 2007 at 5:09 am #

    I make a mean martini with Limoncello. It’s called “The Soprano”

  12. Tracie B. January 11, 2007 at 9:41 am #

    i made some limoncello a few years ago. it tasted like jet fuel had been steeped with a lemon wedge.

  13. nikinpos January 11, 2007 at 12:49 pm #

    I actually have to pay my rent in a limoncello factory! Can’t get away from the stuff in Positano!

  14. nyc/caribbean ragazza January 11, 2007 at 3:54 pm #

    Every time I see Limoncello I think about the scene in the movie UNDER A TUSCAN SUN when Raoul Bova is explaining to Diane’s character how it’s made. LOL.

  15. dmarie January 11, 2007 at 4:57 pm #

    I used this exact recipe and I don’t think it came out the way it should. My lemons never broke like a potato chip and it is completely clear yellow color–not cloudy yellow. Anyway, good luck and please post how it turns out!

  16. Shirley January 12, 2007 at 11:01 am #

    When I first arrived in Italy Limoncello was part of my staple diet!I have had to force myself to cut back. Still love making Tiramisu con Limone using limoncello (a full bottle),the savoiardi keep soaking it up!

  17. Kassie March 19, 2009 at 10:57 pm #

    I have a sorrento lemon tree and made my first batch of limoncello (deborah horns recipe) last year. It turned out SO good – it is definately worth the wait – my lemon rinds took even longer than the recipe said to become “crisp” but I’m glad I waited it out. It is honestly THE BEST limoncello I’ve had (including store bought professional stuff). I think the length of time and also the extensive filtering are the key – I have had other homemade “limoncello” that is just infused vodka that did not sit more than a week and was not filtered and when frozen you can tell the impurities because they do freeze – my limoncello had no “frost” in it so the filtering works. I also have an orange tree and am about to try my first batch of arancello using the same recipe but with oranges. Yum!

  18. Kassie March 19, 2009 at 11:03 pm #

    Ms Adventures – I agree about the grain alcohol (I use Everclear) – I think it is extremely important in order to get the most oil out of the skins. I too live in CA and you cannot buy it here but you can order it online and have it shipped here. I found the best price at and it is legal to have it shipped to CA. I wouldn’t make limoncello without it!

  19. Ruth May 8, 2009 at 5:31 am #

    We used Deborah’s Limoncello recipe exactly. We were very patient. It took 5 weeks for the lemon peel to crack when bent. When we added the syrup, we waited another 5 weeks. Amazingly, it’s better than what we had in Italy, and what we’ve bought in the states. All our friends are putting in requests for the next time we make it. We expected it not to be wonderful, but figured it was a fun experiment. We are amazed and delighted. Just be very patient, make sure there is no pith on the peel, filter it well. Ours is beautiful and incredibly delicious.

  20. Deborah Horn May 6, 2013 at 6:42 am #

    WOW! Someone told me that you should google yourself every once in a while. So I did. And here are all these wonderful people making limoncello from my recipe! Thanks guys, you made my day!

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