Homemade Limoncello

Local Limoncello

January 21, 2010 · 65 comments

I couldn’t resist. I almost wish that Local Limoncello was my first post on Local Lemons. No I don’t. If it were 99.9% of you wouldn’t have read it. Don’t worry, I’m not offended.

I told you recently about Zia Bruna and her heavenly limoncello, and I was hoping this would be her recipe. But someone, (hint: he’s Colombian, he lives with me, and he is very cute), told me there is a 12 hour time difference between California and Italy. Quit shaking your head, I know I should have checked–but instead I called Bruna at 8:30 p.m Pacific time. And you see, I felt very awkward asking for her limoncello recipe after rousing her from a deep sleep (As for the cute Colombian, he told me not to worry, that everyone over 60 wakes up early anyway).

Remember Claudia? She lugged over a ginormous bin Meyer lemons from her parents’ tree, and we spent the day cooking cassoulet and zesting lemons. Her and I consulted many recipes to find the best substitution for Zia Bruna’s magical brew. We checked here, here and even here. I can’t tell you exactly which one we used because we aren’t quite finished yet. The limoncello is sitting pretty on a shelf in my dining room, waiting to be swirled with sweet simple syrup. You can check the progress of our limoncello on the Local Lemons facebook page (where you’ll also find out about our experimental lime/Mandarin cello).

Here’s our dilemma. We have 60 lemons, zest free and bursting with mouth-puckering lemon juice, and not a clue what to do with them. Have any ideas? Leave a comment with your best recipe using as much lemon juice as possible, and I’ll choose one to feature in an upcoming post (crediting you of course, and linking back to your blog if you have one.)

Sound good? Good. Ready, set, go…

Local Limoncello

We had a lot of lemons, and are making a lot of limocello. I don’t know how much simple syrup we are using, so I can’t say exactly how much this will yield. Use the highest proof alcohol you can find. It’ll help pull the oils from the rinds. We couldn’t find grain alcohol like Everclear, so we used 100 proof Absolut vodka, the only vodka brand we could find with a high alcohol content.

Ingredients so far:
5 750 ml bottles of 100 proof Absolut Vodka (or grain alcohol if you can find it)
60 meyer lemons, washed, dried, and zested (no white stuff please, it’ll make your limoncello bitter.)

That’s Peter, Claudia’s husband, zesting lemons in our dining room.

Make sure your lemons are organic or pesticide free, since the alcohol will pull all that stuff out of the rind and into your tasty drink. Use any bottle you like. I had pint-sized mas0n jars lying around, so that’s what I used. Fill the jar (2 cups) with vodka and add zest from six lemons. Store in a cool, dark place for 3-8 weeks. When the rinds lose all their color, you can mix the limoncello with simple syrup (I’ll provide proportions after I actually do it). After that it sits for at least another week before straining, freezing and utterly enjoying. I’ll keep you posted…

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{ 56 comments… read them below or add one }

Maria January 21, 2010 at 6:47 pm

Lemon Ricotta Biscuits:http://twopeasandtheirpod.com/recipe-for-lemon-ricotta-biscuits/

Lemon Blueberry Buttermilk Cookies:

Lemon Drop Cookies: http://twopeasandtheirpod.com/recipe-for-lemon-drop-cookies/

If you don’t like any of the recipes, you can send the lemons to me..ha! LUCKY YOU!


Denise | Chez Danisse January 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm

These photographs are so pretty. I really enjoyed them on this dreary rainy day. Thank you.


Nick January 21, 2010 at 7:27 pm

60?! As in six. zero. Wow. That’s amazing… that’s a day project.

Looks so good though.


Nanette January 21, 2010 at 7:49 pm

Mia cara, I’m going to email you my address pronto!

As for recipes that require lemon juice I love a Chocolate-lined Lemon Tart, Basbousa or a Baked Lemon Cheesecake with Lemon Curd.


Libby July 21, 2011 at 11:29 am

The genius store celald, they’re running out of you.


Koek! January 22, 2010 at 1:16 am

Personally I would just slice them and freeze them, then use the slices whenever I was going to bake fish or something that tastes nice baked on a bed of lemon slices! How about lemon marmalade? OK, nobody likes marmalade that much.. Sorry, I’m no help at all. Just wanted to say I encountered your blog today and am delighted. It’s beautiful!


Lynne Maestas May 3, 2010 at 7:07 am

I love marmalade…but don’t you need the entire rind to make marmalade?


Bethany (Dirty Kitchen Secrets) January 22, 2010 at 1:47 am

Wow! Stunning photos and such fun!


Gloria January 22, 2010 at 5:19 am

Definitely Meyer lemon curd! Use David Lebovitz’s recipe! Jar it, and it will keep forever, in case you get tired of lemon-everything :)


Jenny @ Nourished Kitchen January 22, 2010 at 5:43 am

You need to make Moroccan Preserved Lemons – they’re easy to prepare and keep forever. I still have a batch I made two years ago lurking in my pantry. It’s simple, cut the lemons as though to quarter them, pack them with salt, mash them down in jar until the salty juice covers the lemons and let them ferment for about two weeks, give or take. It makes for a killer gremolata.


Emily January 22, 2010 at 6:20 am

I adore limoncello and love this recipe! I just may have to do this when I finally get around to having some kind of dinner party!


Errin January 22, 2010 at 7:59 am

So beautiful! I personally recommend juicing and freezing them in ice cube trays. Then you can just pull out lemon juice whenever you need them or pop one in a glass of water. I also really like a recipe from Mollie Katzen for Lemon Mousse from the first Moosewood Cookbook. Basically a lemon curd mixed with egg white and cream mixture. Also amazing if you make it with limes. Dreaming of lemon/line or tangerine now…..


Allison Arevalo January 22, 2010 at 2:09 pm

Great idea to freeze the juice in ice trays. Thanks for the suggestion!


lisa mckeown December 11, 2011 at 4:48 am

I juice the lemons and freeze them in muffin tins and ice cube trays. Dump them in a freezer bag and keep them until summer for homemade lemonade and the ice cube size for drinks or to add flavor to icing, fish, baked goods, whatever really.


Claudia January 22, 2010 at 8:13 am

60? Lucky y ou! Definitely lemon curd …lemon pasta… lemon risotto…lemon cake….lemon gelato. I will be very interested in the results of your limoncello. I’ve always wanted to make it.


sarah henry January 22, 2010 at 8:19 am

Love limoncello and yr happy snaps are divine.

Just made Tea & Cookies Blueberry Lemon Bread, great in this wintry weather: http://teaandcookies.blogspot.com/2006/01/joy-of-baking.html

We, too, have a prolific Meyer lemon tree. I give the excess to friends, school gardens/kitchens, and you can bag up a bunch for your local food pantry too.


Sara January 22, 2010 at 9:17 am

wow. That first picture is probably the best I’ve seen on your blog thus far, Alison. It is gorgeous! What a great use of lemons, you’re lucky to have so many!


Allison Arevalo January 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm

Thx so much Sara! Means a lot coming from you, who always has such gorgeous photos.


Susan C January 22, 2010 at 9:23 am

I’ve heard mixed reviews about using Meyer lemons for limoncello. I hope it comes out great because I also have a prolific Meyer lemon tree and I’m itching to give this a try.


Angela@spinachtiger January 22, 2010 at 9:33 am

I don’t have a blog post on this, but one thing you could do with lemon juice is make a lemon scrub with sugar or sea salt and olive oil. Makes a cute valentine’s favor.


Jessica Lee Binder January 22, 2010 at 9:43 am

Beautiful pictures! I don’t have any recipes that use a ton of lemon juice, but one of my favorite simple sauces for fish is just garlic and capers mashed with mortar and pestle, and then whisked with lemon juice and olive oil, salt and pepper. I guess you could make a lot and jar it as gifts?


Jenn AKA The Leftover Queen January 22, 2010 at 11:00 am

You are so going to love this! I made limoncello last year with local meyer lemons – and the result was wonderful. We used grain alcohol. Here is the link: http://www.leftoverqueen.com/2009/01/28/lovely-limoncello
You should totally make lemon meringue pies, or maybe lemon curd -preserve it, and give it away for birthdays or holidays!


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The Chickenless Chick January 22, 2010 at 11:19 am

Wow, what dedicated friends you have! Beautiful results.


Kate @ Savour Fare January 22, 2010 at 12:22 pm

Lemon Curd. Lots of lemon curd.


Lea Ann January 22, 2010 at 1:57 pm

I made my first batch of Limecello this year for Christmas gifts. I agree, the higher the alcohol content the better. Some of the smaller jars are partially freezing because I used 80 proof. I don’t have a lemon recipe for you, but what I did with all of those naked lemons was just juice them into a Mason jar and used the juice for a few weeks in all of my cooking. It was very handy to have all that fresh lemon juice.


Dayna January 22, 2010 at 2:05 pm

A friend of mine make these perfectly balanced lemon bars. Sweet (but not too sweet), buttery, with the right amount of lemon flavor. Their texture is crisp and creamy. So now you’re waiting for me to share the recipe right? Don’t have it. She’s out of town visiting her new grand-baby. I sure wish I had a lemon bar right about now.


Allison Arevalo January 22, 2010 at 2:11 pm

After reading that, so do I! Share the recipe when she gets back into town, I’d love to try it.


Dana January 22, 2010 at 2:08 pm

How about you just send me a couple of bottles when it is ready. That sounds like a LOT of trouble but I’m eager to see how it turns out. Do you have the Tartine cookbook? Their lemon tart is the best I’ve ever had/made.


Leah January 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm

I had the same problem last year when I made limoncello with the lemons from my Meyer lemon tree. Don’t throw away the zests when the soaking time is up! Try using some of them to make Crema di Limoncello. It’s absolutely heavenly (think of an after-dinner drink that tastes like a creamsicle, except it’s lemon-flavored).

As far as recipes for the naked lemons, try this recipe for
Lemon Silk Meringue Pie. It calls for a lot of lemon juice and no zest (and it’s dee-lish!). BTW, I ended up freezing all the juice from my lemons into ice cubes and storing them in the freezer (in Ziploc bags). They’re real handy for recipes that call for tablespoons of lemon juice (1 cube = 1 T).

Also, we just began Lemon LoveFest (for the very same reason you are looking for recipes– we have too many lemons!). For the next month, we’ll be accepting lemon recipe submissions and assembling them together with links and photos. We thought it would be a nice resource for all of us lemon lovers in need of recipes. Here’s to Meyer lemon season!!


Allison Arevalo January 29, 2010 at 10:30 am

Hi Leah, wow, these are such great ideas! I’m extra excited for the crema di limoncello. Thanks for sharing.


Ursula January 23, 2010 at 12:03 pm

How about preserved lemons? Last time I bought a jar it was $12..


Janet January 23, 2010 at 1:16 pm

Ah, my mom and aunt make limoncello! In fact, when I was recently driving with some friends from Boston to NY to visit my aunt, I made them pull over in CT so we could get some grain alcohol. :) I think my Mom sometimes uses 151, but that’s rum.

I’ve got a bottle in the freezer I really should attend to soon! I was thinking about making limoncello-soaked gummy bears after an interesting vodka-soaked gummy bear experiment at the Exploratorium’s Science of Cocktails.

I’ve got no great recipes myself, but I’ve been itching to make this recipe from Smitten Kitchen (http://smittenkitchen.com/2010/01/poppy-seed-lemon-cake/), though on second look it calls for lemon zest, not juice! Orangette has a few recipes that are calling my name too – yogurt cake with lemon, Meyer Lemon Sables and Meyer Lemon Aioli!


my spatula January 23, 2010 at 3:10 pm

i wish claudia was my friend too! i have a feeling zia bruna will be proud of your limoncello. already looks gorgeous! lemon sorbet would be my choice to use up cartons of lemons if i had them!


Nuutilfielduthers February 5, 2012 at 2:20 am

- Wow! What an iitonrasipn she is and so young. What a talented and just all around lovely young woman.


Presley January 24, 2010 at 9:58 am

When I make limoncello I juice all the lemons and freeze the juice in ice cube trays. The cubes come in handy when I just want to add a little lemon juice to something for flavor, and cutting into a whole lemon would mean a lot would go to waste. I’m sure you wouldn’t want to do that with 60 lemons, but you might want to save some of that juice for later.

If you’re into making jam, pate de fruit, anything gelled like that, you can also save the white part of the peel, and the seeds, and extract the pectin from them. I’m going to try it soon. There’s nothing to waste in citrus!


Jen @ My Kitchen Addiction January 24, 2010 at 6:44 pm

Yum! I love limoncello… One of my favorites! I’d probably make lemon chicken and serve it over whole wheat pasta… Granted, that only uses a few of the lemons. :)


sippitysup January 25, 2010 at 10:37 am

I made Kumquat-Cello last year and it was fun! But if I had that many lemons this is what I’d do too. GREG


Greg January 25, 2010 at 12:02 pm

Just came home to Idaho with a bag full of my wife’s grandmother’s Meyer lemons, and the first thing I did was make this simple honey syrup for homemade ginger ale (and while I’ve used it in salad dressing and to glaze the top of grapefruit, I’m yet to use it for what it’s made for…), posted last summer on one of my favorite food blogs, She Who Eats.


Kirsten January 25, 2010 at 12:36 pm

I vote for juicing them and filling ice cube trays. But then I would make this kombucha based “soda” with the juice: Combine 1 quart green tea kombucha, 1/2 cup lemon juice, 1/2 cup organic cane sugar in 1/2 gallon mason jar. Stir to combine and add couple of grates of fresh nutmeg and fill to top with water and cap. Allow to ferment at room temperature for 3-4 days and decant. Refrigerate to keep from fermenting longer, but I wager you’ll have a hard time not drinking it all up right away, it’s amazing! (see http://kirstenlindquist.blogspot.com/2009/04/kombucha-elixir-of-life.html for how to make kombucha although I suspect that’s something you’re already doing judging from a quick perusal of your m.o. on your blog.


Fred January 25, 2010 at 1:18 pm

This is a great story and website that celebrates the love of Lemon. Limoncello is our Love Story. Last year my wife and I packed up the kids, and moved from Colorado to Sonoma CA to make Limoncello – legally. The process to start a new business (HelloCello) and doing something we loved revived us. We are now producing the world’s first certified organic Limoncello from Sonoma wine country grapes. To take a dream and turn it into reality took a big leap of faith that most people questioned as crazy, or was it love. But now Limoncello di Sonoma is a success and seeing it on the shelf and getting praises from top chefs and mixologist is a great feeling. Make some Limoncello and feel the love. Check out our Limoncello love story at http://www.hellosonoma.com
Limoncello infused profiteroles :-)


Tom January 28, 2010 at 12:18 pm

I did a blog post on my limoncello just a few days after you did…what are the chances?

I’m fortunate to live in an area (ok, near an area) where I can get grain alcohol; I think the grain alcohol-based limoncello is so much better!

I’ve found that if you use a Microplane to zest the lemons, you can cut the soaking time down to 2 weeks. I still do 3 weeks, but in a pinch, 2 weeks results in acceptable results.

My limoncell blog post: http://www.cheesecake4breakfast.com/?p=468



Winnie January 28, 2010 at 4:03 pm

This is such a great post and I really enjoy your blog…
I just made a Meyer Lemon Cream Tart that is pretty amazing (it’s adapted from a Dorie Greenspan recipe)…you could make extra lemon cream and freeze it so you can make the tart again in the future, or use the lemon cream anywhere you’d use lemon curd…it’s terrific. Another idea is Preserved Lemons…have fun deciding what to make and can’t wait to see how the limoncello turns out!


Kelsey/TheNaptimeChef January 28, 2010 at 7:53 pm
rach February 5, 2010 at 1:52 pm

I’ve read this post twice and stared at the beautiful yellow of it all for far too long, wonderful.
I have always wanted to make limoncello, we have a pretty good supply from friends near Napoli, I’ve seen them make it and we have a very good bottle in the fridge, but it’s not the same. We can find lemons from the Almalfi coast in Rome which are very good for limoncello.
I am inspired.
I am too late, but preserved lemons could be nice.
I loved your sardine post too even though I am not so good with all the gym and weight talk!
Really Looking forward to hearing about the mandarincello.


Banana Wonder August 21, 2010 at 6:17 pm

This is great! I am making limoncello now. One batch is rosemary limoncello :)


Violet @ Easy Recipes Free January 24, 2011 at 10:25 pm

Isn’t 60 lemons a lot? Anyway limoncello looks fantastic. I made something like this, but with rakia instead of vodka and it tasted good for me.


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Steve Godar December 11, 2012 at 4:23 pm

I use a microplaner to zest my lemons. Works so much better and efficient.


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