L is for Lemon (Liqueur)
By Cheryl Forberg
In Southern Italy, The Amalfi Coast is famed not only for its beauty, but for an incredible abundance of culinary treasures. The sparkling waters of the Mediterranean are filled with shrimp and fresh fish that are available year round. The rich soil and plentiful sun produce award-winning wines from indigenous grapes. The not too distant Latteri Mountains produce fresh ricotta and other delicious cheese that flavor many of the regions incredible pasta dishes. And like many other parts of the sunny Mediterranean, the produce markets display a bounty of bright and incredibly flavorful fruit and vegetables.
One fruit that is native to this region is “sfusato amalfitano”, a sweet and juicy lemon, with a pear shape and dimpled skin, also known as a Sorrento or Amalfi lemon. While U.S. agriculturists have been busy creating a version of this tree for cultivation in the US, these prized lemons are unavailable for purchase here, which adds to their allure and cache.
Just over a century ago (or so says local lore) a sweet and tart liqueur was crafted in Amalfi from this unique citrus fruit, and was named Limoncello. While the liqueur is available commercially in the US, I decided to take a crack at making my own. It’s obviously not authentic, since I didn’t have access to Sorrento citrus, but I used the next best thing, Meyer lemons. Aside from preparing the lemon peel, the recipe is relatively easy. The difficult part is waiting for the liqueur to mellow, which can take a couple months.
If you can’t find Everclear, you can use vodka, though its flavor is more assertive than Everclear, which can mask some of the lemon essence.
Approximately 1 Liter or 34 two ounce servings
12 Melissa’s Meyer Lemons
1 (750-ml) bottle Grain Alcohol (Everclear)
3 cup Water
2 cups Melissa’s Organic Blue Agave Nectar
Gently wash the lemons, but do not scrub too vigorously as you don’t want any of the flavorful oils to escape. Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (juice the lemons or save for another use). Trim away any remaining white pith from the peels with a sharp paring knife and discard.
Place the lemon peels in a very clean 2-quart jar. Pour the alcohol over the peels and place cover on jar. Seal tightly. Steep the lemon peels in alcohol for at least one month in a cool dark place. Shake occasionally.
After 30 days, stir the water and agave together and add to the Limoncello jar. Shake well and return to cool, dark place for another 30 days.
Strain Limoncello with a cheesecloth-lined mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the Limoncello to small 200 ml bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate or freeze. Serve cold in chilled glasses.
Nutrition Factoid: 52% of the Vitamin C in citrus fruit is found in the peel. Don’t toss your zest!
Nutritional information (per 2 ounce serving)
Fat calories 0
Total fat grams 0
Sat fat grams 0
Cholesterol 0 mg
Sodium 0 mg
Total carbohydrates 16 g
Fiber 0 g
Sugars 15 g
Protein 0 g
Vitamin A IUs 0%
Vitamin C 6%