Limoncello di Villa Eades

I’ve written before about the lovely Meyer lemon tree in our back yard in Santa Barbara. Small, but prolific, it keeps us supplied with more lemons than we can possibly use. This summer, it positively outdid itself, leaving us awash in fragrant fruit and wondering what to do with them all. An article in the local paper about hand-crafted aperitivos and digestivos gave us an idea.

When life gives you lemons, make Limoncello!

The best limoncello in the world comes from the Amalfi Coast of Italy, made traditionally from lemons grown on the volcanic slopes of Vesuvius. In restaurants throughout the region, a complimentary glass of limoncello follows every meal, in the belief that it will act as a digestivo and improve the overall eating experience. Bad limoncello tastes like Janitor-in-a-Drum Liqueur, but the good stuff, served syrupy and cold, is a delight.

I found a recipe online and, straightaway, ordered a large (2 1/2 gallon) glass container with a screw top lid. As soon as it arrived, I plucked about 40 lemons from our tree, procured 4 fifths of vodka, readied my vegetable peeler, and set to work.

The most important step in making good limoncello–what the Italians will freely tell you separates the rot gut from the sublime–is to take great care in peeling the lemons, getting just the zest and taking the time to scrape off any bit of white pith that might be clinging to the zest. Even a small amount of pith can impart a bitterness to the final liqueur (masked usually by adding much more sugar) and the extra time it takes to check each sliver of peel for pith and scrape it away pays great dividends in the final product.

Here’s how to do it:

Limoncello di Villa Eades

15 to 20 fresh lemons, zest only
2 fifths (750 ml) vodka or PGA
4 cups sugar
4 cups water

Step 1: Zest the Lemons
Wash the lemons well. Use a sharp vegetable peeler to remove slivers of just the zest. Check the backs of the slivers for pith and scrape away every minute bit of it with the blade of a small paring knife.

(I juice the naked lemons and mix with water and sucralose or stevia to make low-carb lemonade.)

Step 2: Make an alcohol infusion
Put the slivers of zest into a large, glass container with a tightly-sealing lid.

(I found a large glass screw-top container online that will let me make a double batch at once. Old-fashioned, glass, screw-top, gallon, sun tea jars would work well, too, but the new ones on the market all seem to be made of plastic, which I’d prefer not to use.)

Add the vodka, swirl the contents, cover tightly, and put into a cool, dry place for 2 weeks to 1 month to extract the lemon oils and allow them time to infuse the alcohol.

Step 4: Make a simple syrup
In a saucepan large enough to hold it all, add the sugar to the water and stir to combine. Heat the mixture over a low flame, stirring constantly, until all the sugar has dissolved and the syrup is clear. Set aside.
(Yes, I use real sugar, because it is a part of what ensures inhibition of the growth of unfriendly microbes. And besides, you aren’t supposed to drink a water tumbler of it, just a cordial glass. It works out to about 8 – 10 grams of carb per ounce of liqueur, which is lot, but not so so terrible for an occasional treat.)

Step 5: Sweeten the alcohol
Strain the peels from the infusion, by pouring the infusion through a fine meshed sieve into a separate container. Return the infusion to the large jar and add the simple syrup. Swirl to combine. Cover tightly and return to the cool, dry area to age for about 1 or 2 months.

Step 6: Bottle the limoncello
Use a funnel to transfer the limoncello into ultra clean, dry, small bottles with tight stoppers or screw tops. I found some great ones in 250 ml and 500 ml sizes online. I also dipped the stoppered bottle ends in wine bottle sealing wax to create an even better seal.

Step 7: Label your treasure and put away in a cool place. Great for giving as a hostess gift or birthday gift or any-occasion gift. Be sure to put one bottle into your own freezer to have at the ready for improving digestion after a great low-carb meal!

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9 thoughts on “Limoncello di Villa Eades

  1. Stepped into a store in Rome that sold hundreds of different brands of Limoncello. I will definitely try your recipe next summer. Btw, such lovely pitchers in the picture! Large pitcher would be perfect for home-made sangria!

    COMMENT from MD EADES: Thanks. We got those lovely pitchers on a trip to the Amalfi coast about ten years ago. The large one has indeed been used for sangria as well as for margaritas.

  2. There was a store in Rome that had dozens of types of Limoncella, it was paralyzing so we brought none home with us. Who knew it was so easy to make. Well, if I could find any reasonably good lemons around here. Great post!

  3. Thank you, Thank you! What a wonderful recipe to add and the pictures are so beautiful! I love the roses. I’m going to try this- including the bottle wax. I have always wanted to try wine making so this will be fun. I love your recipes and the fun way you approach making great food and drinks!

  4. A word to the wise-

    I chickened out at the last minute because I can’t afford the extra sugar. Instead of mixing the extract with real simple syrup and putting it away in a cool place to age, I mixed mine with DaVinci sugar free “simple syrup” (non-flavored DaVinci sweetened with sucralose) and tossed the bottled concoction into the freezer. I made half the recipe, with about 325 ml alcohol and zest of 9 huge lemons.

    That was a mistake, because the mixture froze solid. Luckily, the bottle did not crack, though it was a close call. I thawed it out and put it in the fridge. I have no idea what kind of shelf life it will have in the fridge, and it will never see the proper aging that is necessary, but it tastes pretty darn good!

    It’s an easy recipe to de-carb, as long as you make a smaller batch and share with (lots of) friends.

  5. The high-protein diet for losing midriff fat does not seem to take vegetarians into account.

    Is there a variation that can be used by those who do not meat or eggs?

    Also, most salmon is farmed these days and full of toxins.

    regards,
    a

    • @Anya Light – Granted our diets are primarily aimed at Omnivores, but there is a small section in 6WC addressing vegetarians trying to do the program. As to what foods that would encompass, it quite obviously depends on the depth of the vegetarian commitment — ovo lacto vegetarians can certainly make do with protein powders, soy, nuts, eggs, and dairy on this plan; those who will eat some fish or fish and poultry have no trouble at all; vegans will have a hard time of it. And lots of salmon is wild caught and will usually say so.