Is it just me or does it seem like Christmas decorations are being put out earlier and earlier every year? Pretty soon I’ll be able to purchase my décor for Independence Day and pick up a pack of garland and mistletoe. On a side note, did you know that mistletoe is a parasitic plant? Not very romantic when you think about it, but I digress. I admit that I love the holidays and I will admit that I was listening to Gary Hoey’s Carol of the Bells in the gym the other day. I love everything about the holidays. Well, aside from all the “diamonds are forever” commercials, but that’s another story. One of my favorite things about the holidays is not just the receiving of presents, but the giving of gifts. The most special gift I can think of is giving a homemade gift. Since my life is all about food, most of the gifts I give are food related. I haven’t decided on exactly what I will be giving this year, but I had an idea to give pretty bottles full of limoncello. Limoncello is a lemon liqueur commonly made in Italy. It is made with grain alcohol, lemon rinds, sugar, and water. The process takes at least two weeks for an ok bottle and 2 months for the best resulted flavor. In the end, you get a sweet yellowish liquid. I’ve seen some vary from just barely yellow to bright yellow. How bright your limoncello turns out depends on how much lemons you used, how yellow they were, and how long you left it. When leaving it for 2 months and with bright yellow rinds, then you can produce a really bright liquid that is extremely delicious. I’ve bought a bottle of limoncello from a certain company and it just didn’t taste right. I’m not sure what it was, but the homemade version always turns out awesome.
1 (750 ml) bottle 80 proof vodka**
1-2 cups sugar
2-3 cups water
1. Pour vodka into a sealable jar or container. Drop lemon rinds into the container.
2. Seal the container and let it sit in a cool, dark place for at least 2 weeks. Two months is ideal for the best flavor.
3. After letting your rinds sit, it’s time to make the syrup. Heat the water and sugar in a saucepan until the liquid turns clear. Take it off the heat and let it cool.
4. Pour the syrup into the container and let sit again for 2 weeks.
5. After 2 weeks, take the peels out and strain the liquid with cheesecloth.
6. Store the limoncello in fun bottles and enjoy.
** Grain alcohol is ideal, but isn't available everywhere, so vodka will do. Hardcore limoncello enthusiasts will cringe, but ah well.
*It's important to try not to get the white part of the lemon with the rinds. They are pretty bitter and that flavor will release into your limoncello.
If lemons aren’t your thing, then you can look into using other fruits. Some variations include mandarin oranges, ginger, limes, and raspberries. The possibilities are endless and they make great holiday gifts. You can even make great desserts with this liqueur. I don’t think my limoncello will make it to being bottled and given away. I’m thinking limoncello cheesecake or tarts...or cake! Mmmm…