Here in Charleston, it gets hot. Not that wimpy “it’s warm enough to get in the pool/put up the winter clothes/turn on the air conditioning hot”, but a “clothing is optional/ don’t sit so close to me/ dear Lord why won’t it rain” hot. HOT. After watering my garden for the second time today, I found myself smiling at the beans, thrilled the soil was still moist from the morning water, thinking, “Good work, butter beans. A good southern vegetable knows how to ration water, unlike you, basil [shoots evil look at poor bone-dry sweet basil plant]”.
Even the cats have temporarily halted their constant fighting to lay side by side in the bathroom, soft and fuzzy underbellies cooling off on the cold tile.
When the heat reaches over 105 for more than a week, there is only one thing to do: make limoncello. What, you thought I was going to say sweet tea?
I was scared to try to make limoncello for a long time. Then as the thermostat reached its breaking point, so did I. It was time to take the plunge, and I should have done it years ago.
This is not your Nona from Italy’s recipe. This is MY recipe. I found many of the recipes on the internet to be syrupy sweet and too reminiscent of the stuff you can buy off the shelf, so I created my own. My limoncello is sweet with a true citrus bite, and boozy but refreshing. Be careful, it will sneak up on you. As a friend of mine put it after having a taste, “I’m surprised there aren’t more limoncello-related deaths.” Death by limoncello: ah ,what a way to go!
Don’t let the time it takes to complete scare you off from this recipe. It’s totally worth the wait.
First things first: clean those lemons! You don’t want any wax or pesticides in your limoncello. I buy organic lemons if I can find them for a reasonable price and use a mushroom brush to give them a light scrub underwater, then a quick rinse.
Use a vegetable peeler to remove the yellow rind from all of your lemons. Avoid the white part (aka the pith) as this will make your final product bitter (eww!). While you’re at it, juice the lemons once you’ve peeled them and find something fabulous to do with the juice (mmmmm basil lemonade).
Throw the peels in a large container with a lid, pour the alcohol over the peels and put the lid on it. Give it a good shake, because, well, shaking things is fun, place it somewhere cool and dark, and wait.
and wait and wait and wait and wait.
Continue waiting for at least three weeks. Do other things in this time, if you must.
After three weeks have passed, open the jar and strain the mixture. I save the left-over rinds and periodically run a few through my disposal to clean it out.
Now, time to make the simple syrup! I like a light syrup, so I rarely use the 1:1 ratio that seems to be the combination-du-jour. Place the 10 cups of water in a pot with the 6 cups of sugar and bring to a low boil on medium to medium-low heat. Don’t stir it! There’s no point. The movement from the boil will do the work for you, so why bother dirtying another dish?
Once all of the sugar has dissolved into the water, remove from heat and allow it to cool.
Once cooled, add the lemon concoction to the simple syrup, stir to combine and pour into four 750-ml glass containers. It’s best if stored in the freezer (you know, the place where you keep the
vodka frozen peas).