When life gives you lemons… make limoncello!
I initially thought of limoncello as an idea for favours as it fitted in with our colour theme at the time: yellow and green. Although further into the wedding-planning the colour theme changed, we kept the idea of limoncello. Limoncello suited us as a couple quite well; we both appreciate a good drink and like its sharp, tangy taste plus it is aesthetically pleasing sitting on a table. One of the main charms of homemade limoncello is that it is so easy to make! A word of warning, before you start: if you want to make a high-quality drink (which, of course you do, it’s your wedding!) then you need to use high-quality vodka, which comes at a price. While we would have loved to make limoncello for all our guests, we only gave formal favours to our wedding party. This made the process slightly cheaper for us and meant we could give each recipient a decent sized bottle of limoncello. For our other guests, we made contributions to chosen charities, in lieu of wedding favours.
A Google search for ‘limoncello recipe’ will give you 463,000 results, each with different tips and slightly different recipes, some claiming to be closely guarded secrets only recently shared by Italian Grandmothers on their deathbeds. I read hundreds of recipes but only needed to test-run one (which was recommended by a friend) with some minor amendments. I can’t say that this is the best but it produces a bloody good tasting limoncello. I’d say look no further, but the choice is yours.
Top Tips before you start
- It is SO easy to make but to infuse the lemons and vodka takes time, be patient and know that you can’t make this and drink it on the same night, or even in the same week.
- Limoncello is an intense flavour and smell – it unfortunately has a very similar smell to a lot of cleaning products. Don’t do what I did and clean just before you make limoncello, you’ll be very close to hating the smell of lemons before you even begin!
- Your local hardware shop probably has all the items you need and for half the price of Amazon; stay local.
- Limoncello is sticky; work surfaces and fingers beware!
Ingredients (makes approx. 1 litre limoncello, just scale it up if you need more!)
- 10 unwaxed lemons, washed and dried (if you are unsure then go for organic lemons, which are almost always unwaxed. If you don’t want to fork out on organic lemons then just be aware that the alcohol will strip everything from the lemon peels, pesticides and all…)
- 750ml bottle vodka (the higher the proof, the better the limoncello will taste: higher-proof grain alcohol extracts more lemon flavour from the infusing process and the result is a smooth, tasty, tangy limoncello). I made two batches of limoncello using Grey Goose and Ciroc (both 80% proof).
- Fancy branching out? Lemons can be substituted for other citrus fruits (lime, grapefruit, orange…)
- Caster sugar (to your taste)
What you need
- Vegetable Peeler or grater
- Large mason-style container with lid
- Some form of strainer – I used a sieve
- Large bowl
- Funnel (although not essential, it makes things easier and less sticky)
- Bottles for storing the finished product (or jam jars, if you’re a classy lady, like me)
- Use a vegetable peeler to peel your lemons, it is easier than a grater and your hand will thank you after the first 2 lemons. Try to only get the rind (the yellow stuff); the pith (white stuff) is sour and doesn’t add anything to the flavour. If your rind comes away with a layer of pith then scrape this off with a kitchen knife until you just have rind.
- Put the lemon peel in the bottom of your container and cover with vodka. Put the lid on and leave the vodka and lemons to infuse for one month. If you want a softer, less intense flavour then you can stop the infusing process earlier. I like big, bold flavours so I would recommend leaving for the full month.
- Leave the container in a cool, dark space and gently swirl the container once a week to ensure ultimate infusing.
- When you’re ready to finish the limoncello, make some sugar syrup. Bring the water to a simmer and stir in the sugar to dissolve. Allow this to cool. You can play with the sugar and water ratios to make a sugar syrup to your taste – the more water you use, the more you will dilute the alcohol base, making a less alcoholic, milder, and smoother-sipping liqueur. More sugar will make a sweeter limoncello. I used 240 ml water to 200g sugar for a tangier finish.
- Using the sieve or other strainer, strain the infused vodka to remove the lemon peel into a large bowl.
- Gradually add small amounts of the sugar syrup to the infused vodka, while stirring continuously. Taste as you go to get the flavour you like.
- Make sure your storage bottles are clean and bottle the limoncello using the funnel.
- Chill, drink and enjoy. Keep the limoncello in the fridge or freezer. I recommend serving limoncello straight from the freezer.
- Apparently this can be stored for up to a month in the fridge or up to a year in the freezer. I’ve kept mine in the fridge and it has been four months now and it still tastes fine. The only side effects? …A pretty sore head the next morning!
Homemade Labels – instructions to follow
For me, presentation is everything so I decided to make homemade labels to stick on the bottles. I will write a future post on my wedding DIY sidekick (no, not my husband), Cricut, which I used to create the labels. Cricut is an incredible machine; it is essentially a paper cutter but with excellent technology and agility. It enabled me to create almost anything from a huge range of fabrics and materials. You will see in future posts how much I relied on Cricut during my wedding DIY days and how it helped me to create my DIY wedding.