There’s a certain epic quality to most things Italian, and limoncello is no exception. While, on the surface at least, limoncello is a classic digestif to a summer lunch (or dinner, for that matter) in the great al fresco, actually making limoncello is a different matter entirely. It’s not very labour intensive - it’s mostly peeling - but then time takes over. Only after a biblical 40 days and 40 nights of soaking the lemon rinds in vodka is the limoncello ready for action, when you’re left with a thick, syrupy lemon liqueur that you can enjoy neat, or as an ingredient in a range of desserts, including tiramisu, ice-cream, and even biscuits.
I’d always been intrigued by limoncello. There’s a certain Italian pride to it. Visit any Italian household - whether in Italy or abroad - and you’re likely to be offered limoncello on arrival, during your meal, after lunch or dinner, and on departure (preferably while waiting for an Uber). But it was only when I first visited Apricale that I got a true appreciation for it. I adapted this recipe from one I got from one of the first friends I made in Apricale, Jeanette Van Maanen, who runs the restaurant Apricus Locanda.
Prep time: 40 days and 40 nights / makes: 2,5 liters
9 organic lemons
1 liter good quality vodka
1,5 liter water
700 g (875 ml) sugar
Peel the lemons, making sure not peel the white part of the zest. The pith will make the Limoncello bitter. Place zest in a glass container and pour in the vodka.
Cover loosely and let everything infuse for 40 days and nights at room temperature. The vodka will turn yellow.
After 1 week, combine the water and sugar in a large saucepan and bring to a boil. Let it boil for 15 minutes without stirring. Allow the syrup to cool to room temperature.
Strain the vodka mixture into syrup and pour it into bottles.
Keep the limoncello in your freezer.
Serve it ice cold.