Make Your Own Limoncello

Limoncello has buried itself in the memory part of my brain, right next to dusty days under the hot Greek sun, walking endless straight lines through silvery olive groves, eyes to the ground in search of ancient pieces of pottery. Limoncello also butts right up against memories of Dustin and I, confused lovers on a quest for meaning in a tiny stone apartment, again in Greece.

Like many college grads, I headed off to Europe for a summer trek to celebrate my accomplishments. It would be the trip that sealed my love for solo travel. (Did you know my trip to NYC this summer was solo? A friend pointed out that I never mentioned this in any posts.) My sister happened to be on the island of Crete in Greece helping out on an archaeological project, so of course I headed her way. Their assignment was to survey miles and miles of farmland and open fields and record any pottery that happened to be lying on the ground. Imagine hours of hiking in the hot summer sun, scrutinizing every stone and dirt clod for possible signs of long gone life. It was grueling for them, week after week, sometimes finding nothing. It was joyous for me, handling a cup thousands of years old among the olive trees and screaming cicadas.

We’d head back to homebase, after these hours of surveying, exhausted and covered in reddish brown dust only to collapse around the shared courtyard in the setting sun. Somehow bowls of pasta materialized, along with liters of local wine, and after, rounds and rounds of creamy limoncello.

Limoncello glides right along, in between and in and out of my memories of Greece. After a few tormenting months in Denver, Dustin and I abruptly left the city and boarded a last minute flight to Europe. I couldn’t wait to share with him the beauty I’d found the previous summer on Crete. Bouganvillea covered archways, candlelit shrines hidden deep inside caves, rocky hillsides, the wine-dark Mediterranean.

We spent our nights listening to music out of speakers fashioned from earbuds and paper cups, playing Egyptian Rat Screw on our pushed-together twin beds, trying to figure out whether forever was our future. I’d slice up a couple of impossibly red tomatoes, a cucumber, and the richest feta cheese to go with our homemade wine stored in recycled water bottles. And then in went the rounds and rounds of creamy limoncello. Sweet and tangy.

Sipping limoncello brings me right back, to somewhere in between starting a life and avoiding one.

Limoncello (not creamy, sorry!)
adapted from the recipe by Giada de Laurentiis

10 lemons (or 5-6 Hawaii sized lemons, like softballs)
750 ml vodka (1 bottle)
3 1/2 cups water
2 1/2 cups sugar

Peel lemons with a vegetable peeler, reserving rest of the lemon for another use. It helps to peel them in long strips. Using a very sharp paring knife, remove as much of the pith (white part of the peel) as you can. This takes time, but is the key to a good limoncello. Place peels in a container (like a juice pitcher) and allow to steep at room temperature for 4 days.

Heat water and sugar over medium heat in a sauce pan until sugar dissolves. Allow to cool and add sugar water to pitcher. Steep for another 24 hours.

Strain limoncello and discard peels. Bottle and store in the fridge for up to a month. Enjoy!

This recipe is featured on Foodie Friends Friday


5 thoughts on “Make Your Own Limoncello

  1. Is it funny how a drink can flood your mind with memories? I remember trying Limoncello for the first time in Tuscany. Best drink I’ve every tried in Europe. I can see my villa right now…sigh….memories! I’m going to make some…i hope it comes out alright. I tend to me a tad heavy handed when it comes to alcohol. LOL


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