There is a centuries old Italian tradition passed down through the generations of producing flavored liquors fatto a casa, or made at home. Family artisans relied on the local spices, herbs, fruits, flowers, nuts, seeds, and barks of the countryside as the flavoring essence for their liquor. One friend living in Florence prides himself on his annual Nocino liquor production made with unripened green walnuts, always being certain to share a bottle with us to take to back to the states to be opened at Christmas time. Further south along the coastal Campagna region, the picturesque destination of writers, celebrities, and later film stars since the 19th century, one finds both family and commercial production of the iconic lemon liquor know as Lemoncello.
The rocky terrain of the Amalfi Coast, Isle of Capri, and Sorrento Penninsula are the home to terraced groves of the Sorrento lemon tree. Legend has it that the lemon was brought to Campania in the first century BC by Jews who prized them for their ritual value. The Sorrento lemon is medium large in size, elliptical in shape, and incredibly fragrant. It is the emblematic symbol of the area, and can be seen not only in the distinctive Lemoncello liquor but in the mosaics and ceramics of the region.
We always look forward to a chilled Lemoncello after dinner while on the Amalfi Coast, but our personal preference is for a less sweet tasting lemon cordial. With a little experimentation and careful tweaking, Mio Marito came up with a lemon liquor recipe that we are rather partial to. As we do not have a supply of Sorrento lemons available, we find that the Eureka lemon, freshly plucked from our garden, is a wonderful substitute. Our lemon tree produces an espeially fragrant thick skinned lemon; the citrus oil from these lemons is wonderfully rich in lemon flavor.
Making homemade liquors is a basic process, requiring very little effort; the most difficult part is the waiting as the alcohol deepens in flavor and becomes ready to offer to family and friends when they visit. Enjoy this liquor after a wonderful meal as your conversation continues and you savor time well spent together.
- 6 large lemons, well scrubbed
- 750 ml of 80 proof vodka
- 1 cup of fresh cool water
- 1 cup of granulated sugar
- large glass jar with a wide opening
- coffee filters
- Remove the outer yellow peel of the lemons using a vegetable peeler, taking care not to include any of the pith which is bitter. Place into the glass jar.
- Pour the vodka over the lemon peel, close the jar.
- Place the jar in a cool, dark place for 2 weeks.
- Prepare a simple syrup by combining the water and sugar in a small saucepan, bring to a boil, reduce the heat and simmer for 5 minutes. Allow the simple syrup to cool completely, you will need 1 cup for the Lemon Liquor. This may be made beforehand and place in a sealed glass container in the refrigerator.
- The vodka has been infused with the essence of the lemon peel for 2 weeks. Open the jar and gently stir in 1 cup of the simple syrup.
- Place a coffee filter in either a strainer or funnel over either a large measuring cup or glass bowl, strain the contents of the glass jar into the cup or bowl. Return the liquid, along with the lemon peel to the original container and allow to rest for 2 additional days.
- After 2 days, strain the mixture once again using the coffee filter technique. Bottle in desired container. Discard the lemon peel.
- Allow the liquor to deepen in flavor by resting for an additional 2 weeks.