Archived in 2022

Originally posted on 30 Oct 2005

Today’s culinary project was to start the first phase of making limoncello. For those who don’t know yet, limoncello is a sweet Italian liqueur. It’s usually served ice cold as an apertif or what have you.

The motivation for this undertaking was the receipt of a large sack of lemons from Marc, hand-plucked from the prolific tree in his front yard. The lemons sat on my table for over a week as I figured out what to do with them. I’m not sure what made me think of making limoncello, but the idea stuck.

Yesterday I made a special trip to Oak Barrel Winecraft in Berkeley and got myself a three-gallon glass carboy and a rubber stopper. No, I’m not making three gallons of limoncello. But somewhere along the way I’d decided to double the recipe (and had gotten more lemons from Marc for that purpose) and I wanted to be sure to have plenty of space in the container. I also went on a quest for 100-proof vodka. Turns out your average bottle of vodka is 80-proof. The only 100-proofer I found was Smirnoff. I’d have preferred Stoli, but I couldn’t find it’s version of 100-proof (which does exist). Walking out of a liquor store with two bottles of 100-proof Smirnoff really makes a gal feel like a bit of a low-life.

The actual process of zesting all of the forty one lemons I had only took about an hour and a half thanks to my trusty Microplane. The end result can be seen here:

Lemons and carboy

The bottle contains two bottles of Smirnoff and the zest of a whole bunch of lemons. It looks fairly repulsive if you get close enough:

Carboy close-up

The next step in its life cycle is for the carboy to sit in my nice cool dark closet for the next forty days. On or around December 9th the contents will be strained, two more bottles of Smirnoff added along with about ten cups of simple syrup. Then it all goes back into the carboy and from there back to the closet for another forty days. The entire thing should be done right around the time of Megan’s birthday. C’mon out to CA, girl. We’ll have ourselves a nice little party.

See the bowl in the first picture above? See what it contains? That’s forty one naked lemons. Oh, dear. I hadn’t anticipated that. Sure, I’ve got the zest. But what in the world am I going to do with forty one naked lemons? I can’t just throw them out. That would be such a waste. And Marc has really good lemons. There has to be something I can do with them.

For lack of any better idea, I grabbed my citrus reamer and started juicing. And juicing. And juicing. For the record, I got two quarts of fresh lemon juice out of these things. Two quarts. Of lemon juice. OK, sure, you’ve successfully dispatched the naked lemons but is your situation really any better? Now what do you think you’re going to do with two quarts of lemon juice, woman? Drat…

Random knowledge picked up here or there kicked in (“boil fruit juice with sugar for long enough…”) and, checking my supplies of sugar, I had enough to turn one of those quarts into a really kicky rosemary-scented lemon jelly. Unfortunately the canning apparatus wasn’t set up, so none of the jars are officially sealed. They ought to keep in the fridge for a long time, considering the acidity level and sugar content.

As I type this, the other quart of juice is still sitting out on my kitchen counter awaiting a purpose. It will probably be frozen so I can avoid thinking about it for a while longer.