Posted in infusion


The lemon zest turns it yellow.
The lemon zest turns it yellow.

I have a limoncellario, or limoncello recipe, from a real live Italian mom.  And I can’t use it in this state, which has banned grain alcohol.  So I had to do my best to adapt the recipe to 80 proof (40% abv) vodka.  I never thought I would say this, but vodka is wimpy.  But, it’s still good limoncello.  I think I used a little too much sugar, which is funny because I was afraid that I wouldn’t be able to dissolve enough sugar in the small amount of water I was adding (when you use 95% abv you can add a lot more water).  I think that by increasing the ratio of sugar to water to 2:1 by volume, I created an invert sugar despite not adding acid or boiling for the syrup for very long.  Invert sugar is sweeter than regular sugar, so that threw off my proportions.  And it seems to be true that the vodka can’t extract quite as much of the lemony goodness as grain alcohol can.  But again, any limoncello is good limoncello.  Here’s the recipe I used this time (which I put in baker’s percentage based on the vodka, even though this is not at all a baked good):

100.0 B%    690.0 g    750 mL vodka (1 bottle)
29.0 B%      200.0 g    200 mL water (your measuring cup probably has mL on it; if not, convert here)
47.0 B%      324.0 g    400 mL sugar

zest of 8-10 lemons

Put the lemon zests in the vodka for a week to a month.  Put the sugar in the water and bring to a boil, then cool.  Strain the vodka and mix it with the simple syrup (that’s what you call the sugar-water thing you just made).  Pour into bottles.  Refrigerate.

Naturally, if you zest 8 lemons, you will be left with 8 naked lemons.  I assume naked lemons don’t last that long.  So I juiced all of mine and put the juice in my Not Actually Ice cube trays.  Now whenever I have a recipe that calls for lemon juice, I don’t have to wait until my next grocery trip to make it.

Incidentally, it is unbelievably difficult to find a decent funnel in this town.  Or the next town over, for that matter.  After exhausting the usual big chains, I went to a little cooking supply store, where I had a goldilocks problem.  The canning funnels are too big and the spice funnels are too small.  I could buy both and put them together, but that would cost about $25, which is about ten times what I think a funnel should cost.  Then I found a wine funnel, with a curved tip and a strainer inside, and that was $30.  I guess they figure people who do things with wine will pay anything.  So I made do with a measuring cup and the pour-y part of my saucepan.  But really.  Dear Town, please import some funnels.

Finally, having freed up my infusion vessel, I put a new bottle of vodka in with my squeezed-out key limes.  We’ll see what that tastes like in a couple of weeks.

Later notes: Never put the pith (white part) of citrus in an infusion.  My key lime liqueur came out way too bitter.  I’m very sad.  However, I used 200 mL of sugar with the same general recipe in another batch of liqueur, and I think it’s a better balance.  I’ll use it in my next limoncello.


One thought on “Limoncello

  1. Assuming you’re still in Massachusetts, you can just hop over the border to RI or CT and grab some grain alcohol, as it’s legal in both states.

    I’m in southern NH and make a road trip down there every so often to refill my grain alcohol supply.

    I tried making limoncello with vodka, but it came out too sweet. Before I tweaked the recipe, I discovered that real grain alcohol was only a short road trip away, so I never did make a 2nd batch with vodka.

    My post on limoncello:

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