Carin Jolly loves to search out hidden treasures when she is vacationing in Rancho Mirage in Mission Hills. She thought she'd found a real winner in an Italian deli — a locally published book full of authentic Italian recipes. When she asked the deli owners about one of them — limoncello — she was told it was the national drink of Italy. "You keep it in the freezer and have it after dinner."
But the book had an error, and her first batch spoiled. A fondness for lemon drinks inspired more sleuthing and she found the author, who, being only two miles away, invited her over, corrected the recipe and supplied her with lemons from the family tree. Carin has been happily making limoncello ever since.
"I actually like it served over ice to keep it well chilled," Carin says. "Some recipes call for 100-proof vodka, to keep the drink from turning slushy in the freezer. You can use Everclear, which is supposed to be the way it is made in Italy. It doesn't impart any flavor to the lemon mixture, but works in seven days, so you want to strain it before it dissolves the peel."
She prefers making it with quality vodka and keeping it in a decanter in the refrigerator. "Experiment with the syrup ratio to lemon mixture. It can be a tad sweet so I use less syrup and more lemons in mine," she says.
It can be used over ice cream, fruit and berries, mixed with sparkling wine, mineral water, champagne or fruit juices. Or, as they do in Italy, have a refreshing sip of limoncello at the end of the day. Bella!
Camilla's recipe for authentic 'Italian Limoncello'
Wash lemons and use a vegetable brush to clean. Pat dry, and then peel with a vegetable peeler. Be careful not to get any white pith in with the lemon rind. It will make the drink bitter.
Put the lemon zest into a large glass container and pour in the vodka. Seal the container and place it in a dark, cool place for 20 to 30 days. The vodka will take on the lemon color and flavor. You can tell when it is done because the lemon peel has very little color left and feels a little like paper. (The higher proof the vodka, the quicker it works)
In a large sauce pan, combine the sugar and water. Cook for 5 to 7 minutes. Completely cool the syrup to room temperature before you add to the lemon/vodka mixture. If you don't, it will be cloudy, not the pretty clear color.
Strain the lemon/vodka mixture before you add it to the syrup. You can use cheesecloth or a very fine strainer. Let it rest for several days before you serve it.
Keep the limoncello in the freezer and serve ice cold.