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CITRUS PUNCH

When life gives you lemons … make limoncello.

WRITTEN BY ANN LINDEMANN
PHOTOS BY CHRIS HOLLOMAN

 

Perhaps you’ve just come back from a trip to Southern Italy, where it’s served as an after-dinner digestive, or maybe you want to juice up your lemon-drop cocktail. Either way, limoncello is a lovely lemon liqueur that is simple to make and use in a myriad of recipes.

“The Italians know what the heck they’re doing when they celebrate springtime,” says Barb Giacomini, who makes limoncello at her restaurant, Daughters Café, in Reno.

Giacomini says customers enjoy watching the huge glass jar “turn lemony through dark winter days” on the café’s counter.

 “People light up when you bring it out to share,” Giacomini adds. “It has a beautiful color, a refreshing taste on a hot day ... just a lively smell and taste.”

Alberto Gazzola of La Vecchia in Reno also makes batches of house-made limoncello when time allows. He uses the liqueur in cocktails, gelato, and granitas, which are served as intermezzos between courses.

“The gelato always is gone within a couple days,” he notes, adding that the liqueur also is great with berries, which must be marinated for at least an hour.

Giacomini says limoncello is wonderful on dessert items, but it also gives a burst of fresh flavor to savory fare.

“We served it with fava beans and chunks of parmigiana,” she says. “I also like to splash it on salad with salt, pepper, and olive oil. Lovely in its simplicity!”

Frequent edible Reno-Tahoe contributor Ann Lindemann daydreams of drinking a cool glass of limoncello at a sunny café in Capri. Until that becomes a reality, she’ll settle for a glass of delightful homemade limoncello on her back deck in Tahoe.

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Barb Giacomini’s Limoncello

(Makes two 750-milliliter bottles)

Keep your bottles of limoncello in the freezer until ready to serve. The ingredients are simple and few, and making a batch doesn’t require much work, but you’ll need some time. Limoncello must steep for 80 days. Giacomini says a glass jar is key to preserving flavor. Also important, she says, is to use a vegetable peeler to get just the yellow from the lemon, as the bitter white pith can spoil the concoction.

15 lemons (Choose thick-skinned lemons, as they are easier to zest.)

2 bottles (750 milliliters) 100-proof vodka (These have less flavor than lower-proof versions, and the high alcohol content ensures limoncello will not turn to ice in freezer.)

4 cups sugar

5 cups water

Wash lemons with vegetable brush and hot water to remove potential pesticide residue or wax; pat dry.

Carefully zest lemons with zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on peel. NOTE: Use only outer part of rind. The pith, the white part beneath rind, is too bitter and will spoil your limoncello.

In a large glass jar (one gallon), add one bottle of vodka; add lemon zest as it is zested. Cover jar and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 days and up to 40 days in a cool dark place. The longer it rests, the better the taste will be. (No need to stir — all you have to do is wait.) As limoncello sits, vodka slowly will take on flavor and rich yellow color of lemon zest.

In large saucepan, combine sugar and water; cook until thickened, about five to seven minutes. Let syrup cool before adding to limoncello mixture. Add to mixture, then add additional bottle of vodka. Allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days.

After rest period, strain and bottle, discarding lemon zest. Keep in freezer until ready to serve.

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