November in the kitchen – Limoncello

November in the kitchen – Limoncello

Have you ever had Limoncello? It originated in Italy and is considered a digestif, an aid to digestion after a heavy meal. Sounds like Thanksgiving dinner is right up there as an appropriate time to drink it. Thanksgiving, feasting, and overeating go together. Since I am a lazy baker, it’s my friend. I serve it throughout the year as dessert with a cookie (store bought but good quality) on the side. Shortbread is my favorite. No one complains.

Surprisingly, for being something so simple, there are an amazing number of recipes for Limoncello. Following is the recipe that has become my favorite, but it is not traditional. Limoncello usually has only three ingredients…lemon peel, vodka, and simple syrup. The vodka recommended is often 100 proof or Everclear. I’ve tried 100 proof vodka, and found it too strong; I’ve tried regular 80 proof with only the addition of simple syrup and found it neither distinctive or lemony enough. So, I add some squeezed lemon juice at the end. I think it gives a lemony freshness to the final product. I haven’t drunk a lot of Limoncello from commercial companies or in Italy, so I’m biased to what I like rather than trying to copy something.

There are still Meyer lemons on my backyard tree. I use them throughout the year in lots of recipes. Since they are organic, they only need a good scrubbing. Use organic lemons if you can get them. Non-organic lemons often have a coating of wax, which needs to be removed before you peel them. In addition, the alcohol will pull everything from the lemon peel including any insecticides or fungicides on the surface. Meyer lemons make a delicious limoncello, but regular ones work as well.

I’ve found a lovely tool for peeling the lemons (and leaving the white, which will be bitter). It’s made by Oxo and is intended for peeling soft skinned fruit such as peaches. It is a wonder!


Liz’s Limoncello

  • 10 lemons, organic if possible, scrubbed
  • 1 750 ml bottle of vodka, regular 80 proof
  • 1 cup of Meyer lemon juice or ½ cup of regular lemon juice
  • Water to make 1 ½ cups combined with the lemon juice
  • 1 ½ cups of sugar
  1. Peel the lemons, being careful to remove only the yellow peel and none of the white.
  2. Place the peels in a clean glass jar.
  3. Pour the vodka over the peels.
  4. Juice enough of the lemons to make 1 cup of Meyer lemon juice or ½ cup of regular lemon juice. Place it in the freezer to add to the finished limoncello.
  5. Cover the glass container with vodka and peels, leave out of direct sunlight for 4 to 6 weeks in a cool place (not the refrigerator).
Meyer lemon peels

Meyer lemon peel in vodka

Meyer lemon peel

Meyer lemon peel

  1. At the end of the soaking time, make your simple syrup and defrost the lemon juice. You will need 1/2 cup of water for Meyers or 1 cup of water for regular lemons. Combine the water and the sugar in a saucepan; bring to a boil to dissolve the sugar, cool, then add the thawed lemon juice.
  2. Add the combined simple syrup and lemon juice to the vodka and lemon peel mixture.
  3. Let sit for an hour or so.
  4. Strain through a fine mesh strainer or cheesecloth into a clean bottle.
  5. Refrigerate for a few days to mellow.

Limoncello is often stored in the freezer, but this one will freeze solid. I store it in the fridge (it keeps forever, if it lasts that long). Serve in small, frosted glasses.

Do you have a favorite drink recipe for the holidays?

Cucumbers continued, part 3 – Cucumber-lemon-limeaid

Cucumbers continued, part 3 – Cucumber-lemon-limeaid

This final recipe is adapted from the Smitten Kitchen. I recommend the blog and the cookbook if you don’t know it. This is a wonderful, refreshing Indian Summer cooler. You will need 1 large cucumber, about 1 lb. Peel the cucumber and cut it in half (if you use an English cucumber from the store you probably don’t need to peel it), remove any large seeds with a teaspoon, and cut it into chunks. Puree it in your blender until smooth, then let the blender run for another 30 seconds to a minute until it is liquid. Strain the contents of the blender through a coffee filter into a jar or carafe. Juice enough lemons and limes (I used about 7 lemons and 3 limes) to make 1 cup of juice and add it to the cucumber juice. Add another 2 cups of cold water and 1/3 cup of sugar (to taste), there you have it. Shake the container a few times and put it into the refrigerator, the sugar will dissolve. A simple syrup would also work but I didn’t find it was necessary and it is an extra step. Other sweeteners such as agave syrup or honey could also work, they will change the flavor. I used organic cane sugar from Trader Joe’s. Serve well chilled. In Smitten Kitchen they recommend adding some seltzer when you serve it, I only had sparkling water on hand and it was fine.

This is good as is or served over ice with a jigger of gin or vodka, with or without the sparkling water. Leaving off the 2 cups of water (but keeping some sugar) it makes quite a good mixer for cocktails. I also froze some of the concentrate in ice cube trays, I plan to use them in margaritas and will let you know how they turn out.


1 large cucumber, peeled and large seeds removed

7 lemons and 3 limes – enough to make 1 cup of juice

1/3 cup sugar

2 cups cold water