Homemade limoncello

Homemade limoncello is so much more delicious than the commercial stuff. This recipe was given to me by Mario, Rosa’s husband; his lemons come from his large orta or vegetable garden in Furci, Abruzzo. In the absence of a tree growing in your garden, make sure you choose unwaxed, organic lemons. You will also need a bottle of 95% pure alcohol. This is routinely available in all supermarkets in Italy (and, I think, France), but banned in the UK for fear people would drink it undiluted. Don’t be tempted! But do stock up the next time you go to mainland Europe as, like sloe gin or quince vodka, it’s hugely satisfying making your own digestivi or after-dinner liqueurs.

6 large, unwaxed lemons or 10 small ones
1 litre of 95% proof alcohol
1.25 litres water
400g sugar

Carefully remove the zest from the lemons.If you have pith still on the peel, then use a flexible long bladed knife to slither it off. Place the zest and alcohol in a large glass bottle or jar, put a lid on it and leave the peel to macerate until it turns white has given up most of its flavour. Which Mario says takes 20 days.

Bring the water to the boil, turn off the heat and stir the sugar until it dissolves. Leave it to cool completely. Strain the alcohol into a bowl, discard the zest, and stir in the sugar syrup. Ladle into some sterilised jars or bottles – this makes about 2.5 litres of limoncello so calculate accordingly and seal. It can be drunk immediately, but I think it’s better left for a week or so for the alcohol and syrup to get to know each other.

Put the limoncello in the fridge or freezer a couple of hours before serving.