Give a bottle of homemade limoncello as a gift and you'll earn a reputation as a cosmopolitan gourmet -- and there's no reason to point out that making this liqueur takes minimal effort. A traditional Italian after-dinner drink, limoncello is tart and sweet and packs a powerful alcoholic punch. Sip yours on its own or mix it into gin- or fruit-based cocktails.
Start by scrubbing clean some organic lemons; non-organic lemons may be coated in wax and pesticides. Use a vegetable peeler, microplane grater or lemon zester to remove only the yellow zest from each fruit, taking care not to get any white pith in the zest. Transfer the zest to a glass jar and pour in enough vodka or clear grain alcohol to cover it. As a guide, you'll probably need about two to three lemons per cup of alcohol. Tightly seal the jar and store it in a cool, dark place for two to 10 days. The longer you can let it steep, the deeper the lemon flavor.
After the liquid has steeped, pour it through a sieve set over a bowl. Discard the zest caught in the sieve. Meanwhile, stir together equal parts sugar and water in a saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves. Let this simple syrup cool to room temperature, then start stirring it into the alcohol. Start with about 1/2 cup of syrup per cup of alcohol, then taste. Continue adding syrup until the limoncello tastes neither overpoweringly tart nor sweet. Use a funnel to pour the limoncello into bottles or jars with tightly fitting caps. Store the bottles in the freezer for as long as one year.
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Cooking, travel and parenting are three of Kathryn Walsh's passions. She makes chicken nuggets during days nannying, whips up vegetarian feasts at night and road trips on weekends. Her work has appeared to The Syracuse Post-Standard and insider magazine. Walsh received a master's degree in journalism from Syracuse University.
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