Meyer limoncello

March 10, 2011

I know this isn’t quite the way the Italians do it,  but I reckon they might if they got their hands on a bushel of sweet Meyer lemons. I don’t have anything against Sorrento lemons, mind, I just think these smooth little globes of sunshine might have one up on their Mediterranean counterparts.

For starters, Meyer lemons have that tingly, sour kiss of a lemon, but without the bitter lip-biting of those less experienced in the art of making out. Their rinds are satiny, delicate and taut; unlike the clunky, pithy Eureka, covered in all those unfortunate pores.

Normally, limoncello would be made with just the zest of a lemon (and grain spirits, sugar and water – see for yourself in this recipe published on the Washington Post), but using whole Meyer lemons yields a product that is just as fine as a classic Italian limoncello. I did it a little differently: I quartered about a dozen or 16 Meyer lemons and pushed them into a 2-qt jar, then poured a whole 750-mL bottle of grain alcohol over the top. I shook everything up, then put it in a cool, dark place for a month or so (visiting every so often to give things another shake). Then I poured everything into a strainer (saving the liquid) and dumped the lemons into a pot on the stove with about 4 cups of water, 3 cups of sugar and a cup of honey for that sensuous fuzzy bee flavor. I turned on the stove and simmered this lemon mash for a few moments (maybe 5 or 10 minutes) while the sugar dissolved, crushing and juicing the lemons into a wort-of-sorts with a potato smasher. Finally, I strained the lemon-sugar-water mixture into the infused alcohol, stirred everything together and strained into growlers.

Even though I made this because I was at the end of a 20lb case of Meyer lemons and the skin on my hands itched and burned from a two-day marmalade marathon, I would buy lemons just for this purpose. Those lucky you that have trees in their yards, this is the laziest way to use up a lot of lemons at once – only marginally more work than shoveling them into your compost. If it were summertime (alas, it would never be when lemons are in season), I might toy with the idea of adding a sprig or two of lavender to the bottles. I bet a fresh bay leaf would be lovely, too. Maybe I’ll add one or the other later.

Limoncello is a gorgeous apertif (served straight from the freezer), or it can be used to fortify a glass of lemonade. I bet it’d be nice added to a glass of iced hibiscus tea. Shoot, I might just turn up the heat, have a glass and fan myself languidly while staring out the window and fantasizing about living in a warmer clime.

My stars.

19 Responses to Meyer limoncello

  1. lo
    March 10, 2011 at 1:46 pm

    Alright, how could using the whole lemon not be infinitely BETTER than simply using the rind?
    I’ve been craving spring lemon for weeks now, and this isn’t making it any better.

  2. March 10, 2011 at 2:39 pm

    This looks great, Heather! I always use meyers when I make limoncello! :) Next time though, I am going to use the whole lemon – way easier!

  3. March 10, 2011 at 2:50 pm

    I have two Meyer lemon trees, and have been thinking of trying to make some limoncello. I think your recipe is the perfect one to try!

    I’ll keep you posted.

  4. March 10, 2011 at 3:20 pm

    shablazm… that sounds good. i loves me some limoncello. cheers.

  5. March 10, 2011 at 3:22 pm

    That is a great recipe. I really like the idea of the lavender in there. I don’t see what would be wrong about infusing the syrup with some dried lavender flowers when boiling on the stove though to extract the flavor and then be strained out. I’m currently making a batch of Limoncello myself, and when I get to the syrup stage, I’ll see what I can do there, and of course credit it back to you! Thanks for the idea!

    Chef Matt

  6. March 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    This sounds tasty. I just whipped up a batch of strawberry-lemonade concentrate with some of the Meyer lemons from our tree. Wish I had a whooooole lot more lemons :)

  7. Put Up With Me blog
    March 10, 2011 at 4:38 pm

    Can you use regular lemons for this, do you think? Or are Meyers required?

  8. March 10, 2011 at 5:13 pm

    Limoncello is a favouriet around here. It is often used in tiramisu for a real treat, although straight from the glass is perfect too.

  9. Robin L.
    March 10, 2011 at 5:19 pm

    I’ve also got several batches of Limoncello working and like the idea of the lavendar–will definitely give that a try with one! I inherited two CASES of cheap vodka from my mil–and found that running it through a Brita-style water pitcher about 4-5 times will make the liquor a lot smoother. (Not sure about the grain alcohol) Just be careful to label the pitcher so that unsuspecting family members don’t chug what they think is going to be water!

  10. Jaime
    March 10, 2011 at 6:12 pm

    this sounds really good! I’ve made it with just the skins, but this seems like a better use of the whole lemon

  11. March 10, 2011 at 7:48 pm
  12. March 11, 2011 at 3:01 pm

    Love this. I made some years ago but need to revisit. Congrats on the CNN feature, Is that a bar of your soap I spy in the background?

  13. Michelle
    March 12, 2011 at 11:41 am

    I had to go to three different stores here in the rainy NW to find Meyer lemons, but happy to report I found some. I dashed hope and cut them up. They are now quietly seeping away in vodka in the darkest closet in my basement. Can’t wait to taste it when it’s done. Perfect for a girls night in with friends this spring!

  14. March 12, 2011 at 8:34 pm

    Another fab recipe Heather! I have yet to try the famous Meyer lemon but it all looks and sounds delicious. I’ll have my limoncello with an espresso after dinner thanks.

  15. March 13, 2011 at 11:51 am

    I tend to take mine with gin and soda, like a quick Tom Collins.

  16. March 14, 2011 at 10:55 am

    I did limoncello last year, but had to pour it out when we moved. Couldn’t even gift it to friends, because they told me at the last minute that I couldn’t transport it. I cried salty, lemony tears. Maybe again this year, though they’ve been packaging meyers in these stupid little plastic bags at our local grocery, and that pisses me off. Lemons come in rinds. Bananas come in peels. Why package them redundantly??

  17. Diane
    March 14, 2011 at 5:52 pm

    How did you fit 12 to 16 lemons in a 2 quart jar? I just tried! I gave up, got out quart jars and put three quartered lemons in four quart jars.

  18. March 19, 2011 at 5:14 pm

    Love the idea, now I HAVE to make Limoncello!

  19. April 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm

    This is going to be a must recipe for me to try, I have ate lemons since I was a child like they are apples. Love love love them :-)