We need something to snap us out of this icy winter, don’t we? So far this January I’ve learned about, and experienced, ice storms, a polar vortex and frost quakes. I think that’s enough of ice and snow. Around this time of year I also start to miss all the fresh food from the garden and all the produce options from local farmers. I need something fresh and light to brighten up this grey January.
Last year, I shared a recipe for Limoncello, an intense Italian liqueur, that to me embodied everything fresh, bright and exciting about spring. Well, it’s time to get that feeling back, but with a twist. I’ve tried out the same recipe, but with limes. The result, another vivid and crisp flavour that you can serve up as an after-dinner drink or use in desserts (the friends I’ve shared this with agree that well-chilled, it is wonderful over ice cream).
Make sure to pick out the best, shiny limes for this recipe. While you only use the zest of the limes, don’t waste the juice! Use it to make lime-ade (like lemonade), vinaigrette for salads or granita (Italian ice dessert).
12-14 good quality limes
1 litre of 90 proof alcohol
900 grams sugar
2 litres of water
Make sure the limes you select have good looking peels, without marks or brown spots. Wash them well in cool water without soap.
Using a zester or fine grater, remove zest (top layer of peel) from the limes. Be careful to avoid the white area of the peel just below the surface, as it can make the drink bitter.
Steep the lime zest in the 90-proof alcohol for 12 days. This brings out the flavour and colour from the limes. Leaving it too long can make the final drink have a bitter or tart aftertaste.
After 12 days prepare the second part of the limecello mix: the simple syrup. In a large pot, bring the water to a boil and add in the sugar. Bring it back up to a boil and continue to boil until the sugar is dissolved. Let this sugar water cool completely.
Meanwhile, you can strain the lime zest from the alcohol. Pour the steep alcohol first into a strainer, placed over a bowl, to remove the zest. Then run the limecello through coffee filters, three to four times, to remove the finer particles of peel. This is best done with flat-bottomed coffee filters (but I had none in the house – it still worked out though!).
Straining the liqueur will make your limecello clear and avoid any sediment on the bottom of your drink. You can also strain your water/sugar mixture one or twice when cool to ensure a clear final product.
Once both your liquids are at room temperature and strained, mix the two together to make your limecello complete! Take a shot and make sure it’s just what you wanted! If you tend to like stronger liqueurs, you may want to add the simple syrup a few cups at a time, tasting along the way. Alternatively, if you like sweeter drinks, adding more water/sugar will make the limecello a great cocktail mix..
Store your limecello in a cool place like a cellar or a fridge. It is best served right out of the freezer as a after-dinner aperitif, over ice cream or use it as an ingredient in desserts.