Last May I was in Monterosso, Cinque Terre, Italy, where lemons are king and queen of everything! It was my first experience drinking limoncello, also called limoncino, and I loved it. So did the girlfriends I was traveling with. In December, a local Italian restaurant started selling their own homemade limoncello at about $20US for about 650ml.
It was pretty raw - what I'd expect for white lightning. It needed to age much longer than it had. I put it in the cupboard and waited over two months before I tried it again. It was much better - and just in time for a reunion between the three of us. We drank the bottle in one sitting. (We had a little help from the guys.)
That got me thinking about the mysterious lime tree I had at home. I bought this tree at least three years ago. The nursery lady told me it was a seedless limon. That's the word used around here for limes - lemons are not common in Mexico. I planted it in a pot and it gave me limes that first year. I moved it to the backyard and put it in the ground - and got almost nothing for over a year. It finally started putting out limes again last spring.
At least, I thought they were limes. They were small. They were green. They fell off the tree in that condition, right at the size I expected for a seedless lime. I used those limes all the time for fish and margaritas.
This winter, a funny thing started to happen. The limes stayed on the tree longer and seemed to be getting over ripe (yellowish) before I could use them. Then the limes began growing those little lemony bumps on the blossom ends - but only some of them. I began to wonder. I looked up lemons and limes on the internet. Apparently it is not unusual to not know the difference, but what I had seemed to fit the description of limes.
Last month the tree started going really crazy. It was suddenly just covered with large yellow fruit with bumps - all of them. There was no way I could keep up with them. I decided that it was a sign that I should be making limoncello!
I started my first batch almost three weeks ago. Tomorrow I will start another batch. Judging by the number of blossoms and tiny little fruits on the tree, I will be making many more batches in the future. I've studied my recipe carefully and decided that mine will age about three months - I like it mellow.
And the thing is, limoncello uses only the yellow part of the skin, so I still get to use the lemon juice. Fortunately, when we were in Monterosso, I also picked up recipes for Lemon Sorbet, Lemon Mousse, Cream of Limoncello, and Lemon and Pistachio Tort.