Monday, March 5, 2012

When Life Hands You Lemons Make Limoncello!

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.


  1. I love limoncello! I keep it in the freezer. My daughter-in-law is Italian and we drink it together.Great in the summertime.

    1. I just started my second batch. I'm going for the 90-day really mellow stuff. I've caught up with the ripe lemons now, but the tree has lots of fruit the size of the small Mexican limes, and lots more that are tiny. It is also still covered with blossoms. I think I will be making lots of limoncello in the future if this keeps up.