With its moderate Mediterranean climate, the unparalleled grape-growing region of Northern California attracts visitors from everywhere in the world. Humble Abode Inc. is blessed to be located in the beautiful heart of Sonoma County Wine Country, where less heralded but exceptional produce grows alongside the scenic vineyards.
We have perfect growing conditions for strawberries, figs, and even some citrus trees. One of our local favorites is the Meyer lemon, a sweet, versatile variety prized by chefs everywhere. A co-worker says her seven-year-old tree has heavily-perfumed blossoms nearly all year, and bears fruit from December to May.
The crop is so huge this year, she brought several dozen lemons to the Humble Abode office last week. You would’ve thought the lemons were lumps of solid gold! Word traveled fast, creating a rush to the break room for fresh cups of hot tea, bottles of spring water, and even fresh squeezed lemonade, all with chunks of the juicy citrus. They loaded up produce bags with more to take home amid exclamations about the wonderful lemony aroma.
Our Meyer lemon fiesta included ways to use this gold mine of lemons. Talk of mojitos created a buzz, until a colleague said he would make limoncello over the weekend. Why pay $25 for a bottle of this popular lemon liqueur imported from southern Italy, when you can make your own quite easily and inexpensively?
Everyone clamored for the recipe – and more fat, fragrant Meyer lemons, please! – so we thought you might like to see how simple it is to make your own batch of this luscious golden ambrosia.
To produce approximately one quart of homemade limoncello liqueur:
- Use a vegetable peeler to remove strips of the bright yellow outer skin of about 5-6 large or 8-10 medium size Meyer lemons. Be careful not to include any of the white pith that is between the skin and the fruit.
- Put the lemon zest into a quart size glass jar and fill with unflavored vodka or other neutral spirit.
- Shake well to mix, tighten the lid, then store in a cool dark place until the lemon shavings lose their color. Give the container a few shakes every few days until the liquid turns a bright yellow and is very aromatic, approximately 2-3 weeks.
- Strain the liquid through moistened cheesecloth into a clean jar or bottle; be sure to squeeze all the liquid out of the cloth to get all the flavor.
- Make a simple syrup by combining one cup of sugar with one cup of water in a saucepan over medium heat. Stir until the sugar is completely dissolved and has a mildly darkened color. Do not boil.
- When the syrup is cooled to almost room temperature, add it a little at a time to the lemon and vodka liquid until the mixture’s sweetness suits your taste.
- Pour the liqueur through a funnel into a large sterilized bottle and seal tightly. Let your limoncello rest for at least a week – the longer it ages, the smoother and more complex the flavors.
- When it’s ready, keep the limoncello well-chilled by storing in your freezer – it will not freeze because of the alcohol.
- Pour into your best liqueur stemware and impress your guests with this gorgeous homemade ambrosia after a wonderful meal or just hanging out on balmy summer evening.
If you have any unusual ideas for using lemons, please drop us a comment. We love hearing from you!