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The History of Limoncello

by Maria Liberati on 14/03/09 at 4:55 am

Join Celebrity Chef Maria Liberati as she explores the history and some facts about this tasty after dinner drink.

If you’ve never had the pleasure of trying the Italian classic limoncello, you are missing out! Limoncello, a “digestivo” or dessert drink originating from Southern Italy, is today common the United States and France as well as its home country. You can find limoncello served in small chilled glasses, never with ice, after dinner in most Italian homes or restaurants. Some places occasionally alter it slightly and make a cream of limoncello, which is the same creation but with milk added.

Limoncello traces back centuries ago to Italian convents, where the nuns created a drink called a “rosoli”. The most common areas that produced this concoction which later turned into limoncello were Southern Italy around the Gulf of Naples, the Sorrentine Peninsula, the coast of Amalfi and islands of Procida, Capri, Sicily, and Sardinia. Although you will hear different arguments, most claim that the best limoncello can be found on the island of Capri.

Limoncello is not a complicated recipe, and since very few ingredients are required, you can make it at home too. Traditionally, it is made from lemon rinds, preferably from Sorrento lemons, which are sweet and bright in color but not as sour as typical lemons. Amalfi lemons are also good as they are said to have a strong scent and a sweet pulp, and the fact that they don’t have very many seeds is a plus. In fact, they are so sweet that they have been nicknamed “bread” because some Italians actually eat slices of the lemon plain since they are not overly sour.

The lemon rinds are then mixed with alcohol, which is typically vodka or grain alcohol; water; and sugar. If ever clear is the alcohol that you choose to use, it is recommended that you dilute it to 40% alcohol so that it isn’t too strong. The higher the alcohol proof, the more lemon flavor is extracted. Limoncello comes out sweet and delicious, and the reason it doesn’t taste sour is because only the rinds of the lemons are used and not the juice. If you are making it in large quantities, limoncello can be stored in your freezer when you are not serving it, as it will not freeze over due to the alcohol content.

Also you should note that in order for a product to be allowed (according to E.U. regulations) to be labeled as Limoncello- the lemons used have to be the typical large lemons from Sorrento. They are grown without pesticides and have very thick skin and not perfect in shape just in taste. If not using this lemon, the product will be called by a similar name-Limoncino, and other similar names.

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