I was lucky enough to grow up with some amazing culinary traditions. When I was a kid we made homemade pasta, jarred tomatoes, pickled vegetables, made fresh sausage and we even tried our hand at homemade wine. We did these things with our aunts and uncles and cousins and had such great fun while creating some of my favorite memories (ok well the tomatoes weren’t always 100% fun). These traditions were completely foreign to most of our friends and I think we just grew accustomed to being different. So when I first met Mike, because we came from two totally different backgrounds, I had a few preconceived notions about what his perspectives on food and drink might be like. For some reason I was convinced that he wouldn’t like Italian food or wine, so I certainly didn’t think he would like limoncello.
He put some of these concerns to rest on our third date at a Spanish restaurant in our neighborhood when he asked for the wine list and confessed (here it is, I knew it), that he wasn’t particularly interested in the Spanish wines they were offering and would much prefer a Bordeaux. Really? This changed everything. Not only did he like wine, but he had opinions about Bordeaux. I didn’t even know anything about Bordeaux! Could Italian cuisine and wine be far behind? Very quickly I learned that Mike enjoyed many kinds of food and beverages and he was pretty knowledgeable about it as well.
The day I remembered about the limoncello I had in the freezer, Mike’s eyes practically jumped out of their sockets. On the last trip I made to Italy with my mom, we brought back a bottle of my cousin Patrizia’s homemade limoncello. Years after I thought it was long gone, I found a stash in my mom’s freezer. Liquid gold! As far as Mike was concerned I should have lead with this. How could I have been holding out on him he wanted to know!?! Things were getting exciting.
My cousin Patrizia lives in an area on the outskirts of Rome called Ciampino. It seems that not only the climate and the soil, but the very air in this town are simply perfect for growing vibrant lemon trees with beautiful lemons twice the size of anything you’d find in your local market. For those lucky Italians like Patrizia, these are the epitome of fresh and locally-sourced, as the tree is quite literally right in her back yard. By reaching outside her window, she has the means to season a fish dinner, upgrade a plain glass of water or make the most amazing limoncello any time she wants!
It’s been months since Mike and I enjoyed the last of that secret stash, but it seems limoncello has been on our minds. We’ve talked about it a few times, lamenting the beautiful empty bottle that is still in our cupboard while plotting visits to Rome to restock. It seems almost silly that it took us so long, but once we got the idea in our heads there was only one thing to do. Like many things we’ve encountered, where the genuine version is hard to come by, I guess we’ll just have to make it ourselves! Now if you’ve been reading along with BBTK, by now you must know that a research project was shortly underway, and thus a highly detailed recipe will surely accompany today’s post. Don’t be intimidated though. It’s really pretty easy.
Mike and I quickly got to work emailing family members and scouring the internet for the best recipes and methods for producing this delicious lemon spirit. We were delighted to find inspiration from a variety of sources. From a recipe printed on tea towels found on the Amalfi coast, to regular go-to sources like Lidia & Giada, and our most recent favorites, Gabriele and Debi of the Tuscan Gun, there were any number of methods to choose from. The one we’re following most closely however, is the recipe given to us from my cousin Patrizia back in Rome. After all, we’ve tasted her limoncello, it’s amazing, and she’s family passing down a beautiful tradition.
Our first batch is underway, and the anticipation is really beginning to grow. We’ve had the lemon peels macerating in a gallon jar for about two weeks now, and tonight we will be adding the homemade simple syrup for the final mixture, which will then age for two more weeks to mellow and mature. In early August, we’ll be bottling some for family and friends, and tasting our first attempt at carrying on this lovely and refreshing summer tradition, from our family in Rome to the freezer in our tiny NYC kitchen. Salute!
Find our recipe and related related info at the link below: