Dan and I decided it was time for more virtual travel so we booked a class on how to make limoncello through Airbnb. Our host, Rosa taught the class from her apartment in Salerno, Italy situated on the Amalfi Coast in the region of Campagna. Rosa works as a walking tour guide where she takes her trekkers off the beaten path to places that cannot be reached by car. She then will take you to eat and drink with the locals as part of the experience.
Rosa began the class with a brief geographical perspective of the region. Using maps she showed the location. Photos provided spectacular views of the area from her roof top terrace which she was unable to show us during the class since it was night there. Italy is 6 hours ahead of us in south Florida.
Compagna is full of hills. The people of the region have flattened some of the land into terraces for farming. Many in this region are used for growing lemons which is the second largest economy after tourism for the area. The lemons face the sea and are in full sun. Rosa explains that Amalfi lemons are sweeter than other lemons and that they slice them and eat them with a little sugar. She said these are similar to California lemons in the U.S. With the abundance of lemons limoncello is a natural product.
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How to Make Limoncello
Rosa taught her mother’s recipe during the class which I recommend taking for yourself. You can sign up here. However, our recipe is adapted to U.S. measurements and availability of ingredients.
- 8 lemons
- 750ml Pure Proof 151
Directions for Phase 1
- Start by scrubbing the surface of the lemons.
- Then using a potato peeler, peel the lemons into a wide mouth jar. It is important to try not to get the bitter white pith located under the peel.
- Once the peels are in the jar, pour the alcohol over them and seal.
- Make sure to place the jar away from direct light and heat sources.
The peel is used because it is the most flavorful part of the lemon. The alcohol releases the essential oils located under the peel.
Now for the hard part: Waiting for 5 days!
Directions for Phase 2
- After you have left the peels soaking in the alcohol for at least five days,(we did ours for 7), strain into a large bowl and leave in the strainer for at least 10 minutes to make sure you don’t waste any of the alcohol.
- While this is draining you will make the simple syrup. Over low to medium heat dissolve 3 cups of sugar in 3 cups of water. Make sure to stir until the sugar completely disolves. Once the sugar is dissolved, remove from heat and let the mixture return to room temperature for about 20 minutes.
- When the syrup is cooled discard lemon peels and add the sugar mixture to the alcohol.
- After that transfer the alcohol into bottles by using a funnel and place in the refrigerator for 2 days to blend the flavors.
Limoncello should be kept in the refrigerator and served cold. If you would like you can chill cordial glasses in the freezer ahead of time. This beverage is meant to be sipped after dinner with dessert as a digestif. Also if you prefer a stronger libation, decrease the amount of water and sugar to 2 cups each.
What do I do with all those Leftover Lemons after I learn how to make limoncello?
Rosa offerred several suggestions.
When Life Gives you Lemons Make Lemonade
During the summer you could squeeze the lemons, add sugar and water to make lemonade. Rosa says Italians like to be fancy so you could slice some lemons to place in the lemonade pitcher. Or you could mix in some fresh mint leaves. Another variation would be to use sparkling water instead of plain water.
Lemon Curd (otherwise known as lemon jam)
To make lemon curd, begin by slicing the lemons and removing the seeds. Then you need to soak them overnight to get rid of the bitterness of the white pith. We recommend soaking longer than 24 hours, ours was still a bit bitter. When they have soaked sufficiently, drain them. After that you will need to weigh your lemons. Add them to a pot with half their weight in sugar and a little water, just enough to cover the lemons. Cook the mixture down until thick like jam. Transfer to jars while still hot. Make sure to fill to the top and close. Turn upside down. The heat and pressure will seal the jars so you do not need to refrigerate the lemon curd until opened. Once the jars cool you can turn them right side up.
What are some additional ways to use lemon curd?
As Rosa stated, Italians love their cheese. You can serve pieces of cheese with topped with this tangy jam. She also mentioned making a favorite dessert from ricotta cheese and lemon jam. Just stir up some ricotta cheese to make it creamy and top with a couple of spoonfuls of lemon curd. Of course you should serve this dessert with Limoncello.
However, I came up with this variation of lemon chicken. (Ok, this might not be Italian, but at least it’s Mediteranean).
Donnamarie’s Lemon Chicken
- 4-5 chicken thighs with skin on
- lemon curd
- fresh spinach
- feta cheese
- salt and pepper to taste
Basically I used whatever I had in my refrigerator so I don’t have exact quantities. Feel free to make your own variations and let me know how they turn out.
- First cook up the spinach in a bit of olive oil in a skillet. Add whatever seasonings you like. I think I added a little garlic powder because my family loves garlic.
- Once it is cooked mix in the feta. If you don’t have feta, let the spinach cool to room temperature and mix in whatever cheese you prefer.
- Then stuff the chicken thighs by pressing some of the spinach mixture under the skin. The skin creates a pocket.
- Finally, sprinkle the chicken with salt and pepper and rub some lemon curd on the skin.
- When the chicken is prepared cook covered at about 350 degrees for about half an hour. Then remove cover to finish cooking and crisp the skin, about another 20-30 minutes. I checked mine every 10 minutes to brush the juices over the skin.
- Make sure to cook chicken to an internal temperature of 165F and serve with salad. Again, I used whatever veggies were in my fridge and topped my salad with pitted kalamata olives.
Hope you are inspired to try this yourself and to make the trip to Salerno to visit Rosa in person to take one of her tours. Let us know if you try the recipes or if you come up with any additional ways to use the extra lemons. Ciao!
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