lemonsBuongiorno Sorrento. Yellow lemony scented sunny Sorrento where a tourist can’t walk down the narrow commercial lane without being proffered a refreshingly cool limoncello. “Please, Signora, you like?” I was an easy target, on a day so hot that sweat was dripping down my back. Who could resist a cold sip here and another sip there, despite its incremental heady effects. Since each vendor implied that their brew of this popular Italian liqueur was the best, who was I to deny them the opportunity to prove it?

Southern Italy is renowned for its lemons, so I discovered while on a Mediterranean cruise. From the port of Naples, a group of eight of us joined a prearranged driver who expertly guided us along the Amalfi coast, stopping in at several fairy tale villages; a new panorama around every twisty curve of the road. We swept by fruit laden trees along the way to Sorrento that proved to be a favourite destination. Such beauty, so many tempting souvenirs, and so little room in my small carry-on suitcase (actually part of a souvenir prevention plan) but I couldn’t resist buying a few lemon infused items like rice, biscotti, sugar and candy after each amorous experience with limoncello. One of my travel companions bought a huge irresistible cannoli to share on the spot. Crisp rolled wafer cookie on the outside with a creamy filling and chocolate – mamma mia! We had but one dreamlike lemon-scented hour in Sorrento but even squeezed in a relaxing cappuccino in the central piazza where a statue of Saint Antonio presides. Later in Amalfi, my day of lemons was complete with a dish of lemon gelato topped off with a vibrant green wafer.

I haven’t tried it yet, but limoncello looks very simple to make.  On a warm summer’s night it makes a great after dinner drink, or anytime of year it’s a sip of bottled sunshine to remind you of sunnier days. Since the recipe uses the peel and not the juice of the lemons, make up a batch of lemonade at the same time. A love affair with lemons; that’s Sorrento!

Limoncello

(Note: Italian recipes call for higher proofs of alcohol but this recipe uses what is readily available in Canada, 40% alcohol. This finished recipe should be approximately 23% alcohol unlike commercially available products which are 32% to 40% alcohol.)

8 lemons, washed well

4 cups vodka (80 proof, 40% alcohol)

2 cups water

2 cups sugar

Peel the lemons with a vegetable peeler. Trim away all bitter white pith on the peels with a small knife and discard. Place peels in a 48 oz jar or pitcher. Add alcohol and cover. Leave at room temperature for two to three weeks in a dark place.

Dissolve the sugar into the water over medium heat then cool mixture completely. Pour this syrup over the lemon mixture. Cover and let sit overnight at room temperature. Strain well to remove peels. Transfer limoncello to bottles and refrigerate. Can be used after a day but much better after a month or longer. Place in freezer for an hour before serving so that it’s ice cold. Also try it mixed with tonic water or champagne, or drizzled on ice cream or fruit salad.

Lemonade

2 cups fresh lemon juice

2 cups sugar

1 cup hot water

Dissolve sugar in hot water and add juice. Add cold water to taste; up to a gallon total volume.