Newsletter recipients and Facebook fans will remember my recent Limoncello Challenge – where I took two extreme steeping rules and put them to the test. And I have to say … the results were surprising.
To fully tell this story, I need to go back to when I first tried the homemade limoncello that knocked my socks off (in a totally cool and appropriate way, that is). It was given to me by Marcello’s mamma who understood it was love-at-first-bite and immediately offered up the recipe.
1 liter of alcohol
1.5 liters of water
500 grams of sugar
peeling from 4-5 large lemons
… and the best part? The lemons only have to steep in the alcohol for four days!
Now – fast-forward a few years and I’ve heard of recipes that call for varying amounts of alcohol vs water, varying amount of sugar and the most controversial variant of all … the number of days the lemon peel has to steep.
On a recent Calabrian Table Tour, one of the participants swore by her recipe that called for a 40-day wait.
“40 days? Are you kiddin’ me,” I told her (in a polite and respectful way, of course). “You only need FOUR … and I’m gonna prove it.”
You see, I was convinced that many US-based chefs and experts on Italian cuisine swear by the 40-day rule because making limoncello “should” be hard. But I wasn’t buying it.
So I made two batches of limoncello using the same bottle of alcohol, lemons from the same tree (in our yard!), the same alcohol/water ratio and equal sugar. And I waited.
After four days I made Batch One. After 40, Batch Two …
and I put them to the test with everyone who walked through our door and visited our B&B.
The results shocked me.
During our first mass tasting, I was the lone American with a group of a dozen Italians. My husband jokingly called the two batches “The Italian Recipe” and “The American Recipe” and interestingly enough the Italians overwhelming choose the 40-day “American” recipe. (11-to-1)
Over the next several tastings, the numbers evened out a bit with more people choosing the 4-day batch. In the end, however, the 40-Day Limoncello was preferred.
Here are some of the tasters’ comments.
40-Day Batch Pros
“The limoncello is smoother, you can barely taste the alcohol.”
“There is a stronger lemon taste.”
“It tastes sweeter.”
“This one is easier to drink – it doesn’t even taste like liquor.”
4-Day Batch Pros
“It is stronger-limoncello should be stout.”
“It is not overly sweet.”
I even preferred the 40-day batch because, like my fellow tasters, it was sweet and smooth.
It should be noted, though, that *everyone* who participated in the taste test, even those who chose the 40-day batch, agreed that while it did have a better taste, it wasn’t worth waiting the extra month.
So, tell me. Do you make homemade limoncello? How long do you let your lemons steep?
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