Crema di Limoncello

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With the warming weather, our lemons are practically falling of the trees. Here’s a lovely way to use them, homemade limoncello from guest contributor Garrett McCord. Enjoy! ~Elise

Limoncello is a traditional digestif (a drink served after the meal to theoretically aid in digestion, but also an excuse for another nip) served throughout Southern Italy, particularly in the area surrounding the Gulf of Naples.

It’s produced by infusing a strong alcohol with the zest of plenty of lemons and then adding sugar, resulting in a sweet, floral, and citrusy spirit.

It’s a bright and memorable end to a genial meal with friends and family. While there are many producers who have been making it for years, many families make their own. And why not? It’s so easy to do!

This particular, modern limoncello recipe was taught to me by my friend, Dennis Kercher, an adept home chef who for years ran a popular underground restaurant here in Sacramento.

He infused his liquor, Everclear being the best choice for its liver-shockingly high alcohol content and ability to adopt flavors, with lemons and then blended it with milk and sugar.

He always served it at the end of the meal chilled – almost frozen – in tiny ice cold glasses that could hold no more than perhaps an ounce.

An ounce was more than enough. It was gloriously rich, almost like melted ice cream, with a kick that could send you to the moon (or at least home in a taxi).

I’ve adapted the recipe a bit by making it a bit stronger and adding a vanilla bean to give it a sweeter, creamier, rather indulgent flavor.

Feel free to use regular lemons or Meyer lemons, though I use the regular lemons for their more assertive presence. This is a simple drink to keep on hand for yourself, for guests, or give out as gifts.

Crema di Limoncello Recipe

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  • Yield: Makes a little more than 3 quarts.

Ingredients

  • 10 lemons
  • 1 (750-ml) bottle Everclear (a quality vodka will do if you can't find it)
  • 8 cups (1.9 liters) whole milk
  • 5 cups sugar (1 kilogram or 2.2 pounds)
  • 1/2 vanilla bean, seeds and pod
  • cheesecloth
  • bottles

Method

1 Zest the lemons using a lemon zester or the fine groove side of a grater. (Save the zested lemons and use them for some of our great lemon recipes!) Place the zest and the Everclear in a container and allow to infuse in a dark, cool place for a week.

After a week has passed strain the liquid through the cheesecloth into a very large glass, stainless steel, or ceramic bowl.

2 In a large stockpot or sauce pan, warm the milk, sugar, and vanilla bean seeds and pod over medium heat and cook, stirring frequently, until dissolved.

Remove from the heat and allow the mixture to cool to room temperature (this will take a few hours). Discard the vanilla bean (wash it and save it for another use) and strain the mixture through the cheesecloth.

3 Combine the Everclear infusion with the sweet milk and stir together. Pass through a colander lined with cheesecloth to catch any solids. Funnel into bottles and store in the freezer.

Be sure to leave room in the bottles for the mixture to expand if it freezes to avoid an explosion. Use within six months. Serve small amounts in chilled glasses.

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Garrett McCord

Garrett McCord is a food writer, writing instructor, culinary consultant, freelance food photographer, and recipe developer who shares his enthusiasm for food and the written word through his blog Vanilla Garlic. Garrett's cookbook, co-authored with Stephanie Stiavetti, is Melt: The Art of Macaroni and Cheese

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Showing 4 of 30 Comments

  • Joanie B

    Is it normal for the mixture to curdle when combining the vodka/lemons with the milk mixture? I was able to strain all the curds out, but wanted to make sure it wasn’t going to make anyone sick.

  • Jim Pat

    how do i keep milk and vodka from separating……i used 2% milk.

  • Melissa

    Made this last night and it seems a little lumpy. I followed all directions except couldn’t let it cool for several hours, but it did seem to be room temperature when I mixed it. Any advice? Maybe I just need to shake it really well before serving?

  • Scott

    I made this last week but found that the everclair was a little overpowering. Would allowing the zest and everclair to sit for a longer period lessen the bite from the everclair or should I just use half everclair and half vodka. Just curious to see if anyone encountered this

  • Patsy

    Does anyone have any ideas for using this in desert recipes please ?

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