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Culinary Class: Limoncello

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Liquid Sunshine

Six Steps to an Italian Classic

Written by Lia Grabowski | Photos by Jonathan Boncek

Born from just four ingredients—lemons, alcohol, sugar, and time— limoncello is an elegant way to preserve the citrus that grows prolifically throughout the lower South in winter months. Start by scrubbing your lemons with ordinary dish soap, and don’t skimp on elbow grease, especially if they are store-bought. Supermarket lemons are paraffin-glossed to prevent moisture loss, and while the coating is nontoxic, you’ll have better results without it. We recommend scraping the white pith from each peel—the process can be tedious, but leaving the pith can turn your liqueur bitter. Once the lemon peels are submerged, store the mixture in a cabinet or pantry away from sunlight. Most of the flavorful oils will be extracted within the first four days, but the flavor will continue to develop over time, so be patient and avoid opening the jar during the steeping process. While a strainer can easily separate lemon peels from the alcohol, a cheesecloth or coffee filter will remove particulates that could continue to steep and turn bitter. Once you add the simple syrup, return the jar to its cool, dark place and muster all the patience you have—the longer it rests, the smoother it will be. When it’s ready, serve the limoncello straight from the freezer as a digestif in true Italian fashion, or mix with clear liquor and club soda for a fizzy citrus sipper.