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Paste-approved Limoncello Recipe

January 16, 2007  |  12:00am

Liquid sunshine. DeVito's Bane. Happiness in a glass. Call it what you want, it's the ultimate fulfillment of the lemon's divine purpose. Our recipe comes from the little town of Porto Ercole on Italy's Mediterranean coast, by way of self-proclaimed Paste historian, Patrick Connelly. It aids both digestion and dull dinner parties:

Ingredients:
Zest from 8-10 lemons
1 liter pure grain alcohol
2 liters whole milk
1.6 kilograms sugar (~7 cups)
2 grams vanilla (~1 teaspoon)

Essential Tools:
-Ceramic bowl big enough to hold the liter of alochol
-a micro-planer or zester (to get zest off lemon)
-cheesecloth
-wooden spoons only
-pot large enough to hold all ingredients
-glass bottles to store it in

Instructions:
1. Pour 1/2 liter of alcohol into a ceramic bowl.
2. Grate the zest from all 8 lemons into the alcohol in the ceramic bowl. It is much, much easier if you use a micro-planer or zester to get the zest off the lemon. Grate only the yellow zest off the peel. If you go too deep and get the white, it will make it bitter.
3. Add the remaining 1/2 liter of alchol.
4. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and sit on counter (at room temp--don't refrigerate) for a minumum of 48 hours. You can let it sit an extra day if desired.
5. After 48 hours, bring the milk and sugar to a SLOW boil, stirring thoroughly. Add vanilla and let it cool completely. We usually do this in the evening, cover it after done cooking it, and leave out overnight to cool. Again, don't refrigerate, room temp is important.
6. The next day, use cheesecloth to strain out the lemon peel. Add the lemon-flavored alcohol to the milk/sugar mixture. Stir together with a wooden spoon.
7. Put in glass bottles and freeze. The alcohol prevents limoncello from freezing, but you should end up with a thick, eggnog-like mixture. We use a plastic funnel to put it in the bottles.
8. Keep in freezer and serve ice cold. (It's just not the same at room temp).

Yield: ~ 3 ½ liters
Serving Size: ~2 oz.
Makes about 55-60 Servings

IMPORTANT: Whenever we have deviated from these instructions - a la using different spoons and bowls, refrigerating, etc. - it never comes out the same. Use glass, ceramic and wood as described - for some reason it can react to metal and plastic (we do use a plastic funnel to get the lemoncello in the glass bottles, but it doesn't seem to have any effect). Any part of the routine we have changed has hindered the taste or curdled the mixture.

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