Limoncello Layaway

Over a month ago, Jamey and I got a hankering to make our own limoncello. I’m not sure what started this idea, other than the fact that Jamey loves lemons and I love photographing and blogging our recipe escapades. Naturally, this was a recipe and photoblogging plan devised in heaven.

Our homemade limoncello: bottled and poured.

Wait a minute. Now that I’m looking at this picture, I know *exactly* how this venture started: with a TJ Maxx trip. 

There are certain kinds of shopping quests that suck people in. Many of my friends, for example, are privy to falling victim to The Target Zone. This, broadly defined, is when a casual shopper enters Target to purchase a few seemingly innocent necessities. Two hours later, she emerges with a $200 receipt and bagfuls of items she didn’t really need, but all were too cute to pass up. This is called The Target Zone. This scenario is also applicable to Lowe’s, Forever 21, Office Depot, Hobby Lobby, etc. If not you, I am sure you know someone in your family who is said guilty shopper. You get my drift.

When we are not shopping for groceries, Jamey and I like to peruse the aisles of TJ Maxx and Marshall’s. Both stores offer great discounts on brandname products, and we’ve wandered there many a time when we needed “just one workout shirt” or “only a laptop case.” This of course means we stumble to the front checkout with a cart full of mirrors, shoes, scarves, headphones, and other miscellaneous nonsense. In this particular trip several months ago, we came away with limoncello bottles (seen above) for when we wanted “to make our own limoncello.”

I tell you what, friends: Jamey and I are indeed the crazy couple who uses any and all kitchen gadgets on a regular basis. I have no idea how we got ourselves into this, so I guess I can’t complain too much when we come home with limoncello bottles, zesters, kettles, extra dish towels, and more.

Following this Epicurious recipe, our limoncello venture  began at the end of March with the purchase of 15 lemons, which we then zested (with our new zester, also a TJ Maxx purchase).

Zesting those 15 lemons took approximately 4320 hours, or at least that's how it felt. One downside.

After adding a bottle of vodka to the zest, we popped that jar into the pantry and let it rest for two weeks.

I kept expecting something to have grown every time I checked on it.

Now, over a month and a half later, I am surprised by how many activities and recipes we’ve done since then. Jamey told me this recipe wouldn’t take long and the weeks would pass, and he was right.  We were surprisingly patient to let the limoncello soak, stir, and fester all in good time.

Two weeks later, we removed the jar from the cupboard for the next phase: making the simple syrup.

Jamey finally taught me how to make the simple syrup: boil water with sugar until it's clear.

This was the fun part. Look at that zest stir.

Took a couple scoops. Think the next gadget on our purchase list needs to be a funnel.

We then mixed in the second vodka bottle:

All the way to the top!

And back into the pantry it goes for another 20 days.

Our groceries rearranged a little bit. I spot my nemesis!

I am not sure how long we waited between phases. The recipe recommends at least 10 days; I know it was two weeks in the first round, and then more than 30 days the second. Either way, after sampling a taste before we bottled it, I am fairly certain we waited just the right amount of time.

More than 30 days later, we pulled the jar out to strain and bottle:

Hello, limoncello! Are you ready to be bottled?

It’s funny – despite our bottle purchases, we even managed to rack up a couple others over the course of the month and a half. The smallest bottle originally held olive oil; the tall one was a Canadian gourmet lemonade [Editor’s noteCANADIAN?! Who would drink Canadian Lemonade? Do our friendly neighbors to the north even know what lemons are? This was French sparkling lemonade.] that we found at the Teeter (of course during a random shopping trip), which was surprisingly too sweet and not yum at all.

And there you have it, folks: the final result.

I am awfully pleased with how all this turned out. The recipe guided us to not scrape any of the white lemon rind while zesting; we did our best to avoid this, which led to a successful sweet taste and zero bitterness. Still, the sweetness might be a little bit overpowering for some. It is definitely a drink best served chilled and sipped in the shot form, unless anyone has any other wonderful pairings to share.

One downside: zesting 15 lemons takes a lot of time, effort, and elbow grease. I am pretty sure Jamey and I were both mildly sore in the forearm after zesting these for two whole hours, but the end result was certainly worth it. (Is there any faster way to zest a lemon other than by hand? Or, is there a magical tool we must buy to make this all go faster?)

It’s fun to think we have two full bottles of this in our fridge. I can’t wait for some ultimate afternoon sippage that involves me sitting on the porch, book in the lap and limoncello in the hand.

And Jamey home, of course.


11 thoughts on “Limoncello Layaway

  1. Pingback: Ribs a la Sous Vide, of course «

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  3. Hopefully, since May you have purchased a Microplane at Sur La Table. It’s about a foot long and is a pretty fast way of zesting lemons.

    By the way, Claire and Jamey…we just received your wedding invitation yesterday. Pretty sure we can attend your wedding. And after reading several articles on your website, am anxious to meet you both. Y’all sound quite fun!!

    Claire, we put your parents up for a while until they found a place to live in California shortly after they were married back in around 1985? Can’t remember. Gary, my husband is your dad’s cousin from Youngstown..your second cousin or first cousin once removed..however they say that. Gary and I met in Cali (I’m a native), but have lived in Indiana nearly 14 years now.

    Fran Nadzam


    • Fran, thank you for making me aware of this Microplane! It sounds exactly like what we need! We have since made Lime-cello this way that was equally delicious. Still need to put a blog post together of that, but a microplane would have definitely helped.

      I just told my mom about your comment here. She says you came to my first and second birthday parties! I do hope you’ll be able to make it to the wedding too. It is going to be a lot of fun, and I’d love to have you meet Jamey as well! I’m a pretty big fan of him 🙂


  4. Hi! I saw your comment on the Epicurious recipe for limoncello and I decided to check out your adventures in limoncello making. I just finished Part One of this production and blogged about it today. I’m glad to hear it turned out so well for you!


    • Can’t believe we missed your comment – but thank you for stopping by! Your limoncello turned out amazing on your end. Have you done any other variations? We tried it with limes, and while good, still didn’t top the lemons. We’re thinking about doing a citrus medley next. Made such a good holiday present, though!


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