Jars of Renewal — Limoncello

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The first jars of renewal project requires a bit of time to prepare — hence its place in the lineup. The December 2007 issue of Sunset magazine featured a myriad of ideas on what to do with all those lemons us living in the southwestern US would soon be seeing. Sure enough, John’s tree was brimming. With a rosemary limoncello recipe in hand, I harvested dozens of lemons. I had to laugh out loud when later in the year he mentioned he thought the tree was sick because it didn’t produce as much fruit this year. I reassured him that in fact it produced more than ever. I was, um, just using them.
Hey! He’s a bachelor. It’s not like he was sort for a lemon meringue pie. Plus, I’m thinking he’d love what I turned those golden babies into.

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Rosemary Limoncello
“Italy’s Amalfi Coast and adjoining Sorrento Peninsula are the regions most famous for this intensely lemony liqueur, traditionally served ice cold as an after-dinner drink.”

Prep and cook time: About 1 1/2 hours, plus at least 2 weeks and up to 80 days of infusing time.
Makes: 10 2/3 cups (ten 8.5 ounce bottles)

Notes: Either Meyer or Eureka lemons work in this recipe. To speed up the process, shorten the infusing time in steps 2 and 4 to 1 week each, and you’ll have a fine although less intense liqueur. Limoncello keeps indefinitely in the freezer.

18 lemons, washed and dried
One 4-inch rosemary sprig, washed and dried
2 bottles (750 ml each) 100-proof vodka
4 1/2 cups of sugar

Peel lemons with a sharp vegetable peeler, taking only the zest and avoiding any white pith. Put rosemary in a 1 gal glass or ceramic container with a tight seal. Add zest to jar. Pour 750 ml of vodka over rosemary and zest. Seal container. Let sit undisturbed in a cool, dark place for 40 days. (This is a great time to go to Africa, for example.) In a saucepan, bring 5 cups of water to a boil and add sugar. Cook, stirring until sugar has dissolved. Leg sugar syrup cool to room temperature, about 1 hour. Pour syrup and remaining 750 ml of vodka over lemon-vodka mixture. Stir and seal. Let sit in a cool, dark place for another 40 days.
Pour limoncello through cheesecloth into a large spouted pitcher and divide among gift bottles.

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That’s Sunset’s way. My way includes using what you have — two sprigs of rosemary, a giant tupperware container for the mixing and leaving the lemons in the bottles at the end because I think they are pretty and add character. Oh, and I tried peeling them and it was a disaster including skinned knuckles. So the rind stayed on most of these suckers.

To fill and then jazz up the bottles, you’ll need a couple supplies:
Several wide-mouth jars with tight lids, tongs, a funnel, a ladle, fabric, cards, ribbon, pinking shears and rubber bands.

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Voila — fancied up moonshine ready to go in recycled jars. If lemons aren’t in your pantry at the moment, I’m thinking this would also be great with oranges or even Mexican-style with limes. Spicy! If you try it out, let me know. I’d love to hear how you play with the recipe.

Official jar count: 7