Make your own limoncello

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Have you heard about limoncello, the Italian liqueur? It’s basically the best lemonade ever improved by the addition of a little vodka (or, in some cases a lot of vodka.) Together, this amazing combination forms a refreshing spritzer that is light, delic

A Symphony of cellos


Have you heard about limoncello, the Italian liqueur? It’s basically the best lemonade ever improved by the addition of a little vodka (or, in some cases a lot of vodka.)  Together, this amazing combination forms a refreshing spritzer that is light, delicious, and the perfect summer drink. Even better, lemons are not the only thing that you can turn into a cello. Culinary pioneers are out there making cellos from apple cider, blood orange juice, key lime juice, Meyer lemons, even raspberries and blackberries.

Oh, perhaps best of all, not only do cellos come in all different varieties and not only are they fun to drink, but you can also make them at home. All you just need is a little juice, some vodka, and some patience.

To get the secrets of making cellos at home, Fab Foods asked a master cello producer, Chef Jasper Mirabile of Jasper’s Restaurant in Kansas City, Missouri.  His credentials: “My family has been making limoncello at Jasper's since the early 70's,” he says. 

Not only does he serve it by itself, he also says “We use limoncello in several cocktails and just recently held a sold out ‘Limoncello Experience’ at our restaurant featuring multiple courses cooked with limoncello including several desserts.”  To top it off, his recipe for an airy cake flavored with limoncello appears in his recent cookbook, the Jasper’s Kitchen Cookbook. 

Even better, not only does he make limoncello at his restaurant, he also serves a wicked blood orange cello in the spring and early summer and apple cellos made from local apple cider in the fall.

Chef Jasper explains that there are several ways to make limoncello, but he prefers his way the best.  He says “Start off by making the best lemonade you have ever made.”  None of the powdered stuff, mind you!  Use real lemon juice from fresh squeezed lemons, along with the zest or peels for those lemons, along with a lot of sugar to make the limoncello sweet. 

After that, Chef Jasper adds two bottles of vodka (however, you can go rogue on Chef Jasper and use grain alcohol if you prefer.)  After you have mixed the lemonade and the liquor, it’s merely a process of waiting. It takes about twenty-five days for the liquor/lemonade mixture to become an actual limoncello. However, it’s more than worth the wait!

Once you have perfected your limoncello making skills (see the recipe below for the exact instructions), then you can move on to other types of cellos, like those they serve at Jasper’s. For instance, if you want to make cellos from any other types of citrus (blood oranges, oranges, key limes, etc.) as well as from apple juice, follow the same basic steps.  Make blood orangeade or limeade or use apple cider (not apple juice, use apple cider because it is thicker), add the vodka, and wait your twenty-five days. 

On the other hand, if you want to make cellos from raspberries, blackberries, or grapes, it is going to be slightly more difficult. This is because you cannot just use the fresh fruit due to their tiny seeds.  Instead, you will need to use puree (which you can buy from the store) which has had all of the seeds removed. Combine the puree with water to thin it out and sugar to make it sweet (sort of like raspberry or blackberry-ade). Then add the vodka and let the cello do its thing.

Now that you have an idea of how Chef Jasper makes his various cellos, here is the complete recipe for limoncello. It is best to start with limoncello because you can easily find it at the store. This will give you something to compare yours with should you not have the good fortune to eat at Jasper’s Restaurant.

Jasper’s Limoncello

Ingredients:
20 lemons
2 cups water
4 cups sugar
2 750 ml bottles vodka

Directions:
1.  Wash and peel the lemons.  Squeeze the juice into a measuring cup or bowl.

2.   In a sauce pan, make a simple syrup. Bring the water and sugar to a boil. Remove from the heat and cool.

3.    In a large container with an airtight lid, add the vodka, simple syrup, lemon juice, and lemon peel. Store in a cool, dry area for two weeks.

4.    After two weeks, remove the lemon peels and discard or use them for decorative bottles.  Store the peels in the refrigerator.  Let the limoncello continue to sit for another 2 weeks and serve.

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