Friday, January 27, 2012

When life hands you lemons, make limoncino.

And when it hands you oranges, make spremute.  Fresh squeezed orange juice, or a spremuta, is a great part (and arguable one of the only parts) of breakfast in Italy, as well as a nice refreshment in the afternoon.  When you have 4 pounds of oranges, there is not much else you can do.


peeling away
Winter citrus in Monterosso is abundant and beautiful, and when our neighbor or Manuel shows up with huge bags of oranges and lemons, in odd but endearing shapes, there are only so many things that can be done.  Manuel's uncle from Tuscany makes crema di limoncino from the lemons we bring him whenever we visit, and after acquiring his incredibly simple recipe, I got to work.  Limoncino, or limoncello in the South of the country (they're exactly the same, it's just a north/south language distinction) is a sweet, intensely yellow, lemon flavored liquor that is found in the freezer of every Italian family I know in New Jersey.  It's obviously the same here, and making it at home is easy and costs a fraction of buying a bottle.  Especially with all these beautiful Monterosso lemons.

soaking in alcohol

Crema di limoncino is even better.  Milk is added and when the liqueur is pulled from the freezer, it's creamy, half frozen, rich and sweet, and full of bright, intense lemon flavor.

adding everything together
milk and sugar cooling
I halved the recipe Manuel's Uncle gave me, as 3 liters of limoncino seemed a bit much, so I started with 4  large Monterosso lemons.  I removed the skins (be careful not to take too much of the white pith and just use the skin!) and then added a half-liter of 95 proof alcohol, covered, and let the skins submerge and infuse the alcohol for one week.

Then, the bright yellow alcohol is strained to remove the skins.  In a pot, heat a liter of good quality milk with a kilo of sugar until the milk is hot but not boiling, and the sugar is completely dissolved.  Let it cool, then combine the lemon alcohol with the milk/sugar, and funnel into bottles.  Leave in the freezer, and once it's ice cold, enjoy - but watch out.  It's sweet, icy, creamy and addictive - but also really, really strong.


  1. Christine, thank you so much for taking the time to keep us informed with whats going on in and around Monterosso. I myself have been there a couple of times and do hold the place dear to my heart, but also, oddly enough I was born and raised in Fair Lawn N.J. so I can related to both your past and present, and I think you've a far better place to call home now. Please do and continue to write and tell us more. After all limoncino is not only really good,maybe a little too good but its great to know how to make it! Thanks
    Bob Holman

  2. Thank you so much for reading! I love it here, and I'm glad other people think this area is as fascinating and magical (and sometimes comical), as I do.
    What a coincidence, as after my parents brought me home from Valley Hospital, we lived in Fairlawn until I was 4 or 5. Small world!