If you love lemons and lemon–based recipes, check out Lemon LoveFest.
Maybe I should add to the above title “…or Crema di Limoncello” (since I like it so much more than plain limoncello). In part 1 of this series, I wrote about regular limoncello. To make Crema di Limoncello, you must first begin with a homemade batch of regular limoncello. The reason it needs to be homemade is because you will be using the strained out lemon peels from the soaking process for the limoncello to add more flavor to the milk during the crema process. That is what the recipe I followed called for anyway. And since I got the recipe from a trusted source, I’m not about to question the technique.
I found after researching on the internet that there are as many different ways of making crema as there are ways to make limoncello. The various techniques will boggle your brain if you have never made either before. People begin to alter their methods once they notice the subtle differences in taste each method produces. Choosing the best recipe became an impossible task for even a seasoned recipe collector like me. I decided to consult with the only person I knew who probably had done more research on the subject than I and had actually made some to prove it—Rich’s sister–in–law, Paty, my go–to crema di limoncello expert. As it turns out, Paty had a recipe from an even more creditable source than herself.
Pola (Paty’s daughter–in–law’s mother aka Paty’s son’s mother–in–law) was born to Italian immigrant parents and was raised in the very Italian community of North Beach in San Francisco. Her traditional Tuscan style of cooking was learned from her family while growing up in a home that cooked only Italian. In recent years, she began experimenting with more modern Italian recipes. She got the crema recipe from a family friend who lives in Viareggio, Italy, and commented that it isn’t a particularly traditional recipe.
Paty raved about the crema she was originally served at Pola’s and didn’t think that her own first attempt at making crema could compare to it. She said that Pola’s had no alcohol flavor to it and “tasted like a heavenly lemon creamsicle; light, fluffy, creamy and lemony”. My first attempt turned out very tasty, but didn’t produce the out–of–body experience that Paty apparently had. I replicated what Paty did and doubled the recipe, making two separate batches—each using a different kind of alcohol. For one batch, I used 151–proof Everclear (grain alcohol); for the other, 100–proof vodka. It is recommended to use higher–proof alcohol (standard vodka is 80–proof) because it has less flavor than a lower–proof one, allowing a purer lemon flavor to shine through. I never mixed the two batches together, so I was able to compare the end results.
My first couple of tastes made me think it was a waste of effort and money to buy the higher–proof Everclear alcohol. Not to mention, the liquor store clerk looked at us like we were some kind of street alkies looking for a fix when we asked where the Everclear was. Apparently, it is illegal to sell it in more than a few states due to its high alcohol content (think hooch). I don’t know if the 100–proof vodka made much of a difference to the finished product (in comparison to standard vodka) other than we were about six dollars more out of pocket for a bottle of it. After tasting the two batches back and forth, however, I decided I liked the vodka version better (and so did Rich). We don’t know why exactly; it just seemed to have a better flavor.
I guess you have to be careful about not getting too low of an alcohol content for another reason other than flavor. Both limoncello and crema taste best served extremely cold (icy cold, in fact). Storing it in the refrigerator won’t chill it enough, so sock it away in the freezer for optimal serving temperature. You shouldn’t have to worry about it freezing solid. The alcohol content is supposed to prevent this from happening. I heard of someone who actually did have her crema freeze up, but it isn’t clear why this happened. Maybe she got her milk/cream/alcohol ratios screwed up or possibly she bought a low–proof alcohol and the proof wasn’t high enough to prevent freezing. The alcoholic beverage freezing point drops as the alcohol proof–level increases. Neither of my alcohol choices froze, so I can vouch for the 100–proof and above alcohols.
There are a few tips I could pass along at this point that seem to be standard when making either limoncello or crema di limoncello. Firstly, use only plump, fresh, and if possible, organic lemons. Since you are relying on only the skins of the lemons for flavoring, they must be clean and pesticide–free. Fruit that is old or blemished or has been in storage a long time will impart a muddy taste to the drink. It is also very difficult to remove the peel effectively from an old, squishy lemon so don’t even bother with them. I had two of my boys help me with the peeling process and it quickly became a painful process once they tried getting every last peel off of even the saddest of lemons.
Secondly, you can find many variations on many aspects of limoncello recipes, ranging from how to remove the zest from the lemons (grate or peel) to how long to soak the zest in the alcohol (anywhere from five days to a month or more) to how to strain out the zest (coffee filter or mesh colander). Many people seem to have a lot of time on their hands (and patience) and seem to create unnecessary steps for what should be a simple procedure. I liked Pola’s recipe as it is very straightforward and produced nice results. It is also flexible and not dependant on overkill steps. I actually got busy and forgot to move on past the soaking stage (mine sat for about three months as opposed to the recommended four weeks). Pola will tell you less soaking time is fine and more soaking time doesn’t hurt. That translates to me as no need to get all anal over this recipe. Follow the general guidelines and it will turn out perfectly fine.
Lastly, you must get some cool little limoncello cordials to serve these drinks in. Sipping this drink from frosty little shot–style glasses creates the perfect ambiance for enjoying this as an after–dinner drink or any time you want to tickle your taste buds! I even have a matching carafe (with lemons embossed on it). Both the glasses and carafe are made of thick glass to withstand storage in the freezer and to keep the drink nice and chilly.
Once you have your finished limoncello or crema, there are many different things you can do with it besides drink it. Use it to jazz up non–alcoholic drinks like iced tea, sparkling water and lemonade. It also makes a great topping for ice cream and cakes. Try this site for a very extensive list of limoncello cocktail recipes and a standard recipe for limoncello. It also has a short list of recipes for food recipes containing limoncello.
I’m going to keep working with Pola’s crema recipe and try it with limes or oranges next. I also want to try adding lavender to a batch to see how that tastes. In the meantime, here is the official Wine Imbiber Crema di Limoncello recipe, courtesy of Pola (via Paty).
Crema di Limoncello
8–10 lemons (preferably Meyer)
1 750ml bottle 100–proof vodka or Everclear
2 cups 2% milk
2 cups sugar
2 cups cream
Peel the lemons into strips, being careful to remove only the colored zest (avoid the white part beneath as it will impart a bitter flavor). Put the zest strips into a large, glass jar that can be sealed tightly. Pour in the vodka (or Everclear), close the jar up tightly and store away in a dark, cool place for about a month. During this time, swirl the peels around in the jar once a week. You should start to notice the liquid taking on the yellow color of the lemon peels after about the first week. Eventually, the peels will lose most of their color and turn white.
Once the month is up, remove the peels from the jar (reserve the alcohol) and gently boil them along with the 2 cups of 2% milk in a large saucepan or pot. Do not over boil them (bring to just under a rapid boil). Remove from heat and add the 2 cups of sugar. Stir the mixture until the sugar dissolves. Then add the 2 cups of cream, stirring constantly. Allow the liquid to cool.
Add the reserved vodka or Everclear to the completely cooled mixture. Discard the peels by pouring the entire mixture through a fine mesh strainer into a ceramic or metal bowl. Use a funnel to pour the liquid into small bottles. Reasonably priced bottles can be found at places like Ikea and World Market. Or, you can find chichi carafes and matching glasses online at places like NapaStyle.
January 27, 2009 at 12:45 pm
I wish I had a Meyer lemon tree! It’s too hard finding them around here for a decent price. I could go through a whole bottle of that crema in one sitting with my friends!
Italian Dish Cooking Recipe | The Best Cooking Recipes said:
[…] Wine Imbiber » When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Limoncello (part 2) […]
hi, could you please tell me what kind of cream is used to make the limoncello? thank you
The recipe didn’t specify the type of cream, but I used heavy cream (Trader Joe’s brand). I’m sure you’d get the same good results with any brand of heavy cream.