Limonchello- a great way to make use of the season’s bounty of Cape Lemons

It is citrus season on the Cape and so all things orange and lemon are very cheap in the shops.

We have a lemon tree on our veranda that is overloaded with fruit this year.

Lemons are not the kind of thing that you want to eat as fruit, and there is only so much you can squeeze it on. There is always cocktail hour but what about the rest of the crop.

As the old saying goes, if life throws you lemons make lemonade- well, lemonade for Italian adults anyway.

Our family Limoncello Recipe

This comes from our Italian ancestry (my partner has an uncle that went to Monte Casino once)- actually family folklore has it that the recipe was stolen from a monastery perched high on a mountain peak, just outside the small town of Conca Casalle. An unscrupulous Swiss swindler managed to convince the poor monks that he was in fact the Pope, thus convincing them to hand over the ancient script. He then lost the recipe in a game of cards to a Dutch farmer who first brought it to South Africa. It was thought to be lost for over 200 hundred years before my wife bought it on Gumtree.

Seriously, my partner is a bit of a drinks expert and was given this recipe by an Italian colleague with whom she worked on a cruise ship; where she was working as a sommelier.


To make this refreshing beverage you will need about 10 ripe yellow lemons, (organic or straight from the tree, to make sure there are no pesticides or poisons on the skin).

1 Bottle of Cheapest Vodka

1 Kg of castor sugar

A good six months (it needs time to reach maturity, making it an ideal drink to prepare for Christmas, which rather conveniently falls half a year after lemon season [which is why we ignore the real birthday of Jesus- thought to be in September, in favor of December 25th])


As soon as the Lemons are yellow and ripe, grate the zest from them, making sure not to get any of the white pith in the process (it makes the Limoncello very bitter) – you can also include some oranges to this Zest mixture.

Add the zest and some squeezed Lemon Juice to a bottle of Vodka, (cheapest is best)

Store for about 45 days to two months in a dark dry cupboard, every once in a while giving the bottle/s a shake – the longer you leave the mixture the more chance you have of getting a good flavor.

You can also add a vanilla pod to the mixture if you are feeling extravagant.


Two Months Later

Make a simple Syrup mixture by boiling  1KG of Caster Sugar with about 1 liter of water, allow to cool, and the mix this in with the Vodka/Lemon Zest mixture, you might need more bottles at this stage as you should double the mixture, you can also add some more Zest if you have any more ripe Lemons at hand.

Leave this mixture in the Dark Cupboard for another 45 days to 2 months (the longer the better)

Two Months Later

Strain the Vodka/Lemon Zest and rebottle the Liqueur, you can add a fresh Zest to the bottle for decoration and then freeze the Liqueur – it is perfect as a summer drink, served frozen in shot glasses like the Italians like to drink it, or over some Ice-cream, or in cocktails. Don’t use ice as it waters down the flavour.

We are planning to have ours at Christmas – Bon Appetite

This book also contains a limonchello recipe, but it isn’t as good as our’s, and doesn’t have the fantastic back story either. Still, some other good Italian stuff in there, and the great thing about a Jamie book is that you don’t have to hear his annoying voice to enjoy his recipes.
Amazon now delivers direct to South Africa, even with the postage their books are much cheaper than you will find them here. See our book page for more recipe books.

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