Rosolio di Limone, Lemon Liqueur As Digestivo or to Add Extra Zest to Biscotti di Ceglie

Life beyond Africano Cake Rolls with Pasta di Nocciola (Hazelnut Paste) from Southern Italian Desserts, Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily (Ten Speed Press, 2013) by Rosetta Costantino with Jennie Schacht.

Rosolio di Limone, Lemon liqueur

Makes 12 cups (3 L)

Limoncello is made in homes all over Southern Italy, where lemon trees grow in abundance. Less familiar outside Southern Italy is Rosolio di Limone, a lower-alcohol, sweeter variation of the liqueur that I find makes a better choice for using in desserts, such as Zabaione al Limoncello (page 97) and Biscotti di Ceglie (page 162).

To make limoncello, simply follow the instructions below, using 4 cups (1 L) of water and 2 cups (400 g) of sugar in place of the 6 cups of water and 4 cups of sugar below. An equal quantity of limoncello can be substituted for rosolio di limone in any of the recipes.

As a digestivo (after-dinner drink), both rosolio and limoncello are served cold; once you’ve opened a bottle, store it in the refrigerator or freezer. The alcohol will prevent it from freezing solid.

Here in California, I use Meyer lemons from my garden, but you can use any variety.

If you purchase the lemons, look for ones that have not been sprayed or waxed, the fresher the better.

2 pounds lemons (about 8 lemons)
1 bottle (750 ml) Everclear (151-proof) neutral grain spirits
4 cups (800 g) sugar
6 cups (1.5 L) water

SIDE Rosolio di Limone image p 201

Remove the peel from the lemons in strips with a vegetable peeler, taking only the yellow part and carefully avoiding even the slightest bit of white pith, which will turn the rosolio bitter.

Pour the alcohol into a clean quart (liter) jar with a tight-fitting lid, such as a European-style canning jar with a rubber gasket and clamp lid. Add the lemon peel.

Close the jar and let steep for 1 week in a cool, dark place, such as a pantry or wine cellar.

After the alcohol has steeped, stir the sugar with the water in a large saucepan over low heat until the sugar dissolves completely. The mixture should be clear. Remove from the heat and let cool completely. (Do not be tempted to rush into the next step; if the sugar syrup is not completely cool, your rosolio will be cloudy.)

Remove the lemon peels from the alcohol (discard the peels) and pour the infused alcohol into the sugar syrup, stirring to combine. Pour the mixture through a finemesh strainer lined with cheesecloth, then decant the rosolio into clean bottles and seal with a cork or lid.

Let the rosolio mature for 15 days in a cool, dark place before using it, then refrigerate.

(* Reprinted with permission from Southern Italian Desserts 'Rediscovering the Sweet Traditions of Calabria, Campania, Basilicata, Puglia, and Sicily' by Rosetta Costantino with Jennie Schacht -Ten Speed Press, © 2013- Photo Credit: Sara Remington.) 

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