In which the guest narrator battles the Law of Conservation of Mass–and wins

finished product

Greetings and salutations, readers of Friends and Hammers, I am MC Casual BlogStyles, the ersatz blogger who has been foisted upon you during Allifer’s absence.  I am younger, less well-read, and somewhat less domestic and resourceful.  In addition to being a cheap imitation of Allifer (read: I am her younger sibling), I am also a self-proclaimed Basement Dwella.  This means that I live in my parents’ house.  I actually live on the first floor, if you want to get technical, but the scrappy sentiment is the same.  If you pass by late at night, you may hear the mournful strains of a harmonica playing the Basement Blues.  Less often, you will hear me howling at the moon with my dogs sidekicks.

Sometimes I have too much free time when nobody is around.  Recently, I was left to my own devices in the house for an entire week.  Rather than throw a kegger, which is the threat I constantly make to my parents when they want to leave town, I got productive and made limoncello.

Limoncello is a lemon liqueur originating in Italy.  It is also one of those delicious things that I always hear about and never remember to look for in stores.  So I decided to make it, and now I will show you how.

MC Casual Blogstyles takes you behind the veil of the secret limoncello process…

behind the veil of cheesecloth

Limoncello is actually not that hard to make, if you take Amanda Hesser’s word for it.  I almost always take Amanda Hesser’s word for it because I have her New York Times cookbook, which I have been really enjoying.  Limoncello was one of the first recipes I flagged when I was browsing through the book for the first time, partly because I’d been wanting to try it for ages, and partly because it looked so easy.

You start with 12 lemons and a bottle of vodka (hidden in a brown bag because I do live, after all, in a family neighborhood).

the beginnings

Then you zest those puppies. I can tell you from experience that the zesting will take almost the length of an episode of Wait Wait…Don’t Tell Me!. You will laugh, you will cry because of the wrist pain, and you will ultimately develop the forearms of Adonis.

1 lemon down, 11 to go

Once you have finished this Herculean task, to mix my Classics metaphors, transfer the zest to an airtight container and then pour in the 750 mL bottle of vodka. The bonus is that you can use this original vodka bottle in 2 weeks when you bottle your limoncello. But right now, your vodka and lemon zest are getting to know either other in your airtight container.

day 1, before sitting for 2 weeks

They will get to know each other very well, as you need to let your mixture sit for two weeks in a cool, dark place.

Then you wait. Remember, good things come to those who wait.

Once the two weeks are over, your vodka with lemon zest will look sunny, fluorescent, and generally enticing:

after 14 days

Now comes the hardest part of the whole process: making a simple syrup out of 1/2 cups each of water and sugar. That is it, folks.  The hard part is not even difficult.  Even I, who once had to ask my sister how to boil water, can do that without difficulty. I think I can confidently say that my water-heating skills have improved since that embarrassing query over 10 years ago, since this step only took me a few minutes.  I have arrived.


While your syrup is cooling, you want to make sure that you have a sterilized bottle on hand for your final product. I opted to use the vodka bottle from 2 weeks ago, along with a tiny small wine bottle, since I reasoned that not much more mass would be gained from infusing the lemon and adding a mere half cup of water. I sterilized these by running them through the dishwasher.

You will also need to strain your alcohol to get the bits of zest out; let’s face it: nobody likes drinks with bits of detritus floating around in the glass, unless those bits of detritus are actually flecks of gold.  It’s amazing how the zest of 12 lemons–which took almost an hour to accumulate–is reduced to a small handful of cardboardy nothing.

the used zest of 12 lemons, somehow

I say cardboardy because I made the mistake of tasting some. It tastes like nothing, but it does possess the texture of–you guessed it–wet cardboard. So I’d like to add an extra, important instruction to Ms. Hesser’s recipe: DO NOT eat the used zest, no matter how curious you are. It is gross.

Once you have completed the step of not eating the strained-out zest, you are ready to stir in your cooled simple syrup and decant. Funnels really help here, as does a ladle. Here was my setup:

stop: it's funnel time

Now, you remember that the limoncello comprises one bottle of vodka, into which tiny lemon particles are infused, plus a solution of sugar and water, which is half a cup of extra volume. The law of conservation of mass dictates that, since my zest has not, despite the straining process, lost considerable mass, this total mixture should fit into the original vodka bottle, plus a bottle that can comfortably hold 1/2 cup of liquid.


WRONG! Much to my annoyance, there was some left over! Somehow my limoncello found a way to defy this standard law of physics. You guys, I may or may not have disproved Newtonian physics with this recipe–but let’s keep that to ourselves, since I am extremely modest and would not dream of disillusioning physicists everywhere. Here is my proof: a picture of me with what I was forced to designate as The Angels’ Share.

the angels' share (dammit)

Your bottles must sit in a cool, dark place for another week before you can pop them in the freezer and serve your chilled limoncello.

The anticlimactic tasting

What was my final product like? Cold, lemony, a little sweet, and very good, I would imagine, on a hot day. I think I’ll let Allifer give you the final verdict because she has the pictures from the tasting, and alas, she and her camera are out of town….


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3 Responses to In which the guest narrator battles the Law of Conservation of Mass–and wins

  1. Pingback: Guest posting | MC Casual BlogStyles

  2. Kayte says:

    Fabulous post, yes, really, fabulous. I enjoyed every bit of it. Now, if only I could enjoy some of that fabulous lemony goodness…wait, I can, I can make some myself, and you know dontcha when I do, I will HAVE to now, of course, just to see if I end up with an Angel’s share of my own, that I will be smiling remembering this post. You girls are such fun!

  3. Pingback: Never throw anything away: glass bottles | Friends and Hammers

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