A wonderful way of celebrating lemons, and the perfect thing to give to friends and loved ones.
Theresa’s Mandarinetto & Limoncello
This is a recipe of Luca’s great aunt Theresa, a woman both brilliant and terrifying in equal parts. She makes infamously good liqueurs with Sardinian citrus. She also dresses exclusively in brown fur, designer sunglasses and woollen berets, and was left at the altar by the (one) love of her life. As a result, she has sworn off men - and people in general - ever since. Liqueurs, after all, don’t let you down.
These little glowing bottles make wonderful gifts. I make my own batch in January, when the citrus is at its best, and the weather at its worst, as it’s a good indoor activity. This way you can gift them throughout the year, and the following Christmas.
In Italian supermarkets they sell pure alcohol (96% proof anyway) and the Sards always have a bottle on hand for impromptu liqueur making. I made the recipe with this pure alcohol, but a simple vodka or grappa would also work.
You will need good, unwaxed, organic fruit for this, as the skins are infused, so if they are sprayed with chemicals it will affect the final result.
3 lemons or 8 mandarins
350g caster sugar
Makes 1 litre or enough for 4 small, gift-sized bottles.
Wash your fruit well in cold water.
Peel the lemons (or mandarins) using a swivel peeler, pressing only lighter to take the most superficial peel, and none of the white pith with it. The white pith will make your drink bitter, so it is important to be attentive here. It is not difficult with the lemon peel, but quite tiresome with the mandarin peel. If you choose large, firm mandarins it should be a little easier.
After peeling off the strips, you can also cut away any remaining white pith with a small, sharp knife, pressing the strips down and cutting away from you.
Pour over this peel 250ml of the alcohol and place in large, lidded jar or container for 30 days to infuse.
After the 30 days is up, bring your infused mixture to the boil, simmer for a moment and then add the water and the sugar. Stir to dissolve the sugar and simmer for another moment, then set aside and leave to cool completely.
Pour into the pot the remaining alcohol and strain the whole lot through a sieve, discarding the peel.
Decant into bottles and keep in the freezer or fridge.