Limoncello here I come! That’s what one of my guests says today at the Limoncello class I was scheduled to teach in the afternoon.
Today, I started a series of classes on Culture Of Italian Food. The object of these classes is to introduce the participants to the Italian philosophy of food, how to eat food without waste, which proper utensils to use, table manners and settings, life style around food, food appreciation, food information, history and cultural aspect of food. You know, it’s all about the saying “When in Rome do as the Romans.” Well, these classes are for travelers and people who are just plain interested in everything Italian and want to learn what Italians do across the pond.
Limoncello is a lemon based drink, served chilled after dinner as a digestive. The acidity of the lemons is good to cut the fats eaten during the dinner. Limoncello can also be served as an appetizers with salty food, such as olives, pretzels, salame and prosciutto. Serve it together with espresso coffee, or gelato and it will become a refresher, a type of “middle of the day enjoyment” and even an early afternoon tea and biscuits with the ladies, can be perked up with a limoncello. However it is served, Limoncello likes to stay cool in the refrigerator and likes the glasses chilled in the freezer.
Any lemons of course will do the job for a good Limoncello, but the best lemons to use for the best results are the lemons from Amalfi Coast called “Limoni Sfusati”. This kind of lemon carries the mark IGP (Indicazione Geografica Protetta), which indicates that the product comes from the original and protected geographical area.
The law regulating this product requires that Limone Sfusato must be cultivated in lemon garden terraces called limoneti, away from winds and it must have some special characteristics. To be authentic, the lemon must be elongated with elongated leaves, with medium thick skin and bright yellow color; it must have from 4 to no more than 10 seeds per lemon and must have a very succulent and not acidic pulp. Its ideal weight is between 3.5 – 4.2 oz.
Going back in time, Arabs brought this kind of lemon to the Amalfi Coast when Amalfi was one of the five Mariner Republics of Italy from the ninth to twelfth century. In the 1800s the lemon became one of the most important products for the economy of Amalfi, in fact it became so vital that was also exported to England and to America, and valued on the New York Stock Exchange. The mariners on board of ships used it as a good source of vitamin C when they traveled at sea for long time.
I was in the class explaining all of this, the women were peeling away, but what are all the parts of a lemon called, I asked? The first thing we see is the outer yellow skin, which when squeezed exudes a perfumed oil, then the wall or bread (white part), not edible in my taste, the clove (each triangle section of the pulp), the mesocarp (inside of the pulp) and the seeds.
What to do with Limone Sfusato? Due to the sweetness of this type of lemon, mixed in green salads is ideal, or the lemons itself can be made into a salad with cherry tomatoes, celery cut very thinly, hot pepper, basil leaves, olive oil and salt. It makes a tasty seasoning for fish, seafood appetizers, pasta dishes and meat. Good to make lemon granita, which is a refreshing crushed flavored ice, or used for sweets, cakes, biscotti and even to make lemonade with sparkling Italian water.
Making limoncello is really easy. Peel 8 lemons, but only the skin without the white wall. Drop them in the jar with a cap. Pour over 34 oz. of Vodka, close with the cap and let it macerate for one month in a dark place. After this time, filter the Vodka into a large container/bottle through a cheesecloth or a tight mesh strainer. Do not discard the flavored lemon rinds just yet. In a pot bring to a boil 17 oz. of tap water , add 21 oz. of sugar, stir until sugar is melted completely. Cool this simple sugar and then mix it with the lemon flavored Vodka. Keep one week in the refrigerator and then it is ready to serve in very chilled glasses. Roll the discarded lemon rinds into sugar and make candied lemon peel, or use them to make biscotti and even in meat stews.
Slice all the lemons, place them on the baking sheet, give a good swirl of olive oil, add black pepper, sugar to bring out the sweetness of the lemons and place under the broiler until golden brown. Cool it down, layer the lemon slices in a jar with a large mouth. In between each layers, add capers, chopped garlic and basil leaves. Fill up the jar almost to the top, add olive oil and close the lid. Keep it in the refrigerator until you want to make a lemon chicken. Place all of this goody under the skin of the chicken, rub the oil all over and pour it in the chicken cavities, season with salt to your liking. Bake it at 400°F. until the chicken is browned all over. I assure you, chicken has never tasted this good before!
The guests of the class asked me where I keep these secrets? I don’t, I put it out on the Internet, I pass along in the class, I give it away to friends and I writes books. In my house we shares, especially when it comes to food. We have always found a way to use every possible parts of the food other people throw away and that’s what I am teaching: the art of food and life style.
It was a very enjoyable afternoon, made many new friends, made so many people happy and all left with one or two of my books in their hands. Ciao.
Copyright © 2012 Valentina Cirasola, All Rights Reserved
Valentina Cirasola is an Italian Interior Designer with a passion for kitchens and cooking. She especially loves to design all those rooms with a “make me feel good” tag attached, such as kitchens and wine grottos, outdoor kitchens and outdoor rooms, great rooms and entertainment rooms. She is a public speaker and a mentor. She is also the author of two Italian regional cuisine books, available here in this site on the Books page and on Amazon: http://tiny.cc/pkoo0