Lemons of Sorrento
Sorrento is a beautiful town which connects to the Amalfi Coast in southern Italy. Situated in the region of Campania, it sits overlooking the bay of Naples on high cliffs allowing stunning views of the surrounding areas and Mount Vesuvius.
Sorrento is well known for historical attractions, a place for romance and also the fruit and vegetables grown in the rich soils. The location and climate are a perfect combination for farming olives and tomatoes as well as the unique lemons which are precious to the locals. Grown on the rocky cliffs along the coast they are fragrant, juicy and large.
The Sorrento lemons are native to the area with thoughts that Jesuit Priests bought the trees over in the first century BC.
Now many locals grow the lemons which come in two varieties. The Limone Costa d’Amalfi lemons are native to the Amalfi Coast and the Limone di Sorrento are from Sorrento.
They have individual characteristics and intense flavours, making the brightly coloured fruits perfect for making Limoncello liqueur.
What is Limoncello?
Limoncello is a lemon liqueur beverage traditionally made from the lemons of Sorrento. Although it is enjoyed in Italy, it is popular in the south where it originates from.
It is a naturally sweet drink, served very cold at the end of a meal. It is refreshing with the idea to drink from small chilled shot glasses in the very hot climate.
Limoncello is made from the zest of the lemons where concentrated oils are. This gives the unique flavour, ensuring it remains sweet rather than using the actual juice of the lemon which can be sour.
The ingredients of Limoncello are simply lemon zests, sugar, pure grain alcohol and water.
There are many different family recipes and Limoncello can be made at home, but it may be trial and error to get it right.
By using strong alcohol (95% proof) and springtime Sorrento lemons when they are at their best, the zest should be steeped in the alcohol before being added to the sugar and water solution.
Traditionally the lemon should be steeped for 80 days, but some recipes will state one or two weeks.
The lemons of Sorrento are better during spring, but farmers in the areas have found ways to protect the fruit from the winter elements and delay the season. This is so the lemons can be harvested for longer and exported to other countries.
To protect the fruit from the harsh rain and hail, wooden supports and frames are built around the lemon groves. Mesh roofs are then placed over the top and around the sides to stop any damage by hail and delay ripening from the sun.
At one time these roofs were made from straw and twigs, but now polythene is used.
Different types of Limoncello
Limoncello Crème, or Crema Limoncello is a variation of the traditional drink. It is made in the same way as Limoncello but has milk included in the ingredients for a creamy texture.
Limoncello is sold all over the Amalfi Coast, Naples and the Isle of Capri especially to the many tourists that visit each year. The crème version is sold among the hundreds of gift shops as well as an orange Limoncello style liqueur.
As it is so popular, it can be made in desserts too. Ice Cream (or ‘gelato’), sorbets, slush drinks, cakes and truffles can be made with the distinct taste of Limone di Sorrento.