Limoncello is a staple at the end of meals in Italy, especially during the summer months but you can find it all year long. There are other after dinner digestives such as Amaro and Mirtu but Limoncello holds a special place in many people’s hearts. Some 16 million liters of Limoncello are produced on a yearly basis.
Limoncello is synonymous with the Amalfi coast in Italy and the Campania region. Lemon cultivation began there in the Middle Ages. Lemons grow particularly well in this area thanks to the composition of the volcanic soil which also has considerable potassium within it.
Limoncello has also become very popular in the United States thanks to a number of producers, among them Villa Massa.
Villa Massa Limoncello is a made from the rinds of fresh Sorrento oval lemons, a protected variety of lemon with the PGI (Protected Geographical Indication) designation. The lemons are carefully peeled within 24 hours of harvest. Sorrento lemons are much desired for the quantity of essential oils that they contain in their rinds. At Villa Massa, the lemon rinds macerate in alcohol for three days. After several days the liquid is filtered and blended with a syrup of purified water and castor sugar. This product has 30% alcohol or 60% proof.
Villa Massa is located in the Piano di Sorrento on the Sorrento Peninsula. In order to receive the coveted PGI designation, the lemons must be grow in a particular way and using organic cultivation methods, free from pesticides. In fact, Villa Massa’s Limoncello uses no perservatives, no artificial flavorings nor coloring agents. Just lemon rind, sugar and alcohol.
The Massa family has been located in the Sorrento Peninsula since the late 1800s but the company that makes Villa Massa Limoncello was founded in 1991. Still the recipe that they use to make the Limoncello is the same as the one created in 1890.
Limoncello can also be used in cocktails and in cooking recipes.
By Susannah Gold