Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Angelo's Limoncello Recipe

When most people think of limoncello, they are probably reminded of the Amalfi Coast,and its spectacular vistas of sheered cliffs, azure sea and sky, and the ubiquitous lemon trees which give birth to the liqueur. Limoncello, however will forever remind me of Angelo. Angelo is my neighbor here in Monte di Procida, near Naples, where I live. He quickly befriended the new “americani” who moved in next door to him. We are Canadian, but that doesn’t seem to make much of a difference to Angelo, or anyone else for that matter. Europeans don’t seem to buy the distinction that we in North America insist exists. Angelo is elderly, has one married daughter who lives nearby, and a nephew who visit him often, making sure his needs are met. He walks with great difficulty as he is overweight and suffers from diabetes. In his one-bedroom ground floor apartment, he gets around with the help of two long-handled scrub brooms, with their bristles now flattened from the weight of his body.

In the dark entrance-way that leads first to his bedroom, then to the tiny kitchen and bathroom, he has a shrine to his deceased wife and his wife’s sister. There, on either side of a dresser sit bookend photographs of his wife and his sister-in-law. In the middle, there is a bouquet of artificial roses, atop a plastic lacy-looking tablecloth. On top of the table cloth is another cover of transparent plastic to protect it all from dust. On my first visit to his home, Angelo proudly showed the photos to me and his coin collection which he hides under the tablecloth, protected by the photos of his wife and sister-in-law standing guard like sentinels over his treasure. There on that dresser, are his most prized possessions.

Angelo loves food, and loves to cook and we’ve been summoned to his tiny table more than once for a feast that could have fed our family for a week. Most of it, comes home with us. He seems to know our comings and goings, as often the phone will ring about a minute after we walk through the door. His door is always open for us he tells me, time and time again. If we have company, I will immediately get a phone call, and he will invite us and my company over for dessert, coffee, and his delicious home-made limoncello -- the signature liqueur of the Gulf of Napoli, though I think that Sorrento claims it as its own. It can be bought anywhere in the region, but the best I have tasted is Angelo’s. The limoncellos I’ve had elsewhere are overpoweringly alcoholic. Angelo keeps his limoncello in the freezer. When it is served there are sometimes bits of slush in the frosted shot glass making it all the more refreshing.

Here is his recipe:
-2 liters of spirits (alcool)
-to this add the peel of 13 large lemons – no pith
-let sit in a dark place for 13 days
-after the 13th day (I’m not sure why it is always the number 13, but he seems quite emphatic about the fact that it is 13 days and 13 lemons.
-boil 2 liters of water and add 2 kg of sugar adding the sugar bit by bit to the water to be sure that it is dissolved
-let cool
-mix the sugared water with the drained spirit/lemon mixture
Let sit for 2 days…voila…Angelo’s limoncello.

Above is a photo of Angelo but the ones I have of him in my mind’s eye are the ones that paint the best picture of him. Angelo embodies the Neapolitan ideal of so many of his generation of making do with nothing. They know how to stretch their money, they eat well from the fruits of their own gardens, and take solace in the companionship friends and family. They share all they have with whoever happens by their door. Angelo knows that his coin collection would not be worth having if he had no one to show it to. The coin collection is only the bait to lure you in. It is obvious that what he treasures most is the pleasure of your company. If you come to visit me, you are sure to be his guest at some point during your visit. I gladly indulge in his gracious company and the best limoncello in the Gulf of Napoli.

No comments: