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Originally published Monday, September 20, 2010 at 7:08 PM

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Hobbies: Homemade limoncello makes a great gift

This liqueur can also be used in cake recipes, creamy frostings and as an ice-cream glaze.

BY CATHIE FILIAN; Scripps Howard News Service

One recent weekend, I was blessed to receive a bottle of homemade limoncello from my cousin. His brew was tasty, well balanced and delicious. The delicate yellow color, rich taste and vibrant lemon flavor got me thinking about my simple lemon-zest-infused recipe and what a perfect gift a bottle of this potent little potable makes.

In Italy, the birthplace of limoncello, this after-dinner drink is traditionally served chilled in a small cup with a twist of lemon. This lemon-zest-infused cocktail was designed to specifically help with digestion after heavy pasta-and-tomato dishes. Traditionally, this delicious liqueur is made from freshly harvested lemons from Sorrento, Italy, but homegrown or grocery-store lemons work just as well for a home brew.

If you are making limoncello to give as a gift, bottle it into sterile bottles or jars and top off with beautiful ribbons, dried lemon slices, personalized labels and even recipe cards.

Limoncello is not just for sipping. This liqueur can also be used in cake recipes, creamy frostings and as an ice-cream glaze. When you want to add a little zip to a dish or dessert, add a dash of limoncello.

After one sip, I know you will be hooked! Grab a jar and a little vodka and brew your own batch.

1 liter 100-proof vodka

2 ½ cups sugar

2 cups water

Zest of 8 fresh lemons

Wash the lemons with a vegetable brush and hot water to remove any residue of pesticides or wax. Carefully zest the lemons with a zester or vegetable peeler so there is no white pith on the peel.

In a clean and sterilized 1-gallon glass jar, add 1/2 liter vodka and the lemon zest. Cover the jar and let sit at room temperature for at least 10 days, and up to 40 days in a cool, dark place.

In a large saucepan, combine the sugar and water and cook until thickened, about 5 to 7 minutes. Let the syrup cool before adding it to the limoncello mixture. Add the additional 1/2 liter of vodka. Allow to rest for another 10 to 40 days.

After the rest period, strain the zest and bottle the liquid, discarding the lemon zest. Keep in the freezer until ready to serve. For gifts, funnel into wine bottles and add decorative labels.

Cathie Filian is a lifestyle expert, Emmy-nominated television host, author and designer. Learn more about Cathie at www.cathiefilian.com.

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