Peeling the lemons for the making of Limoncello.

Anyone who has visited the sunny Amalfi coastline of Italy in the summer will have returned home with a bottle or two, or at least several fond memories, of the perfect closure to great Italian meals, compliments of Limoncello, the famed Italian liqueur.

However, as with so many other things you buy on holiday, the magic seems to wear off your purchase the moment you get home. Remember the floral shirt you looked so great in strolling along the beachfront? Or the slightly too transparent white dress that somehow doesn’t fit with Saturday in Sandton City.

When it comes to Limoncello though, the answer to repeat performance lies in the lemons. And the Amalfi coast undoubtedly has an abundance of this primary ingredient.

My personal favourite brand, il Gusto della Costa (the flavour of the coast) is made by a true “limoncello-master”, Valentino Esposito, whose “factory” is a street-front store in Praiano.

While the glass frontage affords the passerby the opportunity to see the master at work, Valentino is more than happy to stop the process to explain just why his Limoncello is so special.

The fragrance of the lemons being peeled in preparation is heady enough but it’s the readily offered tasting session that makes for a particularly happy visit. Il Gusto use a particular lemon grown on the farms in the area called “Sfusato Amalfitano” and the oily “juice” of the lemon peel is like perfume when he squeezes a slither of the peel on to your skin.

As opposed to recipes you will find in books or on the web, which require a distillation process of anywhere up to a few weeks, it takes only three days for the process of the alcohol to absorb the fragrance and flavour of these lemons and within a week it’s ready to make meals more memorable.

Valentino’s passion for quality and craftsmanship is evident in his choice of each ingredient, which I suppose is why he has so many clients around the world who, rather than trying to replicate the experience with one of the hundreds of limoncello recipes available on line, get him to ship a few bottles to them with regularity. - Saturday Star

* More info on touring the Amalafi Coast, contact [email protected]