Sorrento is known for it’s lemons. In fact, it’s not just Sorrento; it’s the whole of this corner of Campania, up and down the Amalfi coast and on Capri. These aren’t ordinary lemons. These are Giant Lemons.
We spent a week in Sorrento. Whether it’s symptomatic of there not being much else of note in Sorrento or not, I don’t know, but I do know that you can’t move for the things in the town centre. There are whole lemons, sold by the kilo (most are larger than one kilo each), lemon soaps, candied lemon skins (particularly good in Amalfi town, where they are sold in cake shops), lemon cakes and sweets, granita & ice cream, lemon condiments, and the famous Limoncello liqueur.
Lemons, of course, flavour pasta sauces. Then there’s lemons on tea towels, aprons, jewellery and other tourist tat, lemons in art…you get the picture.
Having had a dicky tummy one day after a coach trip (see The Pasta page for that sad story) I was unsurprised to have lemon juice recommended to me as a restorative. I’ve been given the same advice in Spain for the same complaint. Must be something in it, I thought, if the old remedy spans two countries. I can’t tell you whether it was efficacious, since I was necking industrial quantities of Immodium at the time, but certainly the thought was there.
Killing two birds with one stone – as I’d planned to dissect one of these monsters anyway – I picked the smallest one I could find from a basket of freakishly large, basket ball sized fruits. It still came out at over a kilo.
In taste, it was quite similar to the Australian ‘Lemonade’ variety – much sweeter than a normal lemon, though I wouldn’t be snacking on a whole one anytime soon. It’s actually the peel which is largely used rather than the flesh.
The sign of a great limoncello is meant to be the tang of zest, rather than just the juice, according to the nice lady at the artisan limoncello store in Naples:
They peel every lemon by hand. Let me emphasise that for you: By Hand. Using the kind of peeler she’s holding. She claims this results in a perfect amount of peel with no zest and is worth the effort over machine peeling. The peel goes into the vat of grappa for a few days
Being a small and therefore thrifty company, they use the lemon juice to make a refreshing (got right to the end of a post about lemons before succumbing to ‘refreshing’) granita, and also to flavour the local pasta shapes:
Finally they bottle the lemon grappa it and flog it out the front as one of the best limoncellos we tasted: