We remember our Grandmother Florence always having homemade liqueurs on hand for an after-dinner drink with coffee & dessert, especially around the holidays. Our favorite was Finocchietto (fennel) which she touted as a good digestif drink. We were only allowed a sip for taste…but liked it even then.
On our trip to Italy back in 2018, we had dinner at a farm in Naples. After dinner, we had a choice of Limoncello or Finocchietto. Of course, we chose the Finocchietto and it sure did bring back good memories of Grandma.
After having great success with making our own Limoncello, I decided to send away for the Italian Wild Fennel seeds and make my own. Teresa and I along with my good friend, Jane Hall, planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden my husband Gary prepared for us. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t seem to survive the deer!!!!!!! We were pleasantly surprised the following season and proceeded to make our own liqueur. You wouldn’t believe how many umbrella flowers we had with just 2 plants that survived. This year it’s even more! Fennel has a wonderful anise-like/licorice taste and you can use the green fronds to garnish a salad or even infuse with some olive oil. I don’t remove the fennel bulb because it will cause the demise of the plant, although I may this year!
Note: Harvesting starts towards the end of June through August here in North Carolina. Fennel plants create umbrella-like flower buds similar to Queen Anne’s Lace. I pick the yellow flower umbrellas once the yellow flowers begin to open.
Ingredients for about 2 liters
2-3 large handfuls of wild fennel flower umbrellas. ( I fill a 32-oz mason jar 1/2 to 3/4 high with the flowers)
1 liter of Everclear (151 proof – grain alcohol) Please do not use rubbing alcohol!
800 grams of sugar (about 3 1/3 to 3 1/2 cups)
2-liter jar that closes hermetically (We used hermetically sealed lemonade bottles from Aldi)
Funnel- wide mouth
Immediately after picking the flowers, wash and let dry thoroughly on a clean dish towel.
Place all the flowers in the jar and pour the grain alcohol into the jar, making sure all flowers are covered. Close the jar and place it in a dark place for at least 30 days. ( I use my closet)
Keep the bottle out of direct sunlight. All the color will leach out into the alcohol turning the alcohol a green color. No problem if you leave it longer than 30 days.
After the 30 days or longer are up, prepare the sugar syrup.
Make a simple syrup by boiling 1 liter of water with 800 grams of sugar for 15 minutes. Let it cool before the next step. (about an hour)
While the syrup is cooling down, filter the alcohol. Using a wide-mouth funnel, place into another mason jar and place the cheesecloth in the funnel.
Pour the alcohol through the funnel making sure none of the fennel plants get through.
Mix the cooled sugar syrup into the filtered alcohol. Pour into a clean 2-liter hermetically sealing jar (the one you used before is fine, just make sure it’s clean & dry first.
Let it sit another 4-5 days in a cool, dark place.
Now we filter again and bottle.
Put a regular funnel in the bottle with another piece of cheesecloth and pour the mixture into the bottle or use a small ladle so it doesn’t spill everywhere.
There might be some organic matter caught in the cheesecloth. Wash the cloth for re-use.
In a cool dark place, store the bottled fennel for at least another 3 months. The longer it sits the clearer it gets.
Italian Wild Fennel growing on the side of Barbara’s house
Almost 7 feet tall!
Another angle of growing fennel that’s 2 years old now
Wash & Dry the umbrella flowers
Place the wash & dried flowers in a 32 oz mason jar
Cover flowers with Everclear 151 grain alcohol
The alcohol starts leaching color after only an hour
Fennel umbrella flower
My bottle from last year with my own label along with new batch
This summer has been exceptionally hot and humid day after day. A wonderful way to cool off besides air conditioning is enjoying an icy cold glass of homemade lemonade. My grandsons, “The Sunshine Boys”, love the lemonade my daughter makes. It is so refreshing and made with only 3 simple ingredients… lemons, water, and sugar! So, while the heat of the summer will be with us for several more weeks/months, mix up a pitcher full of delicious, icy cold lemonade and feel refreshed!
1¼ cups sugar (1/4 cup Swerve confectioners sweetener may be substituted)
4½ cups water
lemon slices for garnish
In a small saucepan combine 1½ cups of water and sugar and bring to a boil. Stir until all sugar is dissolved. Remove from heat and let cool. ( cover and put in the refrigerator to speed up the cooling process)
Strain the squeezed lemon juice through a fine-mesh sieve into a 2-quart pitcher.
Add the remaining 3 cups of water and 3/4 of the simple syrup that has been cooling. Stir well and taste. Adjust to taste with either more water or more simple syrup.
Refrigerate until ready to serve.
When ready to serve, add ice to a tall glass and fill with lemonade. Garnish each glass with a lemon slice and a sprig of mint leaves. Enjoy!
Notes: Adults Only-Vodka can be added for a refreshing cocktail 😋
For a keto-friendly version, we used Swerve confectioners sweetener in place of sugar.
After our trip to Italy in 2018 we came back with an abundance of inspiration, one of which was making our own Limoncello as we became so fond of drinking it at the end of each meal while traveling throughout Italy. We even bought lemon trees to grow our own lemons ( photo on left shows the beautiful flower lemon trees produce). We’re not sure if they will ever bear fruit but we are trying. Limoncello has its roots in southern Italy, more specifically, the Amalfi coast, Capri & Sorrento. Of course you can buy it in any liquor store for less money but where’s the fun in that?
While at Barbara’s monthly neighborhood bowling night she was sharing her new-found love of Limoncello with the girls. Jane said “Lets have a Limoncello Party at your house” and so we did! The night was filled with fun and laughter despite the many spills and messy kitchen… but it was worth it. My only regret was not having enough room to invite the whole neighborhood.
The bottle should be kept in the freezer along with some shot glasses as Limoncello is best served in frozen glasses. It is served like this all over Italy. The colder the liqueur the smoother the taste.
Note: I decided I wanted to grow my own fennel to make delicious fennel liqueur; which we also sampled in Naples at a farmhouse dinner. Although the flavor is different from Limoncello, it’s just as good. So Jane, Teresa and I planted the fennel seeds. We watched the seedlings grow big & strong then planted them outside in a side garden. They were doing beautifully and even survived Hurricane Florence but low and behold they didn’t survive the deer!!!!!!! We will try again. 🤞
Using a small sharp knife, peel off the lemon zest as thin as possible avoiding the white pith, which is bitter.
Place all the lemon peels directly into the bottle of alcohol.
Leave to macerate for a minimum of 4 weeks or more in a dark closet. Keep bottle our of direct sunlight.
After maceration is complete, prepare the sugar syrup.
Mix water and sugar in a saucepan on medium heat. Continue to stir until sugar is completely dissolved.
Bring syrup to a simmer until boiling. Remove from heat and allow to cool completely, about 1 hr.
In a large saucepan or container big enough add the liter of alcohol.
Continuously stirring, start adding the sugar syrup. Once you’ve added 4 cups, taste it. The Limoncello will be pretty strong. Add more sugar syrup and taste again. Add more sugar syrup for a milder taste, or reduce it for a stronger taste. It is not recommended to dilute the alcohol base too much. Authentic Italian homemade limoncello is about 38% vol or 76 Proof.
Once you’ve reached the perfect flavor, bottle your limoncello in glass bottle using a funnel.
Always store limoncello in the freezer! It’ll have an amazing “creamy” taste. Fresh made limoncello reaches its perfection in a few days after bottling.
The ladies of Meadow Park “Distillery”: Jane, Ellen, Stephanie, Vickie, Lois, Janis, Diane, Barbara. Teresa was taking the pictures!