This week’s “Food for Thought” is a Julia Child quote (check it out). It was going to be this quote from Thomas Keller: ” A recipe has no soul. You, as the cook, must bring soul to the recipe”. Both, more or less, are saying the same thing; a recipe is only words on a page until you, the cook (brewer, in this case?) step in and make it work (and taste) the way you believe that it should.
It has taken me four times with this recipe, but I think I have finally got it the way I think it should be…
Note 1: When I say ‘good’ vodka, I mean don’t pick up the $6 jug on the bottom shelf in the back corner of the Dollar Mart; but don’t go crazy and buy a bunch of artisan home brewed (in small batches over sustainable fires) spring potato sprout vodka distilled only at the dark of the moon, either. Choose a vodka that is mebbe a tad too rough to sip alone on ice, but still decent. I used a vodka for this batch that I would not consider for martinis, but think it worked out quite well in the end.
Wash the lemons, then use a vegetable peeler to remove the zest (try to get as little of the white part of the peel as possible, but don’t fret too much about it).
Place the peels in a large container and pour the vodka over all, stirring to mix well. Cover and let stand out of the way for a week at room temperature.
Note 3: what to do with all those peeled lemons? Juice ’em – then strain, pour into ice cube trays, and freeze. I used some small-ish silicone trays and ended up with about four dozen cubes of fresh froze lemon juice for whenever I may need a hit of lemon in a recipe. Nice!
After the lemon peel and vodka has steeped for a week, combine the sugar with the water in a pot and bring to a boil, stirring, until the sugar is completely dissolved and you have a classic simple syrup.
Allow this to cool completely, and then stir into the vodka mixture – I needed to switch to a larger container at this point, so transferred the vodka and lemon peels to that, then poured the cooled simple syrup over all and gave it a stir.
Cover and let this rest at room temperature for two nights, then strain into bottles, seal and chill until needed.
Past batches have tasted a bit rough at this point, but this batch was sm-o-o-o-th right away; mebbe it was the second night’s rest, mebbe it was the reduced amount of sugar I used for the syrup, or mebbe it was the not quite disreputable vodka I chose to use this time. I ended up with the five large bottles you see at the top of this post, plus a bit extra for ‘quality control’, as I like to call it.
Give a large bottle as a gift to a few folk who have been very good this year, break it up into smaller bottles for those who have been good, or offer it to folk as a start to a holiday gathering; plain and ice-cold, or in a glass with a goodly splash of prosecco and an ice cube made from strawberries you’ve run through the blender and poured – don’t bother straining – into ice cube trays (where d’you think I got the idea for the lemon juice cubes?).