1 750 ml bottle vodka
3-1/2 cups water
2-1/2 cups sugar
Using a vegetable peeler, remove the peel from the lemons in long strips (reserve the lemons for another use). Using a small sharp knife, trim away the white pith from the lemon peels; discard the pith. Place the lemon peels in a 2-quart pitcher. Pour the vodka over the peels and cover with plastic wrap. Steep the lemon peels in the vodka for 4 days at room temperature.
Stir the water and sugar in a large saucepan over medium heat until the sugar dissolves, about 5 minutes. Cool completely. Pour the sugar syrup over the vodka mixture. Cover and let stand at room temperature overnight. Strain the limoncello through a mesh strainer. Discard the peels. Transfer the limoncello to bottles. Seal the bottles and refrigerate until cold, at least 4 hours and up to 1 month.
Limoncello (Seattle Times)
Peels from 14 organic washed lemons, yellow part only
2 (750ml) bottles of grain alcohol or 100-proof vodka, or one bottle of each
5 cups water
4 cups sugar
1. Steep the lemon peel in alcohol in a large glass jar for two to four weeks, covered tightly, at room temperature, in the dark.
2. Stir the sugar and water in a large saucepan over high heat until the sugar dissolves. Cool. Add the syrup to vodka mixture and stir. Return to the dark location for two to four more weeks.
3. Strain the liquid into clean bottles, using cheesecloth or coffee filters. Cork or cap bottles and keep in freezer. Serve well-chilled.
Note: Limoncello will continue to mellow over time; store in the freezer for up to a year.
INFORMATION FROM THE SEATTLE TIMES ARTICLE:
The traditional Italian method calls for grain alcohol or another neutral high-proof alcohol, lemon peel, sugar, water — and patience. Most traditional recipes recommend steeping for three months. However, with the rising popularity of the beverage, recipes abound for quicker versions. I've seen everything from four days to four months. Common sense tells us the longer something steeps the more intense the flavor will be. Also, time gives high-proof alcohol a chance to mellow.
Key is whether to use grain alcohol, such as Everclear, which is legal in Washington at 150-proof, or vodka. People argue hard on both sides. I've made it both ways. With vodka, nothing less than 100-proof is recommended. I overcame my reluctance to use Everclear (bad memories involving lit matches) in hopes of extracting more oils from the peel. And while it succeeded in slamming the palate with a burst of lemon, it is very, very strong.
Using 100-proof Smirnoff produced a mellower liqueur. All but one friend who tasted both batches favored the recipe with vodka, describing it as "smooth," "with a great finish," "like a melted lollipop." The lone voice for Everclear declared it "finger-licking good." Both were thick and sweet.
To peel the lemons, shave off the outer yellow layer without getting the bitter white pith. Once the peel and alcohol are combined in a large glass jar, store the jar in the dark at room temperature and forget about it. I put a two-week reminder on my calendar (halfway on the patience meter) before making simple syrup to add to the infused alcohol. Then the jar sat in the dark for a month more (nearly full patience).
When you decide it's done, strain the liquid into bottles. Online, I bought cool, wavy vessels ($2 each), which hold 3.5 ounces each and come with corks, to give to friends. If you start now, you might be able to give the bright bottles as holiday gifts. Who wouldn't appreciate a bottle of sunshine in winter?