Lidia's Limoncello

15 lemons
1 (750-milliliter) bottle of vodka
2 1/2 cups sugar

Wash and pat dry the lemons. Use a vegetable peeler to zest them, making sure to omit white pith. (Pith will make limoncello bitter.)

Add lemon peels to the vodka in a glass jar. (There is no need to stir or mix liquid.) Cover and keep in a cool, dark place for 30 days. When it is ready, liquid will smell strongly of lemon rinds and be a deep-yellow color.

In a saucepan, combine the sugar and 3 1/2 cups water; bring to a boil and boil for 5 to 7 minutes; let cool.

Add sugar syrup to vodka and lemon zest, stir and let rest for an additional 30 days, to let flavors further mellow and blend with sugar syrup.

Strain limoncello through a moistened cheesecloth or coffee filter. Discard lemon zest, pour strained limoncello into your choice of bottle and seal tightly.

Makes 1 1/2 quarts.

— Recipe from "Lidia's Italy in America," by Lidia Matticchio Bastianich (Alfred A. Knopf, $35).

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