Sunday, November 6, 2016

Lemon Vodka à la Polska

I recently returned from a wonderful trip to Poland. The occasion was a mini-reunion of cooking school compatriots. It was the 30-year anniversary of our graduation from La Varenne in Paris, and three of my fellow alums and I met up in Warsaw to celebrate. Our friend Catherine lives there, so it was a good excuse to visit a country we hadn’t been to before (and take advantage of Catherine's very gracious 

hospitality). I fell in love with the wonderful, generous and extremely resilient Polish people, the vibrant cities of Warsaw and Krakow and the amazing food. And drink. The Poles take their vodka seriously, and the best is seriously good. As we happily discovered, a common after-dinner treat is a shot of Lemon Vodka, served ice-cold. The traditional toast is na zdrowie (pronounced 'naz-dro-v-yeh'), which means 'to 

health'. We toasted, then tasted quite a bit of this libation on our trip, and here's my interpretation based on our -- ahem -- research. I hope to return to beautiful Poland some day, but until then I'll have some wonderful memories and an occasional shot of exceptionally good lemon vodka to comfort me. Na zdrowie!

Lemon Vodka

 Makes about 1 quart

3 organic lemons
2/3 cup granulated sugar
3 cups top-notch Polish vodka (Belvedere or Chopin)

1. Rinse and dry the lemons, then zest and juice them. Combine the zest, juice and sugar in a small saucepan and bring to a boil over medium-high heat, stirring occasionally just to dissolve the sugar. Remove the pan from the heat and cool completely.
2. Combine the lemon syrup with the vodka in a Mason jar or other lidded glass container and seal (save the vodka bottle if it’s empty to store the finished product). Allow to infuse in a cabinet or other dark spot for 1 to 2 weeks. Give the jar a shake every day, or when you can remember to.
3. Strain the vodka through a funnel or sieve that is lined with cheesecloth into another glass container (I use the original vodka bottle) and seal. Freeze the bottle until ice-cold, or until ready to serve (I just store mine in the freezer). Freeze some shot glasses to serve the vodka in, too.