If I could grow all my own food, cook every one of the meals I eat, and make all my own seasonings & flavorings, I would. But in the world I live in, that is just not possible. Secretly I really want to be Martha Stewart… But even Martha can’t do this all on her own. she has a crew of people helping her with all her ideas, crafts, cooking and incredible feats of awesomeness. But she’s still my inspiration. And I will still continue to strive to be a fully sustainable home cook. It’ll take years (and more land space for a big garden, and more time, and more…) but I’ll get there. For now, I’ll settle on doing and creating what I can, and I’ve started with extracts.
As most people know, I’m obsessed with cocktails. Alright smart asses I know what you’re thinking, not just drinking them! But creating them as well. I love the varieties of flavors we have access too and trying to find new creations balancing sweet, savory, acid, tartness, etc. For a long time, I’ve been wanting to create my own bitters and extracts in an effort to play around with new flavors. This is going to be a long work in progress considering how long it takes for extracts to develop, but it is so rewarding creating anything from scratch.
Extracts are so incredibly simple. All they take is alcohol, the flavor source your extracting, and time! Here’s why they’re so awesome:
- They make great gifts
- Enhance the flavors of foods
- Enhance cocktail flavor
- Fragrance for body products
- And they make you look awesome! Well, maybe not, but I think I’m cool for making my own!
The first thing you’ll want to do is decide what you are going to extract (herbs, fruit, citrus, spices, etc.) You can use pretty much anything. My next step feat, will be making extracts with compatible flavors, using 2 or more items. Purchase quality products, it make a difference as to what flavor profile you will end up with.
Second, decide what extracting agent (read as alcohol) you are going to use. The best alcohol weighs in at about 40% alcohol or 80 proof. If you get anything higher than that, you will need to add water to dilute it, otherwise, the alcohol flavor will always be apparent in the final product. Higher alcohol is only needed when you are making an extract out of something that doesn’t release its flavors easily, like gums and resins. High alcohol will also dehydrate any of your herbs. I ALWAYS use Tito’s Vodka! This is one of the smoothest vodkas on the market and the alcohol content is perfect for this use. Plus, total bonus is the price. This is a very affordable handcrafted vodka from Austin Texas. I swear these guys should start paying me for how much I push their product. But seriously, I tend to drink vodka on the rocks with a little citrus, and this is always my go to favorite. You can also use Rum or any other alcohol. Obviously, the flavor of the alcohol you choose will impact the flavor of the extract. Voka is best when wanting a straightforward extract.
Next, break down the item you’re extracting, getting rid of all the bitter elements. For example, if you are using citrus, you will want to use just the peel as it carries the most intense flavors and oil. Cut off the peel and only the peel, leaving behind the pith (white bitter part). Then place the peel in a bottle and cover with alcohol. For herbs, just chop them up and place in a jar. Fill your container full, leaving a little bit of room at the top. You will want your booze to cover it, leaving room for your citrus, or herbs, or whatever you chose to work with, to move.
Close the jar or bottle up and store in a cool, dark place. If you have dark bottle, that is best as any outside light will negatively impact your extract. Now the fun part…. waiting. Depending on what you are extracting, you could be waiting from a couple weeks to a couple months. The longer you wait, the more flavor will be extracted. The first week, shake your jar every day. The following couple of weeks, every couple of days then after that, whenever you think about it. Try tasting your extract once a week until you get the flavor you are looking for. But just remember to be patient, as the longer you wait, the more the flavor will change. Citrus can take several weeks, vanilla about 6 months, and cocoa nibs about a year!