How to Make Citrus Extract and Why
Preparedness and Food Storage
Flavor extracts allow one to add the flavor of a particular food to a dish without having to add the actual food. For example, chunks of lemon may not bake up very good in a cake, lemon juice would add too much acidic liquid so extract is used to add the real flavor of lemon. Extracts were also used because in historic times some food items just didn’t store well or they were exceedingly difficult to obtain, so flavoring extracts were used instead. This would make extracts very handy to have in your food storage if, for whatever reason, we can no longer purchase or grow the desired food items. Divided out into smaller bottles they may also make a reasonable barter item or gift. When properly sealed and stored in a cool dark area, flavoring extracts will outlast you.
Certain flavoring extracts, such as citrus extracts, are also marketed as daily health supplements. They have been shown to help reduce glucose intolerance, cholesterol and they have also been associated with reduced levels of inflammation. Bitter orange extract has been shown to increase your resting metabolic rate and grapefruit seed extract has been shown to be a great immune booster. It has also been shown to be a powerful antiseptic/disinfectant, possibly even comparable to bleach.
Frugality and Self-Reliance
Quality flavor extracts are essential if you do a lot of baking or are using them for health purposes, but they are expensive. Making your own flavoring extracts is one way to save a little bit of money. Homemade extracts are often higher in quality than their store-bought counter parts and lack artificial coloring and other additives. A handcrafted flavoring extract also makes a wonderful gift, which like wine, will only improve with time. It is one more thing you can make yourself rather than relaying on a store to get it from.
Basically, any baking extract (vanilla, lemon, almond) is a tincture where a solvent, like alcohol meant for human consumption, extracts the flavoring. Extract can be made with almost any flavoring and any type of high-proof drinking alcohol. Whether making an extract for baking, health purposes or for flavoring a drink; it’s simply a matter of combining food material, alcohol, and time. Once your extract has reached the desired strength (test by occasionally tasting it) remove the flavoring ingredients from the alcohol and store for future use.
Most commercial extracts list their alcohol content at around 35%, give or take a little. This is 70 proof. A regular bottle of vodka is usually 40% alcohol or 80 proof, for optimum flavor extraction you want to shoot for 80-90 proof. A good quality, plain vodka is recommended because it isn’t flavored or aged in wood like other spirits are.
The recipe I started with came from the Canning Granny Blog (a canning blog with a focus on food storage), I have tried other recipes but prefer this one. Please keep in mind that in general, bacteria can’t survive in 40% alcohol (80 proof), but I have read that a few molds can survive (although this is very unlikely), so sterilize all jars and lids before using, just like you would prior to canning. Please note: I do not sweeten the extracts.
- 2 pint jars – one for lemon one for orange
- 2 canning jar lids
- One orange
- Two lemon s
- 1 quart of quality 90 proof vodka
Wash your hands, then wash the lemons.
Peel the lemons with a potato peeler. Try to avoid the pith (the white stuff under the peel). Put the peel from both lemons in one of the pint jars. Some people ‘zest’ instead of peel the fruit, it doesn’t really matter in time it will taste the same. Repeat the process with the orange and the other pint jar.
Fill pint jars with vodka. Leave an inch of head space. Top with sterile canning jar lids.
Seal your jars with a FoodSaver or equivalent machine with a jar sealing attachment (pictured above). Sealing the jars will help keep the environment sterile, help keep any mold from forming, and help keep it from spilling. Do not heat process the jars.
Store the vodka and citrus combination somewhere cool and dark for 6 weeks or longer, this is not an exact science. Once a week shake the jars. Some people say to do this once a day, if there isn’t time to do it once a day, don’t worry, just shake it up whenever you remember to.
Open up the jar up every so often and test it, then if it is not to the desired strength, seal it back up.
The jar pictured above is the lemon extract I started with, it is now ready. The extract has sat for four months. When the extract is ready, strain the citrus peel out with cheese cloth. If there is still sediment left over, run the resulting liquid through a coffee filter.
Then seal the extract up again for future use or to give as a gift. Enjoy the savings.
The above two jars are the finished extracts from the beginning of this article. The orange extract is on the left and the lemon is on the right.
Citrus extract use tip: Extract is alcohol based, if you have a choice, add it to your dish as late in the game as possible. As it is heated and baked extract will evaporate and lose potency.