So here is something to think about in food preservation. By now I sure hope you are seeing thru the curtain and learning and building systems and connections to build up your food stores. Here is something to think about though. If you have bulk foods then you also need to be able to make it tasty, so you aren’t eating the same thing over and over. Rice and beans are great nutrition, can be obtained fairly cheap and they store long term if taken care of properly. The problem...you will get sick of it fast if it's the same version night after night.
Spices and flavors!! You need to be getting these! If you can, buy plants and seeds so you can grow your own! It's amazing what a little spice can do to a common plain dish to satisfy the palette.
In this case I am building my extract library! Extracts can be really expensive to buy and yet, did you know they can be pennies to make!
So let’s start with... what IS an extract. An extract is as it says. It is the method of extracting out certain components from a plant material. Tinctures are made the same way, but typically you are extracting out certain compounds that will be used medicinally. When we make extracts for cooking or baking, we are looking for plants and material that we can extract out the natural aromatic oils that create their specific flavor or smell. These can be used on a wide spectrum of cooking from cookies to pies or anything needing that extra flavor. This is usually done with spices, nuts and fruits. The most common are coconut, almond, peppermint, orange, lemon, banana, rose, vanilla and the list goes on.
This one is lemon extract! From pies to meat, we can make "dull and plain" go to Exquisite and Tasty! (Orange is made the same way as Lemon)
To do this you will want to zest the lemon. This basically means to thinly peel only to get the yellow off. Put 1 cup of zest in jar with 8 ounces of vodka or rum. I use a cheap 80 proof vodka, the same as for my tinctures. Put the lid on tight and put in dark place at room temperature. Slightly swirl every day. Every 2 weeks strain and add new zest. The total infusing time should be around 3 months.
Note: do not throw the spent zest out! Dehydrate it and powder it. Then add it to your lemon powder stash! Also, once you have taken the zest, slice the remaining lemon and dehydrate it for tea or adding to your water OR powder it into lemon powder. NOTHING goes to waste.
The bad thing about extracts and tinctures is that it takes quite a while to finish extracting all the goodness, sometimes weeks, sometimes months. The good thing is that you use only a very little at a time and they will last years if stored properly.
So, making a batch might take a while, but you won't have to do it often.
With that said, I’m off to my next extract to add to my “extract library”! This one is coconut! Have you ever made a coconut cream pie from scratch? If you have, you have used coconut extract. This is what gives it the coconut flavor and smell, all condensed in a teaspoon of extract.
Another simple task, just patience, a jar, vodka and roasted coconut needed!
3/4 cup of toasted coconut to 8 ounces of vodka sealed in a jar. Turn it daily storing it in a dark place. This will take about 5 weeks to finish. When finished, strain and bottle.
Next up on the extract train is Banana, Almond and Vanilla!
Have you ever made a banana cream pie, almond sugar cookies or baked with a recipe using vanilla? Well in each of these recipes, you would have used one of these extracts.
For banana, mash a ripe banana and pour 1 cup of vodka over it. Strain and put in new banana every 2 weeks until finished. Finishing time... you repeat this cycle until it the flavor concentration you like.
Almond: 1 cup of plain almonds and 1 cup of vodka or rum. Finish time 3 weeks.
Vanilla 5 or 6 vanilla beans (1 ounce) , split up the center and cover completely with vodka. Finishing time about 12 months
In any extract you always want to store out of sunlight and gently swirl every day or so. When the time is up and it's to your taste, strain and bottle. Store in a dark place (cabinet) and it will last forever.