A friend of mine was recently lamenting the fact that she couldn't make a recipe she'd been wanting to try but couldn't locate a key ingredient - lemon extract.
Making things lemony since, um, forever? Via www.adamsextract.com
That's when it hit me, that maybe extract making is a lesser-known-but-still-totally-useful art.
Commercial extracts are ~35% alcohol, which means that in order to make just about any flavor of extract you need just 5 things:
1 - your favorite 70 proof flavorless alcohol
Is there something other than vodka that fits this? Because I use vodka. Via heyamberrae.com
2 - your flavor, in the most concentrate form possible
I.e., lemon zest, NOT lemon juice - and DEFINITELY NOT that crappy juice-in-a-plastic-lemon stuff. Via bakingbites.com
3 - an air-and-water-tight vessel of some kind (generally a bottle, since you can make AND store in the same container)
I love these ones because they are cheap, dark colored to protect flavors from harmful UV light, and seal well. Via www.savoryspiceshop.com
4 - some time, like at least 24h
While you can put an extract together in just a few minutes, it does need to set for a spell and marinate. Via www.tumblr.com
5 - eventually, some sort of fine-meshed straining device
Like so. Via www.waresdirect.com
That's pretty much it, and while any slap-dash that adheres to the above will make a good extract, there are some basic tips that will help you make the best extract possible.
PROTIP - The size of your flavor particles matters. Smaller bits = more surface area, more surface area = faster flavor extraction, BUT THERE IS A CATCH. If those bits are TOO small, filtering them out once they've given their all can be extremely-difficult-aka-practically-impossible. Which isn't necessarily the end of the world, but it ain't the best extract, either.
Yup, I've even tried using this. Didn't work. Via www.brita.com
PROTIP - If you're making an extract for a specific purpose (like Sticky Bun Ham or Drunken Sugar Cookies), you don't HAVE to use a flavorless alcohol. I've made my own vanilla extracts using both Jack Daniels and Captain Morgan - delish)
::mesmerized:: Via recipes.howstuffworks.com
PROTIP - Marinating for 24h is a minimum so long as your bits are pretty small, a week or two (with a shake every now and again) is better, but DO NOT leave your bits in there forever. Even though alcohol is a preservative, spoilage CAN happen. Trust me.
It is NOT tastey. Via pinterest.com
Now, clearly this method doesn't work for everything - you can't make butter extract this way (heaven KNOWS I've tried), but it does work on a surprising array of yummy nummers.
Taking it to a whole 'nother level: Epic Edition Via fluxity.deviantart.com