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Pure Extractions

Flavor extracts have been used for centuries to enhance foods, drinks, and to disguise the bitter taste of certain medicines.

Many stores carry extractions, although those not labeled ‘pure’ or containing ‘100%’ of the said ingredient are often full of additives, chemicals, and in some cases sugar. Their flavor is often inferior, as can easily be noticed with imitation vanilla. Though this may slide in a chocolate chip cookie recipe, you need the real deal vanilla if you want dainties such as sugar cookies to hold up.

Fortunately, any such dilemma can be easily remedied by making your own extracts at home. Most ingredients can even be grown in your own yard.

Stevia
Stevia leaf extract is useful to sweeten beverages with, whether in hot or iced tea, or in a mocha latte. It can also work as liquid sweetener in puddings or atop a fluffy bed of rice.

After harvesting fresh leaves from your garden, dry them in the sun or in a home dehydrator. Once leaves are dry, crush them finely in a mortar and pestle. Let 1/4 cup crushed leaves soak in 1 cup of warm water, allow to steep for 24 hours. The following day, strain the liquid through cheesecloth and store in the refrigerator. You can also add little amounts of alcohol to lengthen the shelf-life of the extract.

Vanilla
Take 3 vanilla beans and, using kitchen scissors, cut along each one lengthwise to split it in half. Be sure to leave an inch uncut at the end so the beans remain connected.

Place the vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle, choosing one with snug fitting lid. Old jam jars or liquor bottles will work. Cover the vanilla beans completely with vodka and give the container a little shake. You should give them a good shake every now and again to let the beans and alcohol mingle. The better acquainted they are, the better your extract shall be in taste and quality.

Store in a dark, cool place for two months. This may seem a lengthy time to wait, but given the fact that it’ll last you for years, it is well worth the trade off.

Peppermint
In addition to brightening up the flavors in foods and beverages, peppermint extract can be used in homemade hygienic products like mouth wash.

Dry freshly picked leaves by hanging them upside down in a dark, cool place. Crumble the dry leaves in a mortar and pestle or by using your hands. Place in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid and fill, until covered, with vodka. A good ratio would be 1/2 to 1 cup of vodka for every 1/4 cup of dried, crushed leaves – much similar to the water-stevia ratio. Shake generously, doing so on a daily basis for one to three months.

Remember that the flavor will only improve with age, at least within the first several months. This method works with other mint varieties as well, though peppermint seems to be a favorite to most mint fans.

Almond
You’ll need about a dozen fresh almonds and a cup of vodka to make this extract. Rid the almonds of their skins and chop them well. Put the chopped almonds in the bottom of a glass jar and fill with vodka. Store in a cool, dark place and shake daily for one to three months, as with the peppermint extract.

Coconut
I’m not sure how many of you live around coconut trees, let alone get your supply from them. So, let’s assume you purchase organic coconuts from your favorite grocery haunt. Once home, cut the coconut in half and scoop out the meats. Shred the fresh coconut until you have 1/4 cup’s worth. Place into a glass jar and fill the jar with 1 cup of vodka. Swirl the contents in the jar to get it evenly mixed. Continue to shake daily for about 2 months.

Now you need only to arm yourself with a good dropper.

Reference
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