FLAVORINGS, EXTRACTS AND LIQUEURS

You can make many of your own extracts, flavored sugars, and fruit cordials
or liqueurs at home without too much effort by infusing fruit peels and
spices in vodka, rum, or other liquors.

It's a fun and easy project during the Winter months. When decanted in fancy
bottles and bedecked with colorful ribbons, raffia-tied spices, cinnamon
sticks and pine cones, the bottled infusions make cheerful and welcomed
Holiday gifts.
Vanilla Extract:

Add 3-4 vanilla beans to a 1/2 pint canning jar filled with 1/2 vodka and
1/2 Myer's rum (or just plain vodka will do). There are also vanilla
flavored vodkas on the market now, but that sort of defeats the purpose. In
a few weeks when the vodka has sufficiently infused, you can remove the
vanilla beans and then store them in a jar filled with sugar for several
months. The sugar will take on the vanilla flavor and you can use this sugar
to make apple pie, cookies, sprinkle on desserts or in whipped cream, etc.
Or else leave the beans in the vodka; they will eventually dissolve over
time. Shake up the jar to disperse before using. Try infusing strega
(Galliano) with vanilla beans; use this instead of vanilla extract when
making biscotti or pound cake; or for soaking Baba au Rhum. Allow Aunt May's
next holiday fruit cake to imbibe this instead of the traditional brandy
soak.

Mint Extract:
To make mint extract, obtain a pound or so of fresh spearmint or peppermint
leaves (harvest them at noon time on a sunny day), wash them well and
crush/bruise the leaves. Add these to a quart sized canning jar of vodka and
place in the sun. Using a piece of well-washed, new cheese cloth, strain
(and discard) the leaves from the infusion after three to four weeks.

Citrus Extracts (Orange or Lemon):
For orange or lemon extract, you need to use a zesting tool or a vegetable
peeler to strip off the peels of the citrus while leaving the white "pith",
which is bitter, behind.
Squeeze the fruit, removing the membranes and seeds; place peels and fruit
pulp into a quart sized canning jar, filling 1/3 of the jar. Add vodka
(there are citrus flavored vodkas that might be interesting, or else try
limoncello!).

Anise Extract:

For anise extract, fill a 1/2 pint canning jar with whole star anise. Fill
with vodka, leave indefinitely. Star anise also stores well in sugar to make
anise flavored sugar. (An interesting side note: Star anise are the star
shaped seed pods from the fruit of a Chinese evergreen tree which provides a
key ingredient used in the production of Tamiflu, an antiviral agent
purportedly effective in helping to fight H5N1 bird flu and other
influenza).

Pomegranate Liqueur:

Pomegranates make an interesting cordial and a great substitute for red food
coloring as well. Just look at that color! No wonder pomegranates are loaded
with anti-oxidants.

Remove the skin and membranes from 3-4 pomegranates and put the seeds,
separated, in the bottom of a quart sized canning jar. Crush the seeds with
the back of the spoon.

Fill the rest of the jar with vodka. Let sit about a week. Store in a sealed
decanter in a cool, dark, place.

In all infusions, check the progress of things from time to time (by
tasting, of course!).

If the infusion is lacking flavor, leave it to steep for a longer period or
start again by straining the liquid and adding a new batch of the flavoring
ingredient (to the same vodka that has been already infused).

In this way, you can also add multiple layers of flavor or create new
combinations by using a second flavoring ingredient the next time around !

Candace