Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Flavor Extracts

There are many options when it comes to using flavor extracts, so we're not exactly limited to what we can find at the grocery store.  At the grocery store, you will find either real extracts or artificial.  Since the artificial flavors are made from chemicals, I will focus on natural extracts.  The options for natural extracts are to find an actual natural extract or to make your own.  Though making your own extract is extremely easy, it takes a few months at the least for the extract to be ready.  So you may want to get some flavors started and then track down some natural extracts to use in the mean time.

Finding Natural Flavor Extracts:

If you want to find a natural flavor extract, the first step is knowing what you are looking for.  Look for extracts that have the ingredients listed to assure that no artificial colors or flavors are added.  If it says caramel color, then this is a chemical.  Make sure also that you are getting extracts and not oils.  Oils are mostly used for flavoring chocolates whereas extracts can be used for sugar based candies.

Where to find Extracts:
  1. Grocery Store: Yes, check out the flavor extracts in the baking section of your grocery store and be sure to read the ingredients.  Some may be free of artificial substances.  Just a note on vanilla, make sure you are buying vanilla that is an amber color and not a murky brown or a colorless liquid since neither are real vanilla.
  2. Whole Foods or Health Food Store: I check Whole Foods first but I did not find a large variety of flavors.  I did find some good ones at my local co-op store though.  This is the best type of physical location for finding natural flavors extracts.
  3. On-line Stores: Though you may find a couple of flavors in stores, I guarantee it will not be a large variety.  So for better variety, do a search on-line for natural extracts and see what you find.  Just assure that you are only buying something that shows the ingredients since anyone can say "natural" but it doesn't mean that it actually is.  If you're going to go to the trouble of ordering flavor extracts on-line, it makes sense to assure you are getting something good.  So be sure to look at the reviews for the company or product before making a purchase to assure you are not going to get a bum product.
Here are some brands and companies that I researched:
  1. Olive Nation: Olive Nation had great reviews so I ordered a few flavor extracts from them.  So far, it seems like they are not as strong as the extracts you find in the store, so you just need to use more than what is asked for in the recipe when making hard candy.  I have not yet tried in other recipes.
  2. Nature's Flavors: Another company that looks too good to be true and when you read the reviews, it seems that this is the case.  Based on the negative reviews to include negative reports with the Better Business Bureau, I would avoid Nature's Flavors.  They have a great variety of flavors, but people say the flavors do not taste like they should and they also report horrible customer service and unreliable shipping.  Before I read the reviews, I e-mailed the company to inquire on the ingredients in some of their products.  I never heard back from them.
  3. Faeries Finest: This company lists natural flavor extracts but does not list ingredients. I haven't tried contacting this company for clarification, but you may want to do so if you are interested in their large variety of flavors.
Making Extracts:
As I mentioned before, making flavor extracts is extremely simple.  For whole dried spices use a ratio of 5 to 1 of vodka and the dried ingredient.  If you are using fresh ingredients, use 3 to 1 vodka to ingredient.  Place the ingredient and vodka in a jar with an air tight lid and place it in a cool dark place for 3-4 weeks.  This can be longer for different recipes.  Some recipes will require that you shake or swirl the contents of the jar either daily or every 3 to 4 days.  Once the extract is ready, you will strain the extract to assure that nothing but liquid is in the extract and then store it in a dark color of glass container.  Since this is a quick run down on how to make extracts, be sure do a search for the particular type of extract you wish to make.  There may be particular instructions for making fruit extracts as apposed to making vanilla or cinnamon.

Here are some recipes you may be interested in:
My homemade extract trials:
- Flavor Extracts #1 - 19 Jul 2011

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