homemade orange extract

homemade orange extract

I can never find natural extracts (except for vanilla) in my area of the world, so one fine day I finally gave up and went all geeky to make my own! It's also way cheap and also a great way to use up orange peels that might otherwise get tossed out. So there I was opening up my old box of school stuff, rummaging through my old food biochemistry notes from grad school and boy was I hit with a moment of nostalgia! I remembered the times when we learned how to extract pectin from apples and oranges, corn starch from corn, essential oils from plants by distillation. Those were some fun times, especially for me since I love food and the science behind cooking.

homemade orange extract for baking

This is my simplified version of preparing an orange extract for flavoring purposes. I recommend using a good quality unflavored 40% vodka while preparing this, there are two reasons for this, you need both water and alcohol to extract the flavors in the peels but using water also helps to extract aromatic compounds from the orange that will remain behind in the baked goods. If you use pure 100% alcohol, most of the stuff extracted will evaporate during the high heat temperatures. 

homemade orange extract prep

I prefer doing a warm extraction of the peels, I find the flavors to be much more complex and stronger. To be safe, I recommend warming the vodka in a water bath that is not on a stove or near any fire source. As soon as the warmed vodka hits the peels the extraction process will begin. I leave the peels in the jar for a prettier effect and store the extract in the refrigerator. Also, the fresher the oranges the better the flavors extracted so I prefer to extract my oranges the day I buy them. You could also divide the extract into tinier vials for storage and or as gifts.

Amber colored glass bottles are the best way to store most extracts, if you can't find them just cover your regular glass bottle/vial with aluminum foil to reduce the exposure to light. Light tends to breakdown the compounds in the extract, so limited exposure to light increases the quality and shelf life.
homemade orange extract baking

homemade orange extract

yields: approximately 150 ml


2 large navel oranges or 3 ounces fresh orange peel
a bowl or saucepan halfway filled with boiling water
150ml 40% unflavored organic vodka (you might need a little more depending on the shape and size of your jar) + a little extra vodka to rinse the canning jar

1. Sterilize a clean 7.5 fluid ounces (~200ml) canning jar and lid with boiling water. Remove and keep covered with a clean cloth or paper towel until ready to fill the jar.
2. Place the 150ml vodka in heatproof jar and seal the lid with cling film. Then place the jar in the bowl containing the boiling water. Allow the vodka to warm for about 1 1/2 - 2 minutes. 
2. Rinse the oranges under cold running water. Gently, pat them dry with a clean paper towel. Peel the oranges and using a sharp knife julienne the peels into thin 2 inch sections.
3. Rinse the canning jar with the little extra vodka and discard the liquid. Stuff the jar with the cut orange peels. Fill the jar with prewarmed 150ml vodka or until the peels are completely covered with the vodka.
4. Seal the jar with the lid and tighten. Shake the contents of the jar vigorously for a few seconds. Place the jar in the refrigerator for 1 week and shake once every day. The extract is ready to use after one week. You can store the extract in the same jar or divide and transfer the liquid into smaller airtight jars or vials. The extract can be stored in the refrigerator or in a cool dark place.