Years ago when I first learned to cook, I loved adding vanilla extract to cookies, cakes and whipped cream. As soon as I took the lid off the small jar of extract, I could smell the exotic fragrance. I did not have a clue about how it was made or where it came from. All I knew is the magic of its flavor.
When I began to experiment with cooking with lavender, I wondered why lavender extract was missing from the line-up of the more traditional flavors like vanilla, almond and mint. Lavender extract would be an easy way to introduce the flavor of lavender to baked goods without having to grind up lavender buds. Also, with an extract, it would be easier to get the amount of flavor you desire. With lavender, it can be tricky to get the right amount. Too little, and the taste is too subtle. Too much, and the taste overpowers. With an extract, I could get it just right. (Sounds like I’m writing about Goldilocks and the three bears!)
This summer when I was in the gift shop at the Lavender Wind Farm on Whidbey Island, I found a small jar of Lavender Extract. Sarah Richards, owner of this farm, told me she also wondered why lavender extract was not available. “I, like you, wondered why we didn’t have lavender extract, so I made some by looking up how to make tinctures and going from there”, she said. “I also made it as a response to folks who try to cook with essential oil – as far as I can tell it’s not a good idea to do that, so I wanted people to have an alternative”. Sarah likes to use the extract to make lavender-flavored frosting.
Today I added lavender extract to whipped cream. I was serving blueberries for dessert and topped them with lavender whipped cream to add a sophisticated touch.
Curious about extracts and tinctures, I’ve found out that is relatively easy to make extracts at home. What you will need is fresh or dried culinary lavender, vodka (100 proof is best); some jars and lids, labels, strainer and cheese cloth. Click here for easy instructions for how to do this. Now I’m thinking about expanding into additional flavors, could I make a lemon extract my soaking lemon zest in vodka? What about rose-flavored extract? What flavors are you planning to try?