Here in central California we are lucky enough to have access to some sort of fresh citrus much of the year. However, the motherlode really does hit in the spring when friends end up with back yards smelling of fermenting orange and lemon after months of picking limes then lemons then oranges. By mid-spring you could have a special yard-cleaning service, just cleaning fallen (and starting to rot) fruit out of every backyard in central California. It is everywhere and that particular bounty is only once a year.
It’s in that time that I like to save the flavors of citrus for the rest of the year. There are many ways to do so but there is one simple method worthy of the 30 minutes or so of time (most of which you can do in front of a television) that captures the brightness of citrus and stores it for you all year long, ready to add to baked goods and drinks: the citrus extract.
Simply add the peel of an orange, lemon, or lime to alcohol. Let it sit. Strain out the peel and retain the alcohol. The alcohol is your new flavoring and captures the brightness of the citrus in an intense way. What you create is an orange, lemon, or lime “extract,” much like you would buy in the store. This is the stuff you add to recipes by the 1/4 teaspoon, so a little goes a long way.
For the alcohol in this recipe, I use a 150-proof grain alcohol but you would have pretty good results from the 80-proof products like vodka that you can buy in bulk at places like Costco. A lower-proof alcohol is not quite the heavy worker at pulling out the flavor of the citrus but I expect you will be satisfied with it nonetheless (and it is quite a bit cheaper).
Here is a simple and delicious process for making your own citrus extract from your favorite citrus fruit: lemon extract, orange extract, or lime extract.
Wash and dry your citrus fruit well.
Remove the outer peel of your lemons, oranges, or limes with a sharp pairing knife.
Place peel in a small, clean jar.
Add alcohol to jar until peel is covered.
Cover jar with lid and shake well.
Store in the pantry for several weeks, shaking occasionally.
Strain off and retain the liquid. That is your citrus extract.
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