Stevia rebaudiana, an herb in the chrysanthemum family, grows wild in parts of Paraguay and Brazil. Of the 300 unique species of Stevia plants, it is the only one rich in sweet glycosides and Stevioside. As a natural sweetener, Stevia rebaudiana can be dried and crushed into a powder, prepared into simple syrup or liquid sweetener or extracted through alcohol extraction or through steam distillation. While any method works well, according to Stevia.com, alcohol extraction is preferred because it draws out the most sweetener from the plant. Take note: You're not extracting sugar from the herb; you are extracting the herb's natural sweetener. Sugar comes from a completely different source.
- Skill level:
- Moderately Easy
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Things you need
- Stevia leaves
- Measuring cup
- Paper towels
- Grain alcohol
- Cheese cloth
- Coffee filters
- Sauce pan
- Brown eyedropper bottles
Wash two cups of fresh, organic stevia leaves well with clean, cool water. Pluck any brown or shrivelled leaves from the bunch. Lay out leaves on sheets of absorbent paper towels to dry. You can buy fresh Stevia plants at many nurseries, gardening centres and online at organic herb supplies such as Mountain Valley.
Chop leaves coarsely with a knife. Cutting the herb breaks down plant fibres and cell walls, which frees the glycosides for extraction. Chopping the leaves is similar, in theory, to grinding apples into mash before cider extracting. The more effectively you grind apples, the more juice you can extract.
Measure one cup of grain alcohol and pour over the stevia leaves in a container. Cover the container and allow the mixture to sit for 24 hours. Alcohol is an effective solvent that extracts much of the resins, glycosides and steviosides in Stevia rebaudiana. In addition, alcohol is a preservative and stabiliser.
Strain the plant sedimentation from the liquid. Pour the mixture through a cheese-cloth-lined colander for the first straining. To remove any smaller plant particles, strain it a second time through a coffee-filter-lined colander.
Pour the alcohol-infused extract into a saucepan. Place the pan on a burner and heat the mixture on low but do not boil or simmer. Heat the extract until most of the alcohol has evaporated. What remains is concentrated stevioside extract.
Store the Stevia extract in brown eyedropper bottles. Because the extract is concentrated (Stevia extract is 300 times the sweetness of sugar), the extract must be diluted before use. Dilution proportions are three parts water to one part Stevia.
Tips and warnings
- Stevioside is an all-natural, calorie-free sweetener that has a low glycemic index, which means it doesn't cause a change in blood-glucose levels. In addition, it's heat stable and versatile in baked good and cooking. The only exception is in bread baking. Stevioside will not chemically interact with yeast.
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