Agave extract, also known as agave nectar or agave syrup, is a sweetener extracted from the heart of the agave plant, called the pina. Although there are several species of agave used for agave nectar production, the blue agave plant is the most common because of its sweetness. Agave nectar is often used among the health conscious because it is a low glycemic index food and it is sweeter than sugar. It can be substituted for honey and sugar in recipes and beverages.
Cut the pina into eighths or quarters with a large knife, rinse the pieces and arrange them in roasting pans. You may need to cut the pina into smaller pieces depending on the size of your oven and roasting pans.
Preheat your oven between 118 and 160 degrees Fahrenheit and bake the pina pieces for 40 to 72 hours or until a rust color is achieved. The heat and slow cooking process encourages the juice to flow out of the pinas, but the amount of cooking time needed varies greatly depending on the temperature you use and the size of the pina.
Pour off and discard the bitter nectar that accumulates after three hours of baking, then continue the slow baking process.
Place the roasted pinas into a bowl to cool and pour the nectar from the pan into a second bowl.
Rinse the pina pieces with cool running water and return them to the bowl.
Mash the pieces with a potato masher to squeeze the liquid out of the agave. Pour the extracted liquid in the nectar bowl as needed to prevent a mess.
Cut the pina into tiny pieces or mince in a food processor and continue to mash them until no liquid flows from them.
Put the mashed agave against a fine wire mesh strainer and press it with the back of a wooden spoon to squeeze the remaining nectar into the nectar bowl.
Place a paper filter into a funnel. Set the funnel inside a glass jar or bowl, and pour small amounts of nectar into the funnel. The paper filter will clarify the nectar.
Repeat the filtration process until you achieve your desired results.
If you bake the agave pina at 118 degrees Fahrenheit or less, the resulting nectar will be considered a raw food product. You can increase the temperature to speed up the process if you don’t want it to be raw.
This process requires a lot of baking time and you will need to monitor the agave to check its progress. Do not attempt this if you are unable to monitor your oven for the required amount of time.
A former cake decorator and competitive horticulturist, Amelia Allonsy is most at home in the kitchen or with her hands in the dirt. She received her Bachelor's degree from West Virginia University. Her work has been published in the San Francisco Chronicle and on other websites.