Avoid synthetic food coloring by making your own natural food colorings extracted from fresh foods like colorful fruits and vegetables. They're fun and simple to make and can be used in a wide variety of recipes.
1/3cupvodkaor other high proof alcohol, or glycerin
Choose one of the colorant choices above and one of the extration ingredients (alcohol or glycerin).
When using fresh foods
Either cut the fresh foods into small pieces or juice them. Add the cut pieces to a small bottle or jar with enough alcohol to fully cover them. If using juice, mix the juice with alcohol to dilute the color and help preserve your coloring. (The final alcohol concentration should be over 20% for safe preservation.)
After steeping for several hours, the plant material can be strained out by pouring the mixture through a cloth or coffee filter.
When using dried powders
Mix together one of the powders with some alcohol or glycerin. (Water can also be used if you aren't concerned with preserving the homemade coloring.)
The mixture can be used as-is immediately or allowed to steep for several hours. After steeping, the powders can be strained out with a cloth or coffee filter. Using the coloring with the powder may add speckling in some cases, but straining may also lighten the color. Experiment to find the look that works best for your project.
Colorings made without alcohol or glycerin should be stored, covered, in the refrigerator and used within 5 days. If the alcohol concentration is high enough (over 20%), you can keep your coloring for longer. Pour the liquid into small bottles and store in a cool, dry place for up to several weeks. (After that time, it's probably still safe to use them, but I find that the colors often change with time.)If using glycerin, it should make up 50% of the concentration for safe storage.
The nutritional information is an estimate for 1 tsp. of a vodka-based homemade food coloring. It will vary slightly depending upon the ingredient used to color the vodka. Glycerin can also be used to make an alcohol-free coloring.To preserve the colorings, make sure that the final concentration of alcohol is above 20% or that the final glycerin concentration is above 50%. Keep in mind that some fresh foods may give off water to the alcohol or glycerin which may lower the final percentages.