Pure extracts pack the perfect punch in homemade goodies from cookies to cakes, but they can also pack a punch to your wallet, so why not make your own? It’s easy, and the supply list is fairly short. All you need is vodka, the flavor ingredient (vanilla beans, peppermint leaves, almonds, etc), a knife and some small glass bottles.

Recommended Extraction Tips

  1. Use high quality alcohol. The higher the quality, the better the extract. Typically, vodka makes the most pure extracts, but feel free to play around with different forms of alcohol. I have made vanilla extract with rum and it was divine.
  2. Using a dark jar or bottle to store your extracts in will better protect the extracts from sun exposure. If you do not have a dark jar or bottle, then make sure you store your extracts in a dark place like a cupboard or closed pantry.
  3. Give your extracts the gift of time. Allow extracts to sit and percolate in darkness for at least two months to fully absorb the flavors you have added to them. The longer they steep the deeper the flavor will be.
  4. Gently shake the jar 3-4 times a week to ensure the flavor is being distributed.
  5. Ideally, extracts do not have to be refrigerated and will store indefinitely.

VANILLA EXTRACT

I use three vanilla beans for every cup of vodka. Once you’ve figured how much extract you’d like to make slice each bean down the middle, splitting it open to expose the seeds. Then place the beans back into the vodka bottle or into some other small glass container and seal it with the lid.

Here comes the hard part – it takes several months for the vanilla to steep, and the recommendation is three to six months, and six months is ideal to get the deepest flavor. Place your bottle in a dark cupboard and remember to give it a good shake every week or so and start checking it for flavor depth at around three months. If you wait the whole six months it will be ideal.

Once your extract has finished steeping, pour it through a coffee filter and funnel it into a smaller bottle or multiple bottles. You can use the finished product in cakes, homemade ice cream, cookies or in any recipe that calls for extract. Homemade extract also makes a great gift. Consider decorating a few bottles and give them away over the holidays. Or keep it all for yourself. I won’t judge.

Did you know you can use the vanilla beans again? Yes you can. Add more vodka and start the process all over again with the same beans. I like Indian vanilla beans and Simply Organic brand vanilla beans which I buy wherever they are on sale. I also use organic vodka, and there are two great ones that I use. Ocean, which is made in Hawaii and pretty spendy but worth it, and Purus, which is made from wheat so if you follow a paleo diet don’t use this one. Making your own extracts is economical – just compare what you spend to make them at home to prices in the grocery store, especially for the organic brands.

PEPPERMINT EXTRACT

The process for all extracts is nearly identical with the main difference being the ratio of flavor choice to vodka. An ideal mix is one part peppermint to two parts vodka. To yield half a cup of peppermint extract you will need half a cup of vodka and a quarter-cup of fresh peppermint leaves. Rinse the leaves and tear and bruise them a bit with your hands. Put the peppermint in a jar, filling until the vodka covers the leaves completely. Give the jar a shake every few days. With this extract you won’t need to wait quite so long for the leaves to steep. After a month or so strain the leaves, pour the resulting extract into an air-tight container and store in a cool, dark place. Your extract should stay good for about a year.

ALMOND EXTRACT

By now you know the drill. Here, the ratio is about 12 raw whole almonds to 16 ounces of vodka. Place the almonds in a jar, fill with vodka and close the lid. Store in a cool, dark place for about two months and shake every few days. Strain the finished extract into a jar and store in the pantry for about a year

COCONUT EXTRACT

3 ounces of grated or fresh coconut pieces
1 Cup of Vodka

You can buy a whole coconut and try to get it open yourself, but if you’re not sure you will use what is left after you get what you need to make extract, try your local specialty or health food store and see if you can get a half coconut already split or even an already peeled one. My local store is happy to do that for me. This recipe will not work with dried coconut.

Place the coconut into a glass jar and pour in the vodka.  Place in a cool dark place for at least 5 weeks – more if you like it stronger. Strain and store for up to a year.

CHOCOLATE EXTRACT

  • 1 cup vodka
  • 3/4 cup cocoa powder (use high quality dark chocolate for the best flavor)

Put ingredients into your clean bottle and steep for at least six to eight weeks and then strain and store.

 BERRY EXTRACT

  • 3/4 cup berries (i.e., blueberry, raspberry, strawberry)
  • 1 cup vodka

Put ingredients into your clean bottle and steep for at least six to eight weeks. Strain and store.

CITRUS EXTRACT (ORANGE, LIME, LEMON)

  • 1 cup vodka
  • peel of 5 oranges or 8 limes or 5 lemons, pith removed

Put ingredients into your clean bottle and steep for at least six to eight weeks and then strain and store

BONUS IDEA: FLAVORED SUGAR

You can use vanilla beans or fresh lavender to give a punch to granulated sugar. Slice one vanilla bean lengthwise to expose the seeds and bury it in 2 Cups of organic sugar. Seal tightly and let it sit for about two weeks. Fish the bean out and use the sugar for baking or in your coffee.

Lavender Sugar: Mix 1 tablespoon of culinary lavender or washed, cleaned fresh lavender from your garden with 2 cups granulated sugar. Allow to steep for at least one week before using.