With all the baking that went on here this holiday season, we rapidly used up our supply of store bought extracts. While store bought extracts are convenient, the imitations extracts are filled with chemicals and taste just a bit artificial, and the real extracts often cost upward of 10 dollars. With just a little planning and patience, you can make your own extracts at home with just some basic ingredients.
Six reasons you should make your own extract:
- They're cheaper
- They taste better
- They are better for you
- It's a fun ongoing project going on right in your kitchen
- They can be used as gifts
- You can control the intensity
To make your own extracts you need a jar, a solvent, and some item to use as flavoring. If you wish you can sterilize the jar before use, but so far I have had success simply using extra clean jars. For a solvent, you need some kind of alcohol, preferably vodka. It is important that there is water and alcohol in the solvent to extract more flavor, so stick with vodka since using an alcohol that is too high proof won't get to those water soluble flavors. You can flavor your extracts with a variety of things. Choose extracts that you often use in your own baking such as vanilla, lemon, almond, or peppermint.
Making Vanilla Extract
You can buy vanilla beans over the internet, or at specialty food stores. Use approximately 2 seeds for every pint of vodka. Cut the vanilla bean lengthwise, or chop it up to increase the flavor. Put the the seeds in your jar with 70-90 proof vodka and put the jar somewhere you won't forget about it.
Shake the bottle every few days/weeks. Your extract should be done in 2-3 months. The longer you allow it to sit, the stronger the flavor. Once you are happy with it, you can strain it to remove the vanilla beans and store the extract in a dark place. Don't throw those beans out, most beans can be used twice!
Making Peppermint Extract
Cut up 1/2 cup of tightly packed peppermint leaves. Place them in a jar and pour in about 1 cup of vodka. Make sure the leaves are completely covered. Every several days shake the jar. Your extract should be done in about 1 month, and you can strain it and store it in a cool, dark place.
Making Lemon Extract
Zest 2 large lemons and add it to a jar with 1 cup vodka and 2 teaspoons of sugar. You can use a lesser strength vodka for this recipe (40%). Shake the extract daily for a month, and strain it. Store in a dark and cool space.
Making Almond Extract
Combine 12 cut up raw almonds with 1 pint of vodka in a jar. Shake the jar every few days for about 2 months. When the extract reaches the desired intensity, strain it and store it in a cool dark spot.
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