You can easily make your own extracts for cooking and baking by soaking herbs in alcohol. Vodka works the best we think, because it has little flavor on its own.
Simply add the fruit or herb to the alcohol, cover, and let it sit. The alcohol is actually a preservative, so no need to worry about anything going bad as long as it is submerged.
Keep it at least four weeks in a cool dark place, the longer the better. We like to make small fresh batches every year. We make ours over the course of the summer as the produce comes in, and it is ready for holiday baking. When you can’t wait any longer, strain out any particles or unwanted pieces using cheesecloth or even a coffee filter. Store your extract in a dark place away from heat for a longer shelf life. You can buy amber bottles for storing. We just keep ours in the cabinet.
Be sure of course to always use sterilized food grade containers. Glass is best. We use 1/2 pint canning jars. These do make wonderful gifts as the flavor is so much better than what you find in the stores. Also, you may want to adjust your recipes, as we found we didn’t need to add as much to get great flavor.
Here are a few extracts to try:
Mint: Place a few sprigs of freshly cut and washed mint in the jar and fill with alcohol. There are a number of mints that can be used. We like the Silver Mint and Peppermint the best.
Anise: You can use Anise seeds or fennel bulbs and seeds to make anise extract. For a minty anise flavor, try Anise Hyssop.
Citrus: Use the grated outer peel and juice of a lemon or orange. You can also try using the bulb from Lemongrass, or Lemon Balm leaves. These we haven’t tried yet, but will be this summer.
Vanilla: Add a few vanilla beans to the alcohol. They are expensive to buy, but the extract is so worth it if you like to bake a lot.
Lavender: Add some fresh flowers to the alcohol. The extract is good in lemon cookies. My friends say it also makes a great martini.
Use your imagination based on what extracts you have been purchasing. I have seen recipes for coconut, coconut lime, chocolate, nuts and berry extracts. These aren’t flavors we use, but perhaps you do.