Store-bought extracts can be quite costly, especially if you’re using them as regularly as I do—primarily vanilla, a 2-oz bottle can run close to $5.00. The DIY cost per ounce comes in @.70 cents. They’re easy, fun to make, and create beautiful gifts. Throughout the year, my kitchen counter resembles an apothecary’s shop with a procession of bottles displaying varying stages of infusions. Most store-bought extracts are distillations containing alcohol. While it’s a minimal amount that’s typically burned off during cooking and baking, I burn off as much as possible after the curing process. This technique also amps the flavor.
What you’ll need: Mason jars.
Madagascar is the preferred vanilla bean, but I’ve tried several suppliers and either they’re puny or dried out, or both. So I found a purveyor of Indonesian vanilla that has consistently delivered a quality product. When I was in Bali, I brought back a bundle of them packed in my suitcase. I recall their plump, beefy pods, and rich aroma that left its wonderful heady scent lingering on my clothes well after I arrived home.
You can usually get two infusions from one batch of beans. I use the third and final press for coffee extract. While most recipes call for vodka, personally, I prefer brandy for this extract. Use whichever you prefer.
- 5-vanilla beans
- 2-cups vodka, brandy, or bourbon
- With a sharp paring knife, split a seam down each pod.
- Using the blunt end of the knife, scrape the seeds and place in a Mason jar along with the pods.
- Add liquor and seal.
Within a few weeks, the infusion will turn from light amber to a dark rich hue. Place in a cool, dry spot or on the counter. Allow 6-8 weeks for curing. Shake bottle occasionally.
Strain extract and reserve pods for another batch.
You can use as-is, or follow the preparation below to burn off the alcohol.
- Transfer extract to a saucepan.
- Simmer over medium heat for 10-20 minutes or until reduced by half.
- Let cool.
- Pour into a desired bottle and store at room temperature.
To provide a deeper, robust coffee flavor, use French roast beans. Again, most recipes call for vodka as the extracting agent, but I like how the cane sugar in the gold rum sweetens and gives the extract an added caramel essence. The vanilla subdues the inherent acidity of the coffee beans to balance the flavors.
- 1/2-cup fresh whole French roast coffee beans.
- 2-cups vodka or gold rum
- 1-2 vanilla beans [optional]
- In pestle and mortar or coffee grinder, crack open beans and place in Mason jar.
- Add liquor of choice, vanilla, and seal.
- Let stand for 1-week, occasionally shaking to disperse coffee and vanilla flavor
- Strain and discard beans and vanilla.
- Transfer extract to a saucepan and simmer over medium heat until reduced by half, or for a more concentrated flavor, continue reducing until slightly syrupy
- Cool completely and transfer to a decorative bottle or Mason jar.
Whichever citrus you choose: orange, lemon, lime, grapefruit, the technique remains the same. If choosing to make an orange extract, I highly recommend using the zest of tangerines or tangelos for an intense orange flavor. Because citrus is a delicate flavor, I don’t burn off the alcohol for these extracts.
- 1-cup of zest
- In a Mason jar, cover zest with vodka and seal.
- Let cure for 2-weeks.
- Strain and discard zest.
- 2-cups fresh raspberries or blackberries
- 2-cups vodka
- Place berries in a Mason jar, pour in vodka and seal
- Let cure for 2-weeks
- Strain and discard berries
- Transfer to a saucepan and simmer for 10-20 minutes until reduced by half.