How to Make Homemade Extracts Easily: Vanilla, Almond, Mint, Orange, and Lemon

How to Make Homemade Extracts Easily: Vanilla, Almond, Mint, Orange, and Lemon

You can learn how to make homemade extracts in some very simple steps with only a couple of ingredients. They are so easy to do you will be wondering why you have never tried it before. Better yet they will save you a lot of money over the store-bought brands and taste a lot better!

I have been making my own extracts for years. You will never need to question what goes into the cheap flavoring alternatives when you have the “real-deal”. The food and baked goods you prepare will taste better and explode with genuine flavor!

They also make extraordinary gifts for many occasions. A homemade extract gift set is a perfect present for holidays, weddings, housewarmings and more!

I like to make my extracts rich in flavor. You will note that these extracts are different from others you may have seen on the internet as my ingredients are often higher. This ensures a premium quality and taste every time!

Let’s get Extracting!

How to make Homemade Extracts at Home: Basic Supply List the Tools

 

This is a basic list of tools to gather before we get started. Every recipe here uses these basic supplies. You likely have most of this is in your house right now. If you are interested in the exact tools I have used in creating these homemade extracts I will put a list at the end of the article.

  • Glass Jars for Extracts. – The recipes given here are for 4oz bottles. You can adjust the recipe to fit your desired container.
  • Funnel. – Pouring is easier when using a funnel. If your hand is steady you can skip.
  • Measuring cups. Glass liquid measuring cup and dry.
  • Sharp Knife or Channel Knife for peeling.
  • Chopstick or skewer. – This is helpful to push ingredients down into the narrow opening of the jars.
  • Strainer & Cheesecloth. – You will not need this right away and are optional for these extracts. I like to strain mine after brew time to keep my extracts from clouding up.

See each Recipe for Ingredients and quantities.

Sterilize Your Tools for Extracts

 

Extracts are long termed food storage and it is important to prevent any harmful bacteria. Sterilization is easy and essential when it comes to making extracts, tinctures and basic canning procedures. This will be even more essential if you choose to go a non-alcoholic choice with your extracts.

If you have sanitation mode on your dishwasher this can be as easy as running everything through right before you are ready to use it. Otherwise, you will need to follow the old-fashion boil water method. Using at least 40% alcohol, 80 proof as recommended here is also a form of sterilization for tools you cannot submerge.

For more sterilization tips see this wiki-how article.

 

How to Make your Own Vanilla Extract

 

how to make pure vanilla extractVanilla beans are one of the most expensive spices/herbs in the world. Second only to saffron. This makes pure vanilla extract an expensive purchase when shopping for the “real” thing. Vanilla flavoring is a disgusting alternative that uses tar creosote and leftovers from paper mills! Seriously!

Save money and get the real thing by making it yourself!

To Make 4 ounces

Ingredients:

  • 4-6 Vanilla beans. (your choice of flavor)
  • 4 oz. 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

Directions:

  1. Cut Each Vanilla bean in half first or the appropriate length for the jar.
  2. Slice each bean carefully down the center to expose the inner parts of the pod (the seeds).
  3. Place all the vanilla beans into the glass bottle.
  4. Pour Vodka into the bottle to just above the shoulder of the bottle but not all the way up the neck. It should completely cover the beans. (about 4 ounces)
  5. Secure the lid tightly
  6. Label with the date.
  7. Mix the Ingredients by turning the bottle upside down and then back to right side up a couple times.
  8. Every few days repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When is my homemade vanilla extract done?

Vanilla extract is this small form can be used in 6 to 8 weeks. It will have a nice rich taste by then that will match any store-bought typical single fold vanilla extract. If you want a stronger double fold extract to increase the beans to 8 and allow sitting for a minimum of 6 months.

To strain or not to strain?

Pure vanilla extract in a small bottle like this for personal use I will typically leave unstrained. I go through it so fast it often does not have time to set any type of cloudy appearance. Many people will continue to add vodka and let it sit. I find that it dilutes the quality I love but you are welcome to try it. See the article I mention below on a large batch recipe I used to create fantastic rich double-fold vanilla.

To strain after 8 weeks. Place a metal strainer over a sterile glass measuring cup lined with cheesecloth. The cheesecloth will grab any tiny particles. Pour the jar contents over the strainer. Using a sterile knife scrape any remaining seed remnants from the inside of the pods into the cheesecloth and remove the hard bean shells.

Gather the ends of the cheesecloth together forming a pouch. Squeeze any remaining liquid from the cloth over the strainer and into the glass measuring cup. Return the strained liquid the bottle and recap.

Wait don’t throw away those vanilla bean seeds!

Do you make ice cream? Or another item that calls for vanilla? These little seeds still pack a punch. I place them in a small container and use them up in a few days in smoothies or other nice treats! Give it a try!

In a recent article on site, I explored a lot about what pure vanilla extract is and why you should be making your own. For a more detailed look into this wonderful extract and herb, you can check it out here.

How to Make Homemade Almond Extract

Skinning almonds are the most difficult part of this extract making process. If you choose not to skin you will end up with a tan coloration to your extract. It will not harm the taste. However, I like to use almond extract in my frostings so having it as clear as possible is essential.

They are very easy to skin. It takes a little prep. Please do not use the hot water blanch method. You need these almonds raw. See this video for a quick demo. Soak in cool water overnight. Skin pushes right off.

Almond Peeling: Video Demo

To Make 4 ounces

Ingredients:

  • 6 Raw Almonds (skinless)
  • 4 oz. 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

Directions:

  1. Slice the almonds in half or thirds to be able to fit in bottle opening.
  2. Place almonds in the bottle.
  3. Pour over the vodka just to the top of the shoulder (neck of the bottle).
  4. Cap Tightly.
  5. Label making sure to date.
  6. Mix the Ingredients by turning the bottle upside down and then back to right side up a couple times.
  7. Every few days repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When is my homemade almond extract done?

You will need to let this extract brew for 6 to 8 weeks minimum. I like to leave my almond extract for 12 weeks before straining. That extra brew time really enhances that flavor and scent.

Strain or Not?

Strain, 100% strain! Nutty extracts I find to get cloudy and off tasting if they are allowed to stay in the jar. In addition, I do not go through almond extract as fast as I will other varieties. This can leave it sitting for years in the cabinet or pantry. I feel safer if it is strained.

No need for a cheesecloth for almond extract. Place your fine strainer over glass measuring cup. Pour bottle and all its contents through the strainer into the cup. Dispose of almonds and pour contents back into your rinsed extract jar.

Mint Extract Recipe – Choose your mint

 

mint extract recipe how to make homemade extractsI most often go to peppermint. This is the most common mint used in my household for baking, teas and more. This versatile part of the mint family has a great flavor that is easily recognizable by mint lovers. You can also choose spearmint, chocolate mint, apple mint and more.

To Make 4 ounces

Ingredients:

  • ½ cup packed fresh mint leaves (rinsed and dried, no stems)
  • 4 oz 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

roll mint leaves how to make homemade extractsDirections:

  1. Roll the mint leaves together in sections and place through bottle opening. (Do not chop. Cutting can remove some of the essential oils of the mint).
  2. Pour Vodka to just above the shoulder of the bottle covering leaves. About 4 oz.
  3. Cap Tightly.
  4. Label making sure to date.
  5. Mix the Ingredients by turning the bottle upside down and then back to right side up a couple times.
  6. Every few days repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When will my Mint Extract Be ready to use?

This extract is a bit quicker than other because it is a fresh green leaf. You should be able to use within 5-6 weeks.

Green Leafy Matter Must be Strained!

After the brew time, you will need to strain this extract or anytime you’re using leaf matter. Placing your cheesecloth in your strainer and over a glass measuring cup. Pour the bottle of extract and all the mint leaves over the strainer. When all the liquid has run through gather the cheesecloth like a pouch and squeeze the remaining extract over the strainer.

Rinse the bottle and pour the extract back in.

Bonus Tip! Double Strength Mint Extract!

After straining the extract the first time you do not have to finish there. Many people like a powerful punch to their mint flavor. Punch up the flavor and make a double strength mint.

Before pouring the strained mint extract back into the bottle add another 1/2 cup of fresh mint leaves to the bottle. Re-add the extract and let sit for another 4 – 6 weeks.

Bam! Mint Explosion!

How to Make Homemade Extracts with Fruit Zest – The Lemon and the Orange

 

Fruit zest extracts are all very similar in creation. They are very easy to do and exploding with flavor. Delicious tidbit is that you are not using the meat of the fruit to create.

homemade lemon extractYou get to have your extract and eat your fruit too! Although I am not sure how many of us sit down and enjoy eating a whole lemon! I do like making lemonade though!

I choose organic fruits when making extracts. You want to be sure they are not coming from a place that has sprayed and treated the skin with chemicals. Since this is the part you are using, please exercise caution in your selection.

To Make 4 ounces of Either Fruit Extract

Homemade Lemon Extract

Lemon Extract Ingredients:

  • 1-2 Organic Lemon peels. Fine peel avoiding too much pith (the white under the skin).
  • 4 oz 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

peel of lemon

Homemade Orange Extract

Orange Extract Ingredients:

  • 1 large ripe organic navel orange
  • 4 oz 80 Proof Vodka 40% by volume (may use bourbon or other 80 proof liquor I prefer vodka)

peel of orange

Directions for Homemade lemon and orange extract:

  1. Peel strips from your fruit trying to take only the outer skin without too much white pith.
  2. Cut into strips and place into the bottle.
  3. Pour Vodka to just above the shoulder of the bottle covering peels. About 4 oz.
  4. Cap Tightly.
  5. Label making sure to date.
  6. Mix the Ingredients by turning the bottle upside down and then back to right side up a couple times.
  7. Every few days repeat this turning process to keep the ingredients mixed.

When are my fruit extracts done?

Your lemon and orange extracts take 6 to 8 weeks to fully brew into the delicious tasty flavor. Up to 12 weeks will make them even stronger!

To strain or not to strain?

This is going to be choice and timing. You will have to ask yourself how quickly you will go through these extracts. I use lemon and orange extract quickly. I do not just use them for baking. A few drops in tea, smoothies, sauces, dressings and more and they go quickly.

Fruit peels will break down and go cloudy after some time. If you will not go through it in a year I would strain.

Straining is easy. No cheesecloth needed. Using the strainer over glass measuring cup pour the contents of the bottle. Discard peels and return extract to bottle.

 

Alcohol Alternative for Extract Making

 

The recipes are given here all use 80 proof alcohol. This is the best way to extract the constituents of the plants, herbs, and fruits used here. The insignificant amounts of alcohol that would be used in typical recipe or usage are very minimal.

how to make homemade extracts alcohol alternative vegetable glycerineIn addition, alcohol in any cooked goods, hot beverages etc. is cooked off in the heat prior to consumption. However, I do understand that this is an issue for some individuals and respect that choice.

How to make homemade extract with a Food grade vegetable glycerin alternative?

Vegetable glycerin takes the place of alcohol in many extracts. It needs to always have 1 part of distilled water added due to its thick nature. For the recipes here you can substitute the vodka with 3 ounces of glycerin and 1 ounce distilled water.

Your extracts will last only 1-year  so make sure your labels have an expiration date as well as a brewed on date.

As Promised the Tools & Supplies I used to make these Tinctures

The Amber Bottles I used Here

 

The Funnel that was Used

 

Dry Measuring Cups

 

Additional Reading:

I have created a series of articles that detail making extracts and tinctures. In those a detailed supply list is included that explains how, and why each supply is used. If you would like more information, check out these great articles.

What Else Can I do with Extracts Besides Baking?

 

Now that you learned how to make homemade extracts let’s talk about some great ideas to use them besides baked goods! I mentioned above using lemon and orange extract in teas, that is just a start!

  • Ditch the Sugary Soft Drinks! Flavored Sparkling water. Grab a bottle of club soda or seltzer water. A few drops to a tsp of extract a glass can give you a healthy and delicious flavor alternative.
  • Fiber flavor. Do you take a fiber drink supplement? A few drops of vanilla, mint or another extract can make it go down smoother!
  • Flavor up Yogurt! Drop into plain yogurt for flavor. Make it un-sweet and use extract to help you avoid a lot of excess sugar.
  • Salad dressings. One of my favorites dressings is citrus ginger. It is a lot faster to take add few drops of extracts vs juicing. Recipe here.

There is many more too, this is just a taste…

red arrow down rightAre there other ways you use extracts? I would love to hear from you? Drop a comment below and let me know!

Christina insideherbgardens.com

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