Sunday, April 15, 2012

Homemade Peppermint and Vanilla Extracts

Admittedly, I am both a bit picky and frugal.  So I really like to make basic pantry items myself.  It's so much less expensive, you know the quality of the ingredients, and if you have food allergies you know they are truly allergy free!

Making your own extracts ensures they are allergy free!

In my cookbooks I have recipes for a wide variety of flavored oils, vinegars, spice blends and even salt blends.  But I have never developed recipes for any culinary extracts.  

A few days ago I was looking through some Pinterest boards and found these 2 great sites with detailed directions for Peppermint Extract and Vanilla Extract.

I love them both!  It's amazing to me how just a few drops of vanilla extract in a smoothie, ice cream or chocolate sauce can elevate the flavor from good to fantastic!  I find its scent intoxicating . . .

I actually use peppermint extract virtually everyday.  When I hit my mid-afternoon energy lull, rather than reaching for a cup of coffee or tea, I add a few drops to a glass of water for a refreshing drink.  It revives my energy level and my immune system at the same time.  Peppermint is one of those "wonder herbs" because it's naturally anti-microbial!  

I hope you are inspired by these lovely recipes and photos to go put your apron on and have some fun making REAL FOOD in your own kitchen!  

Dr. P


Homemade Peppermint Extract

Do you have an over abundance of peppermint growing in your garden? Are you looking for inexpensive gifts to give this holiday season? Do want to add a little twist to your winter treats? The answer: make your own peppermint extract. What do you need? A glass jar, peppermint leave and vodka. Yup, that's it, it can't get any simpler than that.

Peppermint Extract

1 glass jar with a lid
Fresh Peppermint Leaves

Wash your peppermint leaves to remove all the dirt and bugs. Gently dry them with a towel. Fill your jar 3/4 of the way full with the leaves and stems. Cover with vodka and screw on lid. Shake every day for 4 to 6 weeks and your peppermint extract will be ready to use.

The finished product, not as pretty as when it started

Make Your Own Vanilla Extract

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Homemade Vanilla Extract
Homemade Vanilla Extract
Vanilla extract is one of those must-haves in a kitchen. I use it in so many things from cookies to ice cream to coffee, that I’m constantly needing to purchase more. I confess I love it so much that I sometimes open up a bottle of it just to smell it, and if I get some on my fingers I secretly want to dab some behind my ears and on my neck so the aroma can linger.
But vanilla extract is expensive. Little bottles of it usually cost $5 or $10, if not more. It’s one of those items, that if used often, should really be made at home because you can make it for so much less. Instead of paying $10 for a 2-ounce bottle, you can spend $10 making a single cup of vanilla extract – that’s about $2.50 for a 2-ounce bottle instead. Plus, your jar of extract will last you a lot longer if you add beans periodically (doesn’t need to be very often) and keep filling up the jar with alcohol.
How to Make Vanilla ExtractYields approximately 1 cup of vanilla extract
  • 3 vanilla beans
  • 1 cup alcohol (vodka recommended, but rum and bourbon can also be used)
  • Half-pint or larger jar with lid
Note: I chose to make this two different ways to test out how effectively the extract would develop based upon how the beans were cut. I’ll show you both ways, but after trying this out I firmly believe that splitting the bean pods open and releasing the beans is the best option.
Gather together your ingredients. Since I am making two different versions of extract, I am using both rum and vodka. Rum adds an additional flavor to vanilla extract, so you may want to use vodka instead which will impart no additional flavor.
Ingredients to make vanilla extract
Ingredients to make vanilla extract
Take out your vanilla beans – if you are going to do only one cup of extract, you’ll need only three full beans.
Madagascar Vanilla Beans
Vanilla beans
Using a sharp knife, split each vanilla bean lengthwise starting about half an inch or an inch from one end.
Splitting a vanilla bean
Splitting a vanilla bean
Scrape the beans from the pod.
Scrapping vanilla beans from a vanilla bean pod
Scrapping vanilla beans from a vanilla bean pod
You may also just chop your beans, but this will not allow your vanilla extract to be quite as strong as quickly.
Chopping vanilla bean pods
Chopped vanilla beans
Place the pods and the scraped beans into your jar(s). Repeat this process with your other two beans. Once you’re ready, add one cup of alcohol to your jar.
Making vanilla extract
Adding the alcohol to the jar of vanilla beans
Tightly seal the jar, and give it a good shake.
Making vanilla extract
Shaking the alcohol and vanilla beans together
Store the jar in a dark place for about six weeks. Every few days give your jar a good shake. You’ll notice over time that your extract will increasingly become more amber in color, and the smell of the alcohol will decrease. Once you’ve reached about six weeks, you can go ahead and start using your extract. If you like, you can strain the vanilla to get rid of the beans and pieces, otherwise you can keep them all together.
Homemade vanilla extract
Rum vanilla extract on the left, vodka vanilla extract on the right - the rum is lighter because of the way the beans were chopped. If you want a stronger extract, be sure to split them then scrape the beans as I recommend above.
Once you start running low (when you have about 1/3 of the jar left) you can fill up the jar again with alcohol. You can also add vanilla bean scraps to your jar if you ever have them on hand. This isn’t necessary, because the beans you have in the jar will continue to produce a good extract for you for a very long while (I’ve read years in some places).
I chose to give the extract away as gifts. I purchased these beautiful 2-ounce amber bottles and caps fromSpecialty Bottle.
Two-ounce amber bottle for extract
This is the perfect size for giving vanilla extract away as a gift!
All I did was pour the extract from the jar it had been sitting in for the last few weeks into a liquid measuring cup to make pouring into the bottles easier.
Homemade vanilla extract
Getting ready to repour the extract into amber bottles
I placed a little bit of the beans into each bottle, the poured the extract into each bottle. I then sealed each bottle with a polyseal cap. Polyseal caps allow for a better seal so that the extract won’t leak. This is great if you plan on sending the extract through the mail.
Homemade vanilla extract
Getting the gifts of vanilla extract ready
I also chose to make this more personal by creating unique labels to stick on each bottle. I printed information about the extract, as well as instructions on how to extend the life of the extract on 2″x4″ labels. I also signed each one by hand to make sure people knew it really was a handmade gift by me. :)
Vanilla extract labels for bottles
I'm adding my own personal touch to the extract bottle
In the end I wound up with eight bottles – perfect for giving away.
Homemade vanilla extract
Homemade vanilla extract - so completely easy!
Have you ever made vanilla extract – or any kind of extract, for that matter? What is your favorite method?
Update October 2011: A couple of people have asked to see a close-up of the label I created. I took a screenshot and it’s below. For some reason the font I used isn’t showing up (I originally used Scriptina), but if you use this as inspiration, you can totally use whatever fonts you like.
Vanilla Extract Label
This is the label I created on my computer
I used the Avery DesignPro program (a free program that can be installed on both PCs and Macs). Depending on what size bottle you use, you may want to use different labels, but you can download the file I used to print out labels for 2-ounce bottles. I used Avery 5263, which are shipping labels and are not the most ideal because I’ve noticed that the text and images can rub off over time. For nicer gifts, I’d suggest finding a nicer label that is more durable.
Also, if you want to use the vanilla beans image, feel free – it’s my own picture. Just right-click and save the image to your computer.
Vanilla Beans by Samantha Mills (Novel Eats)

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