Have you noticed that I love food? It should be an enormous part of anyone’s life, and food acquisition is getting cheaper all the time. Here’s another method you might not have considered: making your own cooking extracts. That brownie recipe on which you pride yourself? Leave the vanilla extract out next time, and notice how it makes your recipe a little bit grosser. Running out of vanilla — or any extract, really — is such a faux paswhen it’s ridiculously cheap and easy to make by the gallon.
You’ll need minimal supplies no matter what kind of extract you want to make. Find or save a dark glass bottle or jar with a tight-fitting lid. Then buy a shit-ton of cheap vodka.
Next, you’ll drop the extract’s flavoring agent (more on this in a bit) into the bottom of the bottle and pour two cups of vodka on top. Close it up, and stash it away in a cool, dry place for about two months. Remember to give the bottle a good shake every three to five days. Once it’s done, it lasts basically forever. You can even keep topping it off with vodka as long as you shake it up, and it won’t lose its flavor.
Now for the good stuff: some of the most common flavoring agents!
- For vanilla extract: Using scissors or a knife, vertically split open six vanilla beans, leaving the tops and bottoms intact, and drop them into the bottle. The beans might seem somewhat expensive at first, but think about how much extract you can make. That’s birthday gifts for, like, 10 years. You can also use it in almost every baking recipe.
- For almond extract: Put 12 whole, peeled almonds in your vodka jar. Avoid roasted or salted almonds; shoot for raw ones instead. If you can’t find already-peeled almonds, peeling almonds is a snap. Boil almonds for a minute or so, strain, cool, and press the almond between your thumb and forefinger to pull that pesky skin right off. Pair this with vanilla in baking for extra yumminess.
- For peppermint extract: Lightly crush a half-cup of fresh peppermint leaves. Make sure the vodka covers it completely, or the leaves will mold. It’s good for dropping into homemade ice cream or anything chocolate.
- For orange extract: Use the zest of two oranges, using your preferred zesting method (I peel it with a vegetable peeler and then chop it with a kitchen knife, way easier and faster than trying to use a zester or microplane grater). Perfect for lighter-tasting desserts, such as pound cake.
- For lemon extract: See above, except with four lemons.
- For chocolate extract: I’m just spitballing here, but chocolate extract is awesome for red velvet cupcakes. If you can get your hands on some cacao beans, you could try maybe 12 of those. I saw a recipe calling for cocoa powder, but I’m rather dubious.
Photo courtesy of the Food Network