Tuesday, March 1, 2011

Homemade Extracts

I was making some homemade breakfast sausage and I decided to add some maple flavoring, which really topped off the flavor nicely. This got me curious as to whether it was easy to make flavorings and extracts or not. I did some research online and saw that it was really simple, it's just that some of them take a long time to 'brew'.

The first extract that I wanted to make was vanilla extract. The hardest and most expensive part of this is buying the beans. Wow! Forget gold, I think I am going to invest in vanilla beans instead. At best you can find them for about $1 per bean online. Locally I was finding them for $2-$3 per bean. I wanted to get a batch going so I sucked it up and bought 12 of them.

I made a slit down each bean the entire length of the bean. Then I put them in a quart jar about 3/4 filled with vodka. You can use rum also, I don't know that it makes much of a difference though (??) I don't drink any more, so this was the funny part of it all; sneaking into a liquor store hoping no one would see me! Ha! Then I put the jar into a place in my house that is away from extremes of heat and cold, and out of the sun. I shake it maybe once every day or two, but make sure you shake it at least once every week.

The recipes I saw online called for an aging period of anywhere from 6 weeks to 6 months, and every one I saw had a different ratio of beans to vodka. I think that 3 months will suffice, and right now am at the 2-month mark. It's getting darker and getting a stronger vanilla aroma to it. If the darned beans weren't so expensive I would add a lot more beans to it, but again they aren't cheap. I have read that once you make a batch of vanilla extract, you can cover the same beans with vodka and make it again. I will see if this is true or not after I finish aging this batch.

Some of the extracts that don't take nearly as long and that I've completed now are lemon extract, orange extract and maple flavoring.
For orange and lemon extracts use one orange for every half-cup of vodka. You can slice the rind off, being careful not to cut any of the white pith, then finely chop it by hand or in a food processor. Or, as I did, rub the orange over a fine grater like this one that I have:

Then add the grated rind to the vodka/rum. After a week, filter the extract through a coffee filter or a piece of muslin and it's done. When my vanilla extract is done, this is all that I will have to do to it also.

I found this idea online about making maple flavoring and it is also easy. It's not a true extract, it is a flavoring, and to get the maple flavor you don't use a maple product at all. It surprisingly comes from something called fenugreek seed, which I got through Amazon.com, about $4 for 7 ounces of it.

For every 4 ounces of vodka, you will use 2 ounces of fenugreek. First warm the fenugreek seeds slightly in a skillet, but don't toast them as you would when toasting nuts. The fenugreek will become bitter if you heat it too much. You just want to warm them to release the flavor.

Next grind the fenugreek in a coffee grinder, food processor or something similar, into a fine powder. Pour the ground fenugreek and vodka into a glass jar, I used a quart canning jar. Store it out of direct sunlight for anywhere from a few weeks to 3 months. I found that it had a good smell to it after 6 weeks. Next strain the contents of the jar through a coffee filter or a piece of muslin.

I tried making almond extract but after a couple months it did not have much of a nut smell to it. I might try it again, but age it at least 3 months and see how that goes.

The bottles that I put the extracts in were hard to find without spending a lot of money, But finally I found these 1 oz. amber bottles for only .59 cents a piece at my favorite store of all time, Lehman's Hardware in Kidron Ohio.

However, I was not able to locate them on their website, and bought some on a recent visit there. Other places that carry some small bottles that would work are Joanne's Fabric, Hobby Lobby, and World Market had a few.

So I am just waiting on the vanilla extract, it should take another month. I have already given some of the orange and lemon extracts away to friends. One of them baked with the orange extract and gave it a big thumbs-up.


  1. Enjoyed browsing through your posts.

  2. I make my own vanilla extract. It makes great gifts for friends and family that bake! I did use the beans again to make a second batch. Had no problems. You can then put the beans in a bowl of sugar to make "vanilla sugar" for coffee or whatnot. I like getting a little bit more out of the beans, justifies the cost. Compared to what vanilla extract costs in the store, making your own is way cheaper.

  3. I just tried making the maple flavoring yesterday. I went to give it a little shake today and the ground up seeds have absorbed ALL the vodka... is this to be expected and then you just squeeze the liquid out at the end, or did yours not do this?