Holiday baking is right around the corner, and you have just enough time to make some homemade extracts. It’s great for your own kitchen, and they also make nice gifts. I regularly make vanilla, orange and lemon extract for my own baking–it’s more less expensive to make your own at home, and it’s such an easy project, it’s practically foolproof.
My local health food store carries vanilla beans in the bulk section for $1.20 apiece–you can also find them here, on etsy, and other online herb sellers.
Cut the vanilla bean almost in half, but left the last inch intact,
and put them in a clean mason jar with 3/4 c of vodka, making sure the entire vanilla bean is submerged. (Inexpensive vodka is fine).
For any kind of citrus extract, I like to use organic fruit, since the peel is what the oil is being extracted from. I paid $1.20 for the lemon and 48 cents for the orange. Scrub the fruit well, and pat dry.
Peel the entire lemon with a vegetable peeler, trying to avoid all the white pith, which is bitter.
If the pieces of peel are large, roughly chop so they will sit in the bottom of the jar.
Next, pour in 3/4 c of vodka.
I put all three jars in the back of a cupboard I don’t often use–light and heat will break down the alcohol, so any dark, cool place will work. Give the jars a swirl once a week or so, letting them steep for 4 weeks, or up to 6 months, depending on how strong you want the extracts to be, and what your time constraints are.
Once you’re ready to use them, strain them into a new dark glass jar (like these). I like to tape a coffee filter to a wide mouth canning funnel to strain into a clean mason jar, and then transfer the strained extract to the dark glass jar.
If I’m making these for myself, I just leave the vanilla beans in the jar indefinitely. This makes the vanilla extract stronger, and is results in bean specks in your baked goods. I like the vanilla specks, but I usually strain vanilla extract I give as gifts.