In addition to making homemade chai to give as gifts for the holidays, I also made some homemade extracts. I can’t recall how the idea first crept into my head, but once I had the idea I tried to do some in-depth research to find the best recipe.
Only problem: literally every single recipe is exactly the same. I looked on foodgawker, tastespotting, asked the Google gods…Every recipe said that theirs was “it”–that it was the “true” recipe, despite them all being identical minus the varying pictures.
Armed with so many recipes, my next step was to find a way to bottle the extracts. Typically with baking, the presentation and gift wrap can very incredibly, but with something like this the container needs to last for as long as the extract does–which could be months. After again scouring the internet, I ended up buying some glass bottles off Amazon, and following Sprinkle Bakes’ recipe I also got some filament tape and sealing wax.
Then came the most difficult part of the recipe.
You will all be incredibly embarrassed of me, and some of you may run away from my blog in shame.
But the truth is, extracts are made of two ingredients, vodka and a flavoring element. And I never ever even once in my life have gone to a liquor store in America by myself.
So on a random Tuesday night, I bundled up (because it was like 5 degrees Fahrenheit) and drove a few blocks over to a (slightly sketchy) local liquor store. I parked, walked in, and of course the store is completely empty save for one employee.
OK, all I needed was vodka, thats easy enough right? Wrong. I scanned the shelves and hastened my way to a section that looked more like vodka…only to discover (I know, I’m 22 and haven’t discovered this yet, its slightly abnormal) that there are like a million brands of vodka. I must have looked as confused as I felt, because the store clerk asked if I needed help. Now feeling incredibly awkward, I grabbed something that I had seen commercials for and that wasn’t too expensive and avoided eye contact as I paid and fled the store. (Unfortunately it wasn’t enough and I had to repeat the same experience a week later -_-)
Armed with all my ingredients I started bottling the extracts. Basically, you crush or slice your flavoring in some way to allow it to release more flavor, put it into the bottle and pour vodka over it until the bottle is full.
Some recipes encourage making a larger batch and later straining out the flavoring ingredient and bottling it in separate smaller bottles if giving as gifts, but I didn’t make mine in advance enough and needed everything to keep steeping even after I gave the extracts as gifts.
I used vanilla beans, mint leaves, coffee beans, orange peel, and cinnamon. Since making the extracts I have also come across a recipe for almond extract, so I will update this if I get the chance to try it out.
The key here is that the extracts need to be kept in a cool, dark place and shaken occasionally for at least 4 weeks, though the flavors deepen with time. As you can see from the above picture, the first day it looks like you have random ingredients floating in bottles of water, but even by day two the vodka begins to darken.
I was busy with school so I waited a couple weeks before adding the wax seal and labels. First I found some labels online, printed them off, and taped them to the bottles. After that, I melted the wax I got and dipped the tops of each of the bottles three times after I had taped them with the filament wax. Not only is it pretty, it keeps everything sealed in and lets the person you are giving the extract to peel the wax off before using it.
The extracts are great to use as gifts, though I recommend giving out vanilla extract unless you know that the recipient will know what to do with a random flavor of extract! Also, I have not actually used the extract yet myself, as I made it about 6 weeks ago…..So hopefully in the next week or so I will be able to bake something that will highlight the flavor of the extract and will keep you all posted.
Split 2-3 good quality (I got mine on Amazon) vanilla beans in half length wise. Put them in an 8oz-ish size bottle and fill up the bottle with vodka. Make sure that the vodka covers the vanilla beans if you are using a larger bottle or container.
Cut the peel off of 1-2 oranges, making sure to not include any of the white pith. Place the peel in a bottle. I also added one vanilla bean to soften the flavor. Cover with vodka and let sit for 6 weeks.
Take 1/4 cup of good quality coffee beans and crush them slightly. Place in a bottle and cover with vodka.
Place 3-4 cinnamon sticks in a bottle and cover completely with vodka. The cinnamon extract darkens quicker than other extracts, but continue to wait for 4-6 weeks before using.
Take 1 cup of fresh mint, rip up some of the larger leaves, and put in a bottle. Make sure to cover completely with vodka, as the mint leaves will brown if exposed to the air.