Making Your Own Extracts

clockise: lavender, hazelnut, chocolate mint, vanilla, cinnamon

Last week I was sitting at Trivia Night and my friend Jimmy did a dangerous thing: he mentioned that a person could make her own cooking extracts.

It had honestly not occurred to me to make my own! And after searching in vain for lychee extract a few weeks ago I couldn’t let go of the idea. I talked it over with Butchie and we decided that instead of our usual baking night, we’d spend a night making the ingredients to bake with! (For anyone with a religious reason for not cooking with alcohol I advise using imitation extracts: hopefully you already knew your average vanilla flavoring is 35% alcohol and lemon flavoring close to 60%. In fact, I believe there is more alcohol in rum flavoring than there is in actual rum!!!)

After spending the better part of an afternoon researching what alcohol I would want to use, I stumbled upon a web post about using Everclear straight grain alcohol only to learn that I can’t buy Everclear in DC! Or Virginia! [Damn liquor laws. –B.] So after a little jaunt into Maryland, I had my brown bag in hand and was ready for making extracts!

Despite the copious amount of alcohol in the kitchen we were actually less clumsy than usual. No flying spoons, no mishaps with a kitchen knife. Stephen did an excellent job at preparing the mint, and Butchie didn’t even burn herself roasting the hazelnuts! …But I guess since we weren’t drinking any of the alcohol that doesn’t make this much of an accomplishment. [There are many reasons for our sobriety. But for the record, we do not advise that a person drink Everclear straight. At all. Ever. –B.]

Butchie and I followed the same process for each of our extracts, except that she made hers with Smirnoff vodka [didn’t manage to get up to Maryland in time –B.] and I made mine with straight grain alcohol.  In the future I’ll be updating this post with results, but I wanted to put this up now in case you would like to experiment with us and leave your own notes in the comments!
clockwise: cassia cinnamon shards, vanilla extract,  hazelnuts, vanilla beans, hazelnut nut extract, chocolate mint extract, culinary lavender buds

Cinnamon Extract
Ready In: 2 weeks

2 1/2 tablespoon cassia cinnamon shards
4 oz. Everclear or Vodka

Combine ingredients in a jar. Shake daily for two weeks.

Hazelnut Extract
Ready In: 1 month

1/4 Cup Hazelnuts, skinless, toasted
1/2 Cup Everclear

Pour hazelnuts into a skillet to toast. This should take about 5-7 minutes on a medium heat. If any hazelnuts looked burned do not use them.

Once cooled, chop the nuts coarsely.

Place chopped hazelnuts and alcohol in a jar and close tightly. Allow at least one month before using.

Lavender Extract
Ready In: 1 week

1 tablespoon lavender buds
4 oz Vodka

Combine the ingredients in a jar and twist the lid on, shake, and place out of direct sunlight.

Shake daily for at least one week.

Strain through a sieve lined with a coffee filter. Repeat as necessary.

Vanilla Extract
Ready In: 2 months

3 vanilla beans
8 oz. Vodka or Bourbon

Use kitchen scissors or a sharp paring knife to cut lengthwise down each vanilla bean, splitting them in half, leaving an inch at the end connected.

Put vanilla beans in a glass jar or bottle with a tight fitting lid Cover completely with the alcohol.

Give the bottle a good shake every once in a while. Store in a dark, cool place for 2 months or longer.