Monday, December 27, 2010

Homemade Vanilla Extract and Peppermint Extract

This year as part of everyone's Christmas gift I made extracts. Before this I never really put thought into the commercially bought extracts and was never concerned with using them. Ummm... yeah, that's totally changed since then. The commercially bought crap from your local stores are filled with artificial everything: colour and flavour. Not only is that not good for you (hello petroleum products!) but making the real stuff is a trillion times tastier and it's super easy to boot. AND most extracts are not gluten free... making your own with wheat free vodka ensures this is safe for the celiac in your life! Here's what I did:

For the peppermint extract I grabbed a big handful of peppermint I had growing in the backyard. Muddle it a bit to release some of the yummy peppermint oil then put in a large canning jar (or clean peanut butter jar, etc). Fill to the top with a high grade vodka making sure all the peppermint leaves are covered. Not covering the leaves can cause them to spoil, ruining your whole batch! Place in a cool dark place (my pantry) and give it a gentle shake when you remember, I tried to do it everyday. After about 8 weeks or so, strain the leaves out and put in smaller bottles or leave in the original jar. That's it!

For the vanilla extract, I used 6 vanilla beans and opened them up to expose the delicious seeds. Try to buy as high quality as you can afford and make sure they're fresh, they shouldn't snap! They should be bendy and a bit moist. Put in a large canning jar (or again reuse a pb jar) and cover with alcohol. I used two cups of vodka and an ounce or two of bourbon. Same thing with the peppermint extract, store in a cool dark place and give it a gentle shake daily for 8 weeks or so. When I poured the vanilla extract into smaller bottles, I also added half a vanilla bean to each jar. That way they can add vodka to it as they use it to keep it going for a while.

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