It’s early October and you know what that means? It’s time to start considering Christmas gifts in earnest! I love making baking extracts for gifts; poured into a cute container with a pretty label, it’s a gift my foodie friends are sure to enjoy. Honestly, there is no simpler or more inexpensive gift you can make that will be so eagerly anticipated and enjoyed each year than homemade baking extracts. And with the varieties of herbs and fruits available, the possibilities are limited solely to your imagination.
Let’s get started with vanilla, lemon and cinnamon baking extracts.
As with most extracts, with vanilla you need only 2 ingredients: quality vanilla beans and a potent alcohol. I’ll be honest with you, I was shocked the first time I shopped for vanilla beans. I thought OH LARDY as I researched brand names, country of origin and price. Especially price. But as with most things, you can have quantity or you can have quality. Go for quality. You’ll taste the difference in the finished project for certain. Here’s a link to a good quality, fairly priced vanilla bean: Vanilla Products USA 10 Grade A Prime Gourmet PNG Bourbon Type Vanilla Beans ~5″ (12.5 cm) Now moving on to the alcohol, for most extracts, a plain, inexpensive vodka is all you need; with vanilla extract, brandy, rum or bourbon are quite nice too. It just adds another layer of flavor to an already delicious product. To make your homemade vanilla extract, add 2 vanilla beans for every 4 ounces of alcohol, so for a standard fifth of liquor, you’ll need 10 vanilla beans. Split the beans from top to bottom exposing the seeds, place the beans in a large bottle or quart Mason jar, add the vodka or bourbon and add a lid. Set in a cool, dark place, such as inside a kitchen cabinet for at least 6-8 weeks (though longer is better!), giving it a good shake every few days. When Christmastime rolls around, pour your vanilla baking extract into a cute 4 ounce jar with a single vanilla bean (for presentation) and add a pretty label. There’s one baking extract done! Let’s move on to the next!
Lemon baking extract is as easy as the vanilla, but far less expensive. For this baking extract, you’ll need 2-3 organic lemons and a fifth of inexpensive vodka. Wash your citrus well then carefully peel the fruit with a paring knife or veggie peeler, taking extra care to avoid the white pith. (It’ll turn your extract bitter.) Stuff the citrus peel into a quart jar, cover with vodka and let sit 6-8 weeks, giving it a shake at least once a week. If you’re gifting this extract, pour the finished product into a pretty jar, label it and it’s ready to go. Now if you’re exceedingly clever, you can mix the lemon extract with a simple syrup for a very passable limoncello. But I’ll leave that project up to you.
Last up, cinnamon baking extract! For this extract, you need 3 inch cinnamon sticks and again, inexpensive vodka, though bourbon would probably be delicious here too. For a full fifth of vodka, you’ll place approximately 18 cinnamon sticks in a Mason jar and pour the alcohol over it. Allow it to sit and steep for 6-8 weeks, shaking it up once a week. If/when you pour the cinnamon baking extract into cute, gift-sized bottles, place a fresh cinnamon stick in the bottle…it just makes a very pretty presentation. This cinnamon baking extract is fantastic for adding to cakes or cookies, flavoring whipped cream or just added to a favorite coffee for a fantastic kick of flavor.
Not everyone is going to want quarts of flavored vodka sitting around the house, (that’s a LOT of baking extracts!) so let me break this down into smaller, more manageable portions that you can share or keep for yourself!
Vanilla Baking Extract
2 vanilla beans
4 ounces of vodka, brandy, rum or bourbon
Lemon Baking Extract
peel from 1 lemon
4 ounces of vodka
Cinnamon Baking Extract
3-3inch cinnamon sticks
4 ounces of vodka or bourbon
But don’t stop there! Use that extra vodka or bourbon to make mint extract (1/2 cup of fresh leaves to 4 oz vodka), coffee extract (2T of crushed whole beans to 4 oz vodka), berry extract (1/2 cup muddled berries to 4 oz vodka), orange or grapefruit extract (peel from 1 fruit to 4 0z vodka), coconut extract (1/3cup shredded, unsweetened coconut to 4oz vodka).
I know some of you don’t like the idea of alcohol in your food and home, and I totally appreciate that, so there’s a non-alcoholic option for you! Vegetable glycerin (VG) makes a very good, alcohol-free baking extract. Following the same recipe, use VG in a ratio of 3 parts VG to 1 part water. For the small bottles we just discussed, you’d use 3 ounces of VG and 1 ounce of water to 1 lemon peel, 3 cinnamon sticks or 2 vanilla beans. Make sense? Here’s a link to a quality, Kosher vegetable glycerin: Glycerin Vegetable Kosher USP – 1 Quart (43 oz.)
If you plan on gifting these extracts this Christmas, I encourage you to try some pretty bottles like these
(12 Pack – 4 oz. Amber Glass Bottle with Lid for Vanilla Extract, Perfume, Oils, Light-Sensitive Liquids, Refillable Boston Round Bottle from California Home Goods) as the amber glass and tightly-sealing lid will protect your finished product.
And to top it all off, peruse our dear friend Pinterest for cute, free printable labels. I think these and these are perfectly adorable for our homemade vanilla extract and I’m sure there are others out there for various other extracts as well. Give it a try and tell me what you think, sweet friends!