Wednesday, December 05, 2012

Home-made Extracts


Dear Foodies,


Its December already and a year has flown by with its share of ups and downs. This space has also seen the ebb and flow of posts coming its way(or not!). Driving home from work today I almost contemplated closing this blog given the erratic updates. But something in me couldn't fathom not being able to log in and pen down my thoughts and recipes here. Its been over 6 years since I started blogging and it has slowly but firmly planted itself into my identity. I may not come here as often but I will never cut it off.

With my mind cleared out I was back to planning the 'butter+sugar' month. Though I come from a Hindu family, Christmas has always held a special place. I think its a combination of 12 years at a convent school, holidays around this time, having family friends who brought us decadent fruit cakes and home-made wine and the magic of experiencing an all-white Christmas in the US. I am not a baker and would peg myself into the cook category as I can never strictly adhere to a recipe. But come December I whip out the hand mixer, buy pounds of butter, sugar and flour and start compiling recipes to bake.


Flavor extracts are a key ingredient in many desserts, especially vanilla. Orange is another flavor that I find myself adding to most of my recent recipes. Its just as easy to add zest but having an extract on hand is convenient when you are out of fresh fruit or don't want to taint the color of a cream frosting or white chocolate etc.


There is not exact recipe for these -combine your choice of (prepped) flavoring ingredient + vodka (triple distilled, 80-100 proof) and allow it to steep in cool, dark place.
Homemade Extracts
Vanilla Extract
  • 2-3 Vanilla beans, split lengthwise
  • 3/4 cup - Vodka
  • glass bottle with lid/cork
  1. Pick a glass bottle that can hold a whole vanilla bean. Clean and dry completely. Place vanilla beans in the bottle and cover completely with vodka. Seal well and place in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. Give it a shake every day or so for the first week. 
Notes: Within 3 days you will begin to notice a light brown color and the extract was strong enough to use within 2 weeks. A month would be ideal but if you want to use it sooner start off with extra vanilla beans. I used 4-5 beans in my current batch and add more vodka as I use some of it. I buy my vanilla beans on Amazon from this supplier, its a great deal and the quality has been great. You can use vanilla beans in the extract for recipes as well. They will be super moist and you can squeeze out the seeds easily.

Lemon/Orange Extract
  • 1-2 - whole organic lemons or 1 orange
  • 3/4 cup - Vodka
  • glass bottle with lid/cork
  1. Wash and dry fruit thoroughly before peeling off the thin outer layer. If any white pith remains, slice it off with a paring knife as they tend to add bitterness. Fill the bottle with peels and cover completely with vodka. Seal well and place in a cool, dark place in your kitchen. Shake the bottle gently one a day for 2-3 days. Check for readiness after a week or continue to steep longer.
Notes: Use organic fruit or fruit not treated with pesticides or wax coating since we will be using just the peels here. I wanted the extract to have a strong citrus flavor and used a high zest to vodka ratio. Some recipes I saw online suggested straining the extract after a month but I've had mine steeping for about 3 months now it had not turned bitter on me. But do check on your batch and strain if needed after you are satisfied with the flavor.

You can apply the same method to make flavored liqueurs. Below are raspberry and lemon (my take on chambord and limoncello) liqueurs getting ready to do their thing. For the raspberry (which was my fav of the two), I used 2 pints of organic berries and 2 cups of vodka. After steeping for 2 weeks all the color from the raspberry transfers to the vodka along with the their fabulous flavor. Strain gently, and add equal quantity of cooled simple syrup to the flavored vodka. Simple syrup is a combination of equal parts sugar and water heated just  until sugar is melted. Allow it to cool completely before adding to your vodka. Store for another 2 weeks before its ready to be served. A similar process for limoncello as well - reference recipe.

These make perfect gifts to anyone who loves to bake or enjoys cocktails. They don't require much hands-on time once you have the bottles filled and stashed. I bought the smaller bottles at Michaels and the larger ones at Marshalls for a bargain.

These extracts will immensely improve the quality of your baked goods. The flavors are strong and provide a depth that can never be replicated by store bought ones. So far I've made - Cranberry Pecan Muffins using the recipe from America's Test Kitchen (register to read recipe + useful tips & tricks, or check this). These were perfect with a prominent cranberry flavor, just enough sweetness and a fabulous nuttiness from the pecans. The streusel topping stayed crunchy even the next day. Do give it a try before fresh cranberries disappear from the store aisles.

I attempted my first batch of macarons using Helene's tutorial. No two macarons were the same shape but they all tasted great :) Next on the list was replicating my favorite treat from Starbucks - cranberry bliss bars. I searched for recipes online and ended up with this one. I used vanilla and orange extract in the blondie batter. I made the frosting with 8 oz cream cheese, 1 cup powdered sugar and my vanilla and lemon extract. I also replaced the sugar frosting drizzle with melted white chocolate. The bars were a huge hit and the cream cheese frosting was amazing with that zing of lemon.

I bake these goodies and share them with my colleagues at work. What should I try next, any suggestions ?

54 thoughts:

Uma said...

making extract at home is new... but this is definitely worth trying!

arundati said...

what a lovely foodie gift.... i love the citrus ones... also, please dont close the blog no matter how rarely you post... we love it and will be heartbroken...hugs!

Sebeena Loyd said...

nice post

divya said...

wow...looks great..

Pavani said...

Good to see your post after a long time. Don't even think about closing the blog.. just remember there are readers who look forward to your posts and beautiful pictures no matter how erratic your posts maybe.
Homemade extracts sure make for some very elegant gourmet gifts.
Enjoy the holiday season.

Krithi Karthi said...

Gorgeous pics... Useful info...
Serve It - Original Recipes from Home
Know your Sweetness - Brown Sugar

chinmayie said...

Perfect homemade gift for the holiday season.

spicesandpisces said...

My husband made a raspberry infused vodka and infused it for 6 months. I am not a alcohol drinker but when I took a sip, it tasted great. The personalized gifts are the best and your pictures look awesome.

Priya V said...


Uma, yep, do give it a try :)

Arundati, thanks a lot :) I realized I cannot walk away from this space too...so yay! hehe

Sebeena, Divya , thanks

Pavani, thank you :) I haven't reached out and made friends as I could have, but this is the connection, with you and other bloggers, that makes blogging wonderful.
I will continue to post as often as I can but will definitely not let the guilt kill me if I don't :) Happy Holidays to you too!

Krithi, thanks. If you don't mind could you avoid adding links.

Chinmayie, right ? and they look gorgeous already so even the wrapping can be skipped.

Priya V said...


spicesandpisces, raspberry was definitely the surprise favorite. It must have been fabulous after 6 months of infusion.

spicesandpisces said...

I loved the color. I wish I took a picture. It tasted so refreshing. We will try to infuse with orange peel as well.

Adele said...

Hi hun. Just wanted to let you know that I featured this on my blog today. I would love it if you could check it out :)

http://mammymade.blogspot.co.uk/2012/12/mint-stuff-ive-seen-27.html

- Adele @ Mammy Made

Kristin Rowland said...

This looks wonderful! I am inspired to try a few new combinations as well!
How long do these extracts keep usually?

Priya V said...


Kristin, I made a few batches back in July and they are still just as good. If stored in a cool dark place in a well sealed bottle it'll surely last 6 months and more. As I go through some of the vanilla extract I add more vodka since I used quite a few beans in this batch, so it's not getting over anytime soon.

Do let me know your extract combinations, I'd love to make more of these.

Breann LRemiah said...

Coconut

Alexis said...

I have made infused vodkas before, but never thought to try extracts. Thank you so much for sharing!

Barbara Yez said...

I just stumbled upon your blog today and am so excited by your recipes for the extracts and infusions. I already make my own vanilla but never even thought about taking it to the next level. I look forward to seeing what else you have in store for us.

seantimberlake said...

I'm the founder/moderator for Punk Domestics (www.punkdomestics.com), a community site for those of use obsessed with, er, interested in DIY food. It's sort of like Tastespotting, but specific to the niche. I'd love for you to submit this to the site. Good stuff!

Zelma Daley said...

I am so glad to have found this post! Please don't stop blogging!

sri said...

What can be used instead of Vodka to make extracts? Any vegan alternatives?

sri said...

What can be used instead of Vodka to make extracts? Any vegan/non alcoholic alternatives?

Priya V said...


Sri, I have tried this only with vodka so I don't have a non-alcoholic alternative for you. If you are only concerned about it being vegan, you can definitely use vegan vodka's. Most of the brands I checked online seemed to be vegan.

beautydiariesnl said...

This is awsome ! But goes the alchol of the vodca into the fruits ? And is the ectract than alchol free because in the store they also not whit alchol so I wondered if its posibble to make it whit some thing else

M. said...

What a great post... I am so excited to try this! And the pictures are utterly gorgeous, that was what drew me in when I saw it on tumblr. Bellissimo!!

Brittany said...

I'm also wondering if there's a non-alcohol substitute to use? Thanks!

TheaMama said...

I just stumbled across your blog... And I'm sooo happy you didn't close it!!! Thank you!!

Kavya said...

Can you please give me an alternative for vodka?

Kavya said...

Can you please give me an alternative for vodka?

ghardym said...

Loved the opening of your blog. Took me traveling at light speed.

I've been wanting to do extracts and you have pushed me over the edge. I'll be stocking up soon.

Thanks so much.

Barb Hoffy said...

Thanks so much for this post. I've been looking reasonable prices on vanilla beans. I just purchased them from your source. Thank you so much!!! These will make great Christmas presents!

Jessica @ Blog-Inspired Cooking said...

I blogged about making the vanilla extract recipe recipe on my website at
http://bloginspiredcooking.blogspot.com/2013/05/making-my-own-vanilla-extract.html

I can't wait to use it! It's been marinating for over a month now, but I haven't had the opportunity to make anything with it.

Christina Axthelm said...

These sound fantastic! My family has been making our own vanilla for years, but we use rum, I believe my mom has used bourbon before too. For those wanting a non-alcoholic version I wonder if you heated the extracts on the stove if they would still retain their flavor, the alcohol would then cook out, otherwise any recipe they are put in that cooks, the alcohol would cook out as well.

Robert Marcheson said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Robert Marcheson said...

Where do you get the corked bottles...?

Priya V said...


Robert The lttle cork bottles are from Michael's Art stores.

I'm glad to see many found this post useful and have begun making your own extracts. Thank you mainly for dropping by with your ideas as well. Using rum instead of vodka if sure must try.

I don't know of a good non-alcoholic substitute for extracts. I tried researching on other methods but couldn't find a reliable alternative.

flows said...

I'm glad you showed how to make lemon extract. I've been making my vanilla extract this way for a few years and love it but wondered if I could do other flavors. Do you have any idea if mint would work? My husband LOVES mint extract in stuff so I feel like I go through a lot. I'd like to make my own if possible.

Jacquie Holden said...

How about a coconut extract? I just bought one at the store but it's kind of nasty. How would you make that?

Jacquie Holden said...

How about a coconut extract? I just bought one at the store but it's kind of nasty. How would you make that?

Priya V said...


Flows, I am very picky when it comes to mint and haven't given it a try. But given its potency, I'm sure you can steep organic mint leaves in vodka directly to extract flavor. Start with 12-15 leaves for 1 cup of vodka for 7 days. Add more leaves as needed to get the intensity you like.

Jacquie, I haven't tried making coconut extract, so I looked online and found a recipe from Alton Brown on food network. The recipes says to simply steep 1/3 cup of freshly grated coconut in 4 oz of vodka for 5-7 days. Sounds too simple to not try :)
Getting fresh coconut is key though, and you may be able to use the freshly, grated frozen coconut found in Indian groceries stores for it.
Do let me know if you give it a try, I'm sure many others are curious too :)

Susan said...

Hi ya Priya,
Thank you for all of your ideas and lovely pictures. I am not sure whether it has been addressed here but I was wondering about making a cinnamon extract with alcohol or oil and if you thing that would be viable
Thanks again

Tatyana Simões said...

Hi. Do you know of similar cooled simple syrup in Brazil?


Tatyana Simões said...

Hi!


Do you know of similar cooled simple syrup in Brazil?

Purpose Given Jewelry said...

I was thrilled to see this! It reminds me of the orange peel extract my grandmother kept in the pantry. She was from France. I can remember her using the extract in recipes. I plan to start making them, too.

Purpose Given Jewelry said...

I was thrilled to see this! It reminds me of the orange peel extract my grandmother kept in the pantry. She was from France. I can remember her using the extract in recipes. I plan to start making them, too.

Victoria La Tauleta said...

Preciosa y muy practica publicación...

Jana said...

simply beautiful+so easy! I have done already vanilla extract, but soaked my vanilla beans in rum:-)

Linda Abellera said...

I made a batch of Bay Rum aftershave or cologne (whichever) and it smelled better than the expensive brands on the market! I used rum and bay leaves, cloves, vanilla extract, a slosh of lemon or citrus extract and soaked it for a month in a sealed jar. Strained it and bottled it for my husband at the time. He used it all and asked for more. Alas, the **** left me before I made a nother batch. Too bad for him:)

Keith Lamar said...

Im soo excited about this idea. I am have a hard time find the glass bottles you used..
where did u purchase yours from?

AnnieStrawberry said...

what do you mean by add a simple cooled syrup?
thanks

Sandy Blair said...

Please give a recipe/instructions for the cooled simple syrup mentioned in the raspberry liquor instructions!!

Maria Trepanier said...

Have you tried making a nut extract?

Kristi L said...

What brand of vodka do you suggest using?

Annie Russell said...

This is awesome! I am sooo going to have to try it! Thanks for sharing it here!

kaylamoore said...

Once made, how long do they last? Is there a shelf life? They look pretty as decor, but if I decide to use it a year or two from now, would they hold up?

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