So one of my favorite activities is to make my own extracts. Partially because it is super easy and partially because it is so much tastier than the store stuff-- and half the cost. It is also a great gift. So here are the simple recipes I have found over time.... (and if you want an exact recipe or all on a PDF file, just send me a note.)
Vodka or Bourbon
Vanilla Beans (of any kind)
Fill a sealable container with the liquid of your choice (I prefer Vodka because it has no smell or taste and the true taste of the vanilla bean can be tasted). Once filled, slice a vanilla bean length wise with about pinkie size remaining together and place in the container. (I tend to make mine in the largest vodka bottle I fine with about 15-20 beans). Then let sit for about 2 months, shaking occasionally (about once a week). In two months you have vanilla extract. You make remove your bean or keep it in the extract. If you leave it in, the taste will get stronger over time. Or you may use the bean for another batch of extract OR you may take the bean out and use the seeds for vanilla sugar. It is up to you on what you do with it. I usually just make another batch. Your bean can be used up to three batches. Sometimes I leave the bean inside and just empty the extract into another container (a great way of doing it for gifts) and then refill with more liquids.
Fiori di Scilia
dried lemon zest
dried orange zest
Fill your container 1/4 filled with zests-- use about 50-50 for the zest. Then slice your vanilla bean length wise except for pinkie size at the top, separate and place in the jar. Fill jar with liquid. Shake immediately and shake about 2-3 times a week. The zest will fall to the bottom, so you need to shake often for best results. Also for best results, the zest needs to be dried. Fresh zest is not as concentrated. Keep in a cool, dark place for about 2 months and voilà, Fiori di Scilia.
Not sure what to use this wonderful extract in.... Well it can be substituted for Vanilla extract at any time. IT just gives a fresher, fruiter flavor to items. We use ours in cookies, sweet breads, whip cream/icing, desserts- but not chocolate for some reason. It is often a main ingredient in Italian sweets and breads- Pantone for instance. It is used more often in Europe than in the US.
1 Tbsp of blanched, slivered almonds (slightly toasted)
Slightly toast your almonds and then crush, but don't make a paste. They should be the size of large sand. Place in your jar/container and fill with Brandy. Once filled place in a cool, dark storage area for 1-2 months. Shake once a week. Almonds will settle to the bottom so shake well.
Place dried peppermint into the bottom of your container until about 1/4 filled. Then pour in vodka. Once poured, shake well. Shake daily for about 2 weeks. then use cheesecloth or coffee filter and drain liquids- saving it to a different jar. Throw out the used peppermint. Now you have peppermint extract.
If you let the peppermint sit for longer in the extract, the taste will be stronger. But do not keep for longer than 1 month.
Break cinnamon stick in half. Place in about 4 oz. of vodka. Let sit for 2 weeks to 2 months. Remove cinnamon sticks and you have cinnamon extract.
this extract is great of hot chocolate or adding to chocolate cakes, breads, cookies, etc. It will last you a long, long time.
Lemon or Orange Extract
dried lemon zest or orange zest
fill container about 1/4 with zest, then pour in vodka. Keep in a dark, cool place for up to 2 months. Remove zest and you have extract.
Most extracts are to rest for 2 months. You could go longer and you can leave in the items (minus the peppermint) which allow the flavor to continue to strengthen. If you have made the extract in a separate container (like a large Vodka bottle), then you can pour the extract into another bottle and use the items again. This is the best way to give the away as gifts. If you use a lot of extract, make plenty. Refill the current bottle as you go along with Vodka so it is melding with the vanilla. Otherwise plan on 2 months between each one.
Oh and by the way, these are super easy and quick to make- really truly easy. I do have a list of where I purchased my ingredients: zest, vanilla beans, jars, labels, etc if you want them.