Extracts are surprisingly easy to make with the right ingredients. For the Vanilla extract, I used an organic Madagascar Vanilla bean that has a smooth, creamy vanilla smell. The peppermint leaves came from my peppermint plant on the back porch. Both are extracted with vodka that is at least 80 proof. You can use the less expensive vodka since all the alcohol evaporates in cooking so don't waste money on the "good" stuff. Package the extracts in glass jars. Do not use plastic since plastic might absorb some of the yummy oils and it shortens the shelf life considerably. I used 4 oz. French square glass jars since they look stylish and make a fancier gift presentation.
Take 2-3 Vanilla beans and cut lengthwise to expose all the yummy vanilla bean. Cut them in half. Place in a small glass jar that holds 4 oz. Cover with vodka and screw on cap. Shake.
Remove all stems from peppermint leaves. Wash and pat dry. Coarsely chop and bruise slightly to expose oils. Place in a 4 oz. glass jar. Top off with vodka. Screw on cap. Shake.
Optional: Place 1 prepared Vanilla bean in the bottle to make a Vanilla Mint extract! Yum!
Take your freshly made extracts and place them in a dark, cool cabinet or pantry....and wait...shake each week. Patience!
~ The Vanilla extract will be ready in about 8 weeks. The vodka will turn from a clear liquid to a rich brown as the vanilla oils are drawn into the vodka. The Vanilla beans can then be removed, dried, chopped and made into Vanilla sugar or they can stay in the bottle.
~ The Peppermint extract will be ready in about 4 weeks. Taste it after 3-4 weeks to see if it's strong enough for your liking. If it is, then filter out the peppermint leaves with a strainer and re-bottle.
Once the extracts are finished, make up a cute label and voila! Now you have some wonderfully rich, homemade organic extracts for a fraction of the cost at the grocery store. They both make great hostess gifts or holiday gifts that any cook would love!
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