DIY Extracts

Making your own extracts is really easy and they are perfect a perfect gift for the holidays.

I recently made some vanilla, spearmint and mint ones that I plan on giving to friends. You can customize them too, with different bottles, labels, etc.

I have to hand it to Mr. K, he didn’t even blink when I randomly told him at 10 AM that I needed vodka. He’s used to my crazy requests. Later that day, we went to buy a giant bottle so I could start making the extracts.

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Of course I had to make vanilla, since I use vanilla in my baking all the time. I recently got some complimentary vanilla beans sent to me from Frieda’s Produce. I am loving the items they have been introducing me to, especially green dragon apples. They are by far the sweetest, juiciest apples I’ve ever tasted! If you find stuff on their website you are interested in, you can always email them to find out what stores carry it. I immediately emailed them and found out that Ralph’s carries their apples. I plan on stocking up soon and also using some for fruit gift baskets.

I also chose to use the mint and spearmint from my herb garden. I rarely use it, except in the occasional cocktail and both herbs have grown very well, nearly overtaking my garden beds. Speaking of gardens, we recently discovered that our backyard has become a hangout for birds. I can’t understand why. They don’t eat our fruit (though they walk around it and inspect the fruit trees). Instead, they just hang out. All day. It’s really strange and I don’t know if I should be shooing them away or what.

Making the extract is quite simple. You add your ingredients to the bottle and let the alcohol do the rest. It takes a few weeks to reach full potential, but you can always gift it early and let your friends know to wait a little bit before using.


When you first make it, everything will look clear and bright. After a few days, the herbs will lose their color and become more muddled, but it still looks pretty cool. I actually made some big batches in mason jars and then used a funnel to pour them into the smaller containers. I hope everyone who receives one this year will enjoy!

Materials:

2 oz clear glass bottels

Chalk Labels

DIY Extracts

Ingredients:

Vanilla Extract

  • 3-4 vanilla beans (split beans in half, lengthwise, so that the inside content is completely exposed)
  • 8 oz vodka

Spearmint Extract

  • 1 cup spearmint (stems removed)
  • 12 oz vodka

Mint Extract

  • 1 cup mint (stems removed)
  • 12 oz vodka

Directions:

1. For vanilla extract, add vanilla beans and vodka into a jar. Tightly close lid, then shake a few times. Keep in a dark, cool place. Shake every few days. Let sit for about 4 weeks before using.

2. For mint and spearmint extracts, add leaves and vodka. Lightly crush leaves while in jar, to let the oils out. Seal jars and shake. Keep in a dark, cool place. Shake every few days. Let sit for about 4 weeks before using.

3. When extracts are ready, pour into smaller bottles using a funnel. You can add fresh mint leaves and vanilla beans before gifting.

All images and content are © Kirbie's Cravings.

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52 comments on “DIY Extracts”

  1. Great post – definitely will try this! Sounds like me, mixing up cocktails at 8:30 AM after the kids get off to school!

    • hehe, nice! yes I’ve made a few alcoholic recipes in the morning before. not always a great idea, especially if I’m taste testing on an empty stomach. 😉

  2. This is very nice! Homemade food gifts are the best. One of my good friends in Canada makes her own vanilla extract as well but I think she uses whisky or brandy.

  3. wow….what a terrific idea. i think i will have to make some of these. they do make perfect little gifts. thanks for sharing.

  4. Grapefruit! Grapefruit extract/ flavoring/oil has been on my Christmas list the last 3 years and despite my family looking everywhere it seems to be unavailable.

  5. What a unique gift! I also laughed at that random update on your garden…what funny birds.

    • I should take a picture of them! but they fly off when I open the door to the backyard. it’s so strange. I don’t know why they picked our yard as a hangout spot!

  6. Fun!!  I love projects like these.  So rewarding 🙂

  7. This is such a great gift idea. They are beautiful!

  8. Fantastic idea!  What’s the shelf life?

  9. I received homemade vanilla as a gift one year and I always have been meaning to make my own. This looks so simple to make, just have to wait 4 weeks. Thanks for sharing!

  10. i have done this for me for a while, but it is more like 3 months wait to get a good concentration?! I also do chocolate mint, lemon balm, and plan to try catnip for the cats this year.

  11. I love DIY projects! What can the extracts be used for? 

  12. Would you substitute it 1:1 in recipes or is a homemade batch going to be much stronger than the store-bought stuff?  And in recipes that are not cooked wouldn’t that mean you’re making it a little alcoholic, like almond milk or homemade chocolate coconut milk?  Not only do I not consume alcohol myself at all, but I’d be giving things like almond milk to my kids.

    • I substitute 1:1. Have you checked the ingredient list of your current extracts? Most extracts sold are made with alcohol. It’s basically the same process, so most likely the ones you are currently using have alcohol too.

  13. Whats the shelf life of these extracts? Should you remove orange peels or grapefruit peels after a time?

    • if made properly, they should have the same shelf life as the ones you buy at the stores. Shelf life also depends on the extract. But the ones I made are still good after a year. I haven’t tried making ones with fruit peels yet.

  14. How long is the shelf life on these? Is it just like store bought extracts?

    • Yes, they should be the same as store bought extracts assuming your glass containers were completely sterile when you started. I still have some of mine from last year!

  15. Does it matter what kind of vodka you use?

    • As long as you stick to pure vodka, you should be fine. I don’t think you need any top shelf stuff. And stay away from flavored vodkas which have other stuff added to it

  16. What strength of vodka did you use? There are so many brands and strengths, I am not sure what to use.
    Thank you for the great ideas!

  17. When making extract with citrus would you use just the zest or the whole peal including the white part?

  18. Thanks for your idea and recipe!  I tried it but am not sure if it turned out correctly.  I used vodka and infused my mint for 4 weeks, with the mint leaves completely covered by the vodka.  The liquid turned quite dark brown which didn’t concern me too much, but when I taste it, it just tastes like a harsh alcohol with a menthol aftertaste.  Pretty horrible tasting.  The mint leaves weren’t moldy or anything.  Could  anyone else who has made it please describe how it tastes?  I can’t decide if I should double down and add more mint and infuse it longer, or just throw it out.  Any suggestions are welcome.

    • I think you should try with more mint leaves. Also make sure that you crush the leaves so that they release their oils

      • Thank you, I will try adding more mint.  I did crush the leaves pretty well, and then after 2 weeks I put the mixture in the food processor and pulsed it a few times to try to get more of the mint oils out.  Maybe that was a mistake but I thought the more surface area exposed to alcohol, the more mint flavor would be extracted.  The other potential issue is that I used a pretty cheap vodka, maybe its harshness is masking the mint flavor.  Anyway, I will try adding more mint and let you know if it helps.  Thanks for the advice & inspiration!

      • It could be the vodka. Also I wonder if it was the pulsing. By taking it out and running it through a food processor, it likely got exposed to a lot of oxygen and may have contaminated it. good luck on your next try!

  19. Sounds delicious. If you have a lot of flowers, fruit and veg in your garden then there is probably insects, which would be feeding heaven for birds.

    • We do have a lot, but our neighbors do as well which is why I don’t understand why they only seem to be in our yard! Oh well. haha

  20. Is there any substitute for the vodka?

  21. I use a lot of almond extract. Any idea how I would make that? How to use the almonds and how many? I’m definitely making my own vanilla though. Thanks

  22. Hello, I would like to know what ratio to use for a lavender extract. I recently wanted to try a recipe and could not find it in any stores where I am.

  23. I understand extracts have alcohol content. Since I don’t use alcohol as a general rule, how does the alcohol content in your homemade extracts compare to commercial products? Melanie

  24. me encanto, maravillosas ideas,gracias

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