Extracting Flavors

After going through two full bottles of vanilla extract for my holiday baking projects, I decided that perhaps it was time to look into something I've been meaning to do for a long time…make my own vanilla extract. I knew it was easy, but really never realized just how easy it is.

First, you buy a bottle of good quality vodka and make yourself and a friend a martini. (Note: this step does nothing to enhance the extract, but does leave room in the bottle to add the vanilla beans, as well as providing incentive to start the project in the first place.) Next, slice open three to four plump, vanilla bean pods (I prefer Tahitian beans,) scrape them and add the seeds and the pods to the bottle. Tightly reseal the bottle and place in a cool dark place for at least three months. Every week or so, give the bottle a little swirl and when the color is a nice, rich brown and the flavor is intense, it’s ready to go.

Before you use it, you can either strain the extract through a coffee filter, or, just leave the beans and seeds in there to let the flavor continue to intensify. When the bottle starts to run low, you can simply replenish it with some fresh pods and more alcohol, let that sit for a week or so, and then keep on using it. Talk about economical!

As I'm wont to do, I of course got thinking about what other flavorings might make for good extracts. I think that playing around with different types of alcohol, such as brandy, scotch or tequila, could bring interesting tones to things. As for flavorings, I'm thinking of experimenting with orange peel, mint leaves, coffee beans, cocoa nibs and cinnamon sticks as well as more hearty, savory flavors like rosemary, kaffir lime leaves, ginger and chili peppers.

Once I started to research homemade extracts, I found a number of great online resources which not only provided ideas for extract flavors, but also offered some new ways to incorporate them into food and beverages. Some flavor ideas that intrigued me include dried cherries, cloves, almonds (which I'd like to try toasted and raw), pine needles, lavender and rose petals. The possibilities are truly endless.

As for what to do with these extracts? Baking is the obvious option, but they are also great for cocktails (either on their own as the base, or as an addition with other alcohols), flavoring ice creams, enhancing vinaigrettes, marinades or sauces.

These extracts also make great gifts, and by going to sites like ebottles or stores such as Cost Plus, you can find small decorative bottles that make for a lovely presentation.

I'll have to update this post once I've mastered a few different flavors, but for now, I highly recommend you start saving money right away, and brew up your own batch of vanilla extract.

Browse Culinary Arts Schools & Colleges

Refine School Matches
Hide filters
  • SUBJECT Clear All

    See More


    See More



    Please enter valid US or Canada Zip.
            Results open in new window

            Searching Searching ...

            Matching School Ads
            Culinary Arts (AS)
            • Program areas include Culinary Arts, Culinary Management, and more
            • Students are taught cooking styles from around the globe, including Classical European, Asian, and Latin cuisine
            • Curriculum designed to prepare students for a career as a chef, with course topics that include Culinary Techniques, Management by Menu, and Nutrition
            • Alumni have appeared in reality competition shows such as Top Chef
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid
            • Transferable Credits
            Intensive Sommelier Training
            • Hands-on culinary education with focused attention on each student
            • An ACCSC School of Excellence with multiple “Best Vocational Cooking School” awards*
            • 15,000 graduates, including celebrities like Bobby Flay, David Chang, and Christina Tosi*
            • Programs in Culinary Entrepreneurship, Professional Culinary Arts, Professional Pastry Arts, and much more
            • Campuses in New York and Silicon Valley with nearby housing available
            Show more [+]
            Culinary Arts
            • Received the 2015 and 2013 “Cooking School of the Year” Award of Excellence from the International Association of Culinary Professionals (IACP).
            • Accredited by the Accrediting Commission of Career Schools and Colleges (ACCSC).
            • Externship opportunities are available at numerous famous New York City restaurants.
            • Campus is located near downtown Manhattan, within walking distance of many popular attractions such as the Radio City Music Hall.
            Show more [+]
            • Flexible Scheduling
            • Financial Aid